These pop icons should have their own games
Celebrities are making games now, this is a thing we’re going to have to live with. Kim Kardashian’s done it, RuPaul’s done it (and apparently her game is surprisingly fun, as our Jonathan Holmes discovered), and of course, 50 Cent beat them all to the punch years ago with his towering monument to self adulation, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Hell, the Duck freaking Dynasty crew put out a timid Grand Theft Auto clone last year. The nerve.
As an abrasive former class-warrior, I already bristle at the sheer commercial gall of celebrities slapping their name and likeness on a box to try and pump a few dollars out of some gullible fans. But even more than that, I look at the stars who have dipped their toes into the videogame world and I think “what a waste.”
Reality stars? Rednecks? Narcissistic rappers? Why are these boring walking brands making games, and where are the pop icons and eccentric artists that could actually do an interesting job of it? Where are the weirdos and oddballs that populate my playlists and DVR recording schedules? If celebs and other artists are going to be making games, I’ve got a few suggestions.
I know Captain Murphy, the alter ego of professional oddball rapper Flying Lotus, exclusively through his sublimely bizarre animated music videos on YouTube. I understand there is an Adult Swim short out there that tries to establish a little more of a backstory for him, but I haven’t seen it, and more importantly, I don’t want to see it at the risk of tainting the magic.
I don’t really care about who Captain Murphy is or where he comes from, I’m just in love with the vibe I get watching his videos on repeat. I don’t want some 60-hour RPG explaining the origins and desires of Captain Murphy, I just want some kind of game that taps into his style: a bizarre, beautiful mish-mash of psychedelic imagery, B-roll samples of 1970’s PSAs, cult-member brainwashing, and a fixation with comic book superheroes. It’s a potent stew of the kind of floating debris that drifts around in my own head, but expressed in a way I could never articulate.
I honestly have no idea what a Captain Murphy game would be, or what it would look like, I just know I want it. Call up the Hotline Miami guys and let them loose on it.
In my mind’s eye I see an adventure game where you play as Tom Waits wandering around a cocaine-blasted version of 1970’s New York, adopting stray cats, bouncing between dingy coffee shops and dive bars. Maybe he’s looking for inspiration for his next album, maybe his old lady kicked him out and he has nowhere else to go.
The crux of the gameplay would revolve around a Telltale-style conversation system where you swap stories with vagabonds, taxi drivers, and talk show hosts, all with the same level of interest and haphazard disregard for rational narratives. There is a wealth of dialog choices at your disposal that reach across the full berth of human emotion, but none of them really matter since the options you select bear almost no resemblance to the crazy shit that actually comes out of Tom’s mouth.
You stumble into a bar, shivering calico swaddled in your scarf, and tell the drowsy-eyed piano player about the time you got caught in the middle of a pimp war in a grease joint two towns over and had to use a napkin dispenser to defend yourself. That’s basically the entire game because that’s all you really need.
Now you might think a game based on the neon-soaked dance music of Dragonette would be an easy fit for a rhythm game, but that’s a little too predictable isn’t it? No, what I picture is a stealth based puzzle game where you have to try and sneak back into your apartment building at 4:00am without waking up your jealous boyfriend after clubbing it up all night.
Use your dance moves and irrepressible charm to navigate past revolving doors, fool judgmental doormen, and avoid tripping over the cat in the middle of a dark living room and waking up the whole damn building. Think Mark of the Ninja, but with less hook-neck hangings and more cheesy video effects.
“Now hold up Nic, didn’t you start this article bitching about reality stars making crappy games?” Well, yes, that is true. But I’m not interested in a game about Tyra Banks herself so much as I’m morbidly fascinated by the idea of a game about her nakedly obvious self-insert character, Tookie De La Creme, from her Modelland novel.
If you’ve never heard of Modelland, or (God forbid) read it, it’s like some kind of batshit insane mash-up of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but where all the districts are dedicated to making different kinds of clothes or jewelry and all the wizards are replaced with supernatural fashionistas. Tookie is a “forgeta-girl” who comes across a magical trinket called a “smize” (based on Tyra’s technique of smiling with the eyes) and is whisked away to the titular Modelland to survive a variety of physical dangers and passive-aggressive social knife fights to become one of the world’s seven “intoxibellas” the most famous, and therefore most important, people in the world.
I could be snarky and compare the basic structure of the plot to any number of RPGs that do the same basic thing (“You touched a funny space stone? Well shit, guess you’re the savior of the galaxy now!”) and remark on how easy it would be to translate that into a workable, conventional game (probably the most conventional on my list really), but cutting industry satire isn’t my goal here. I honestly would just love to see a game set in such a gloriously stupid world. I mean, the fashion designers are wizards!Sweet Jesus.
Get Ty Ty Baby and Swery in the same room together with some drinks and just let the magic happen. Maybe Duncan from D4 can make a cameo.
If celebrity games are going to be more common in the future, I hope we can at least get the occasional strange and lovely experience out of it. We might not be able to stave off a future dystopia of mobile freemium games inspired by reality show garbage and manufactured pop stars, but we can at least dream of a better one.
I’ve shared my top picks, but what celebrities or pop icons would you want to see in a game?