Video games can be great and important works, but not all of them are. Games For Adults is Playboy.com’s regular column highlighting the ones that can make you think about more than hit points and head shots.
I’m a writer on the internet, and Deadpool is a big deal right now, so for the sake of Article Shareability I’m obligated to mention Deadpool In anything I write until mid-March. And so it’s because of that that I’m going to refer to Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist as the Deadpool of video games.
I don’t make this comparison lightly. Well, I sort of am making it lightly because it’s a bit of a stretch as Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is not violent, features zero superheroes, and is far from being a pop culture phenomenon. It is, however, a comedy, and it breaks the fourth wall in deconstructing tropes of its medium. It’s also the sort of entertainment media experience about which people might say “it isn’t high art or anything but I had a lot of fun with it.” I think that’s good enough to justify the Deadpool comparison.
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursde Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist in its digital store description promises that players will “Slip into the soft-soled shoes of the mastermind responsible for the greatest heist—oh god I can’t do this any more, i’m joining the strike. good luck writing the Steam description.” And that’s about what the game is actually like. I played the thing, and yet I still don’t know who Dr. Langeskov is, nor did I see any emerald or participate in a heist. There was a tiger, yes, but it was offscreen.
We thought about calling it ‘Starcraft 2,’ but then we were told that’s actually the name of a game that’s already been made.
When you start up the game, instead of jumping into a cool heist scenario you’re alerted to the fact that somebody else is already playing it and so you cannot. Unfortunately, all the behind the scenes people are on strike and so you’re conscripted into making the game experience run smoothly for this unknown person playing the game you thought you would be playing.
It’s funny, and the jokes are plentiful. As you would expect from William Pugh, one of the men responsible for the similarly navel-gazing The Stanley Parable (a game I recently described as one of a couple of recent indie games that are “not ultimately interested in examining anything outside of their own asses”), the jokes tend to be at the expense of the medium of video games.
It feels as though there’s a particular focus on the the haphazard nature of their creation. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist tells a story in which game bugs exist because someone (you, in this case) flipped the wrong switch at the wrong time as the player plays. And the only reason that responsibility falls to you is because of the aforementioned strike. This is all very topical stuff in the games business.
But it’s not weighty. It’s free, and it only takes about 15 minutes to get through, and it is in no way serious business. There’s no time for lengthy monologues explaining all the game’s subtext like we got with Stanley Parable. It’s instead the sort of delightful experience that you can think hard about if you want or not think about at all if you don’t. In other words, it’s just funny and chill. Like Deadpool. (That’s five uses of the word “Deadpool” so my obligation should be fulfilled.)
I recently spoke with Pugh and Dominik Johann of Crows Crows Crows, the studio responsible for Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist. As a person who has often been accused of hating video games in general because I criticize them, I couldn’t help but ask why they hate video games so much.
“I think making jokes about them, like, that doesn’t mean that I hate them,” Pugh said. “Loads of my friends make jokes about me, pull pranks on me, but that doesn’t mean that they hate me, you know? My friend Callum the other day actually threw a couple of knives at me, and one really got my arm and I had to get to the A&E [emergency room]. But that was just a joke and it doesn’t mean that he hates me. Just because he’s pulling some jokes, just because he’s saying some really nasty things about me doesn’t mean that he hates me.”
Johann was a bit more direct with his answer.
“In our scene, in this indie games world, everyone’s just creating games constantly, and sometimes I just feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of games that are coming out,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to put their own story and experiences in it, and it’s like I could just read your Twitter. It’s the same shit.”
SEE, VERY SERIOUS
I wholeheartedly agree with Johann there and that’s why I included that quote, but I worry this article is digressing too far into serious commentary at this point. So let’s switch gears a second. I also asked Pugh and Johann if they thought the title they chose (which, in case you forgot, is Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist) is long enough. Pugh said they went through a number of working titles before settling on Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, and none of the ones they mentioned to me were nearly that long.
“Yeah, we thought about calling it ‘Crazy Mansion 2: The Return of Jafar,’” Pugh said. “We thought about calling it ‘Minecraft Shortcut’ because we felt it was like Minecraft but it got straight to the point rather than all the fucking about that Minecraft does.
“We thought about calling it ‘Starcraft 2,’ but then we were told that’s actually the name of a game that’s already been made. That was really tough. I mean like I’ve played loads of it. I’ve been playing it for years. But finding out that that was the name of the game that I had been playing was pretty distressing.”
I also asked why they made it free, and the answer demonstrated the sort of solidarity you so often see among independent game developers.
“It’s free because I knew The Witness was going to cost £30,” said Pugh, who you probably should have guessed by now is English, “and I thought somebody’s gonna take the hit because hardcore gamers only have so much budget money. So I thought I don’t wanna be pushing business away from Jon Blow, he’s spent seven or eight years working on The Witness. So I thought if we make Dr. Langeskov free, it will free up money in people’s budgets to buy The Witness.”
There. That’s a good joke to end this on, right?
Phil Owen is a freelance journalist and critic based in Los Angeles. He tweets for free at @philrowen.
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