God in the Machine: Video Games as Spiritual Pursuit
by Liel Leibovitz
Video games are consumed actively in a way that is very different from encounters with books, movies, or other art forms: by definition, one’s time with a game is time spent taking actions, making decisions; and video games generally require a long time to play—dozens, even hundreds of hours, spread out over weeks or months. All this means that an account of playing a video game inevitably involves a recollection of a portion of one’s own life, including a few of one’s own successes and failures, decisions and regrets.
Chris Ware’s drawings are meticulous, even chilly, with flat, muted colors and the straight lines and perfect curves of an architectural rendering. The panels follow an orderly horizontal grid, but have a discomfiting tendency to occasionally shrink to near illegibility; or they might suddenly demand to be read from right to left, or even disappear entirely, to be replaced by pretty but unhelpful typography, complicated diagrams, or plans for a paper model of one of the stories’ locations. Dreams and fantasies invade the story without warning.
Zona, Geoff Dyer’s recent book about the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, has been much discussed for its almost comically thorough dissection of the stately 1979 film in which three men venture into a mysterious, dangerous “Zone,” which supposedly contains a “Room” in which wishes can be granted. In an …
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new film Cemetery of Splendor, in which a group of Thai soldiers have fallen mysteriously and, it seems, permanently asleep, is a gentle, open-hearted story underlain at every moment by rage and dread.
In the reimagined Middle Ages of Alexei German’s Hard to Be a God, spears threaten bare buttocks, corpses are looted, mocked, kicked aside, faces are smeared with unidentifiable muck, the rain pours down. I don’t think any film has ever depicted a world so awful with such conviction.
It Was the War of the Trenches is one of the most passionately bleak works in the history of comics. French cartoonist Jacques Tardi is unremitting in his focus on the small, human details of the catastrophe of WWI—not just the look of uniforms and weaponry, but the way one soldier advances in an awkward, stiff-armed posture, “protecting my belly with the butt of the rifle,” and the way another makes sculptures and rings from discarded shells, to sell to his comrades.
“I draw a lot of weird doodles on scraps of paper,” says the Canadian cartoonist Jesse Jacobs—true of most cartoonists, no doubt. But few cartoonists’ work is as suffused with the spirit of the doodle as Jacobs’s. The familiar forms are there on almost every page: a profusion of cubes and spheres, wiggly organic textures, vast fields of invented vegetation. They are more elegantly drawn than your average doodles, of course, cleaned-up and colored and carefully arranged, but the doodler’s mix of repetition and improvisation is unmistakable in each of his books.
One of the joys of Mere, the new book by the cartoonist C.F., is how thoroughly it resists categorization, or even basic explanation. C.F is best known for Powr Mastrs, an ongoing, fascinatingly strange fantasy series with heavy doses of abstraction, barely comprehensible mysticism, and weird eroticism (one plot culminated in an extended sex scene with a squid). Mere, a collection of mini-comics C.F. produced over the course of 2012, is if anything even more odd: a tour through a wide variety of familiar comic book genres, from horror and science fiction to a cheery, kid-oriented “suicide prevention comic,” that manages to make each seem more alien and nonsensical than the last.