One of the challenges of writing about games for a mainstream audience is the relative uselessness of genre terms, which to gamers connote extremely specific and well-understood sets of information, but to someone with merely a passing familiarity with games, mean nothing. It’s probably even worse than in music writing. So if I was to say to a gamer that Teleglitch is a roguelike, this would mean that it is a very challenging game with randomly generated maps and some form of permadeath — that is, if you die, that’s it, start over. And it’s science-fiction-horror, so if you were a big gamer, I could say, “Hey, play Teleglitch, it’s a sci-fi horror roguelike,” and you’d either play it or not based on your preference for these two niches and your own speculation as to whether the overlap of these niches would be interesting or fun.
But you’re, let’s say, not a gamer. So to you I would say: The reason you should play Teleglitch is that as a media-consumption experience I think its closest cousin in 2013 may be Yeezus. I’m serious. Teleglitch, like Kanye’s most recent album, is an industrial nightmare, an abrasive and hostile product that continually dares you to disengage from it. You’re a little pixelated smudge sprinting around an abandoned space station — what else? — and the point of the game is to scrounge its poor resources to fight off hordes of wailing abominations from what I’m going to say is another dimension. It’s brutal and mean and played from a top-down perspective so high as to suggest your cosmic insignificance. It seems, like Yeezus, to make a point of not giving a shit about you.
It’s ironic that a tossed-off joke of an RPG “starring” Kanye is getting all the press this week, because Teleglitch has so much more to do with the glitteringly malevolent creative spirit of his most recent work. The game came out first late last year, but its creators, a couple of really talented Estonians, have repackaged it for Steam and other digital distributors in a new edition. It’s 13 bucks, it’s different than anything else you’ll play this summer, and you should get it. It’s a hateful little game, and I love it.