Let There Be Smitten!

Let be known and let it ring throughout the land that I have finished and release Let There Be Smite! into the world. As is my current custom, it’s not really completely polished or anything, just done enough for it to go out the door. Friend Chad used the term “resolved” to describe such a creation, and I like that. So the game is now resolved and I’m free to move on. It’s a browser game and you can play it over on the games page. The rest of this post might be construed as “spoilers” – though there’s not a huge amount to spoil, to be fair.

So it’s a game where you take on the unenviable role of God at his day job, which is dealing with the sins of the world as they arise (where “sin” means “breaking one of the ten commandments). Which means either forgiving the sinner or smiting them. Over and over again. This operates by having a kind of “surveillance” view and then having dialog boxes notifying you of sins pop up as they occur. As the population of the world increases, so too do the sins. At a certain point it’s bound to get away from you.

And that’s pretty much the point of the game. I was interested in how I could portray God’s job as being incredibly tedious – seriously, paying attention to everything all the time and being so deeply concerned about sins would be pretty painful. That suggested some kind of desk-job metaphor, and clicking dialog boxes seemed like the most inhumanly depressing way of interacting with a game world I could imagine. I think that aspect came out perfectly.

The game is meant to have a particular flow of realisations/jokes. First of all you get the joke of God using some rather clunky retro software to do his job. Then you get the idea that he’s sitting in an office looking at this crappy interface, watching the world roll along. Then that he’s meant to read about every individual sin and make a decision, methodically clicking his choices through. Then the idea that the sins come thick and fast. Followed by being totally overwhelmed and either having the computer crash from overload, or hitting the panic button to flood the entire world, killing everyone, and starting again.

I’m particularly interested in the moment that the game turns into a desire to click any button, rather than the one you would choose. The moment where you’re not reading and responding to sins but to the interface itself. This is a pretty common feature of games generally – we go beyond the state of considering what we’re doing at each instant and toward a desire to simply act and to have an effect. The game’s meant to exacerbate that feeling while also having you do it in relation to something deeply important that you shouldn’t be treating in that way.

So, ultimately, it’s meant to leverage the ridiculousness of a surveilling God and the ridiculousness of our behaviour in games into something resembling both a joke and a critique! All in one slightly poorly made package! All made in two weeks!

Let there be smite! (Though personally I prefer to forgive.)

1 July 2011
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