Today, if you really want to, you can buy Killer Is Dead, a new game by a
Japanese developer named Goichi Suda. Enthusiast writers often describe Suda’s games as “eccentric”, which is sort of like describing oxygen as “important”. Suda, who goes by the Lars Von Trier-ish nom de game Suda 51, is almost inexplicable outside of the cultural context of games, but you can sort of think of him as a giddy hybrid of Takashi Miike, Elmore Leonard, and a Happy Meal.
Suda’s best and most famous game is called No More Heroes, and it is about a Californian nerd named Travis Touchdown who becomes an international assassin in order to afford more video games. Because No More Heroes is self-referential, at times clever, and seems to parody (but does not satirize) other games, it gets called “postmodern”, which here means “interesting, lowbrow and outrageous”. Heroes is like most of Suda’s games, including Killer 7 and Lollipop Chainsaw, in that it never totally succeeds as a game to be played, but is never boring and fantastic to look at. His studio, Grasshopper Manufacture, is one of the great practitioners of cel-shading, or making computer rendered graphics appear to be hand drawn.
Killer is Dead is certainly one of the most arresting visual games of the year. The game’s main character, Mondo Zappa, looks like he was plucked from the Crazy 88 gang in Tarantino’s Kill Bill: thin, black suit, black tie, katana. As he slinks through the early sections of the game’s noir dreamworld, Killer is Dead, despite dull mechanics and much baffling exposition, pulls you in through pure aesthetics.
Then, about an hour into the game, you gain access to something called a “Gigolo Mission”. Here is what happens in a “Gigolo Mission”: Mondo Zappa sits at a bar next to a digital representation of a “desirable woman”, which, this being a Japanese game, means an abomination with the face of a murderous doll, the voice of a six-year-old boy, and the “body” of Charo. Actually, sort of the face of Charo, too. Controlling Mondo, you are supposed to stare at Charo using something called “Gigolo Vision”, and when she looks away, you are supposed to stare at her private parts. Doing so gives you enough “confidence” to give her presents, and giving her presents fills her heart meter, and filling her heart meter means that you succeed as a Gigolo, and succeeding as a Gigolo means…
Anyways, this is when I turned off my PlayStation 3 and put my head in my hands for about five minutes. While I slowly shook my head, still in my hands, from side to side, I thought about all of the work that went into the Gigolo Mission. I thought about how someone had to think it up, and then how someone had to design the sad little bar it takes place in, and someone had to design the “Jane” and draw her sad little chiffon dress, and draw the neat little hearts that fill up as you give her perfume and roses. I thought about how someone had to code it all. I thought about how someone, probably multiple people, had to playtest the Gigolo Missions, again and again, and I thought about the possibility that this person, who is clutching the bottom rung of the video game industry, may hope one day to be in a position of power like Goichi Suda, may actually idolize Suda, and considered playing the Gigolo Missions hundreds of times to be an honor. I thought about what I was feeling, which was shame at and despair for the medium of video games, and I wondered what feeling Goichi Suda intended for me to feel during the Gigolo Mission. Was it arousal? Was it amusement? Was it anxiety? Was it anger? Then, with my head still in my hands, I began to think about the people who would defend the Gigolo Mission online, because people online defend things, and I wondered what case they would make. Would they say that the Gigolo Mission is acutally? You know, actually? Actually: A Clever Commentary? A Smart Satire? A Pointed Postmodern Pastiche? Then I thought about the game writers who would write: A Stylish and Eccentric Action Game Marred By Some Sexism. The Latest From Auteur Goichi Suda Is A Visually Stunning Hack and Slash With Problematic Representations of Women. Just keep that Important Caveat in mind while you play the Gigolo Mission and you oughta be fine.
This is 2013. You can buy a video game for $60 that contains a Gigolo Simulator. Why you would do this, when the internet, to which you already have access, contains a cornucopia of pornography so profound as to reanimate the lecherous bones of Russ Meyer, is a mystery. Still, starting today, you have that option.