by David 'jhave' Johnston
Click on images to access the games
It could be said that the games at La Molleindustria are as charmingly banal as the economic actualities they so accurately and satirically critique. It could also be said that in this post-reflexive, self-unconscious era-of-mass-consumption a little hypnotic monotony in a Mc-Job assembly-line flash-game does a lot to satisfy a subliminal collective desire for temporary oblivion from the hyper-entropic demands of our voracious credit cards.
That said, the aesthetics of La Molleindustria ( day-glo tumescent cartoons in point 'n click flash interfaces) ironically compliment the subject matter ( gender-bending, culture-jamming ). On arriving at the site, the slogan is : "Political Videogames against the dictatorship of entertainment". Above the slogan is a sliding assembly-line logo loop of a silhouette drinking from a prefabricated can to fill a brain which is promptly sucked dry by a robotic hypodermic which uses the brain-juice as an ingredient to fill more cans which are again drunk by the same silhouette etc…. It's a stunningly simple vignette of modern industrial existence: ouroboros meets henry ford cybernetic propaganda porn.
After inventing the lovely neologism "Gamevolution!", the bio on their site states: "La Molleindustria is an italian team of artists, designers and programmers that aims at starting a serious discussion about social and political implications of videogames……………We chose to start with online gaming in order to sidestep mainstream distribution channels and to overcome our lack of means. Using simple but sharp games we hope to give a starting point for a new generation of critical game developers and, above all, to experiment with practices that can be easily emulated and virally diffused." In keeping with this philosophy, all games are downloadable.
As an aside, the budget for Halo2 was over 20 million. Halo2, for those of you insulated from the realities of first-person-shooters, is a video-game: the graphics are exquisite 3D, the physics engine profoundly powerful, the villians are embedded with AI. In short, it's technically virtuosic. It seems an appropriate moment to paraphrase W.B.Yeats once again
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack funding, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
La Molleindustria are ethically, philosophically, and politically evolved. What they lack is funding. We live in a global culture that consistently finances wars and economic inequities. A culture that lucratively rewards video-games which exploit and amplify the innate endocrinal aggression within the male physiognomy. Hit the trigger: kill - win. Enemy: them - us. This is big business leveraging the survival instinct.
La Molleindustria are concerned with more cerebral esoteric compassionate issues. They are currently "…working on a complex managerial game that will describe the environmental non-sustainability of the grain-fed meat production. It's mostly based on J. Rifkin's book Beyond Beef. [They] believe that main potential of video-games is to make easily understandable the very complex dynamics of globalization." This subject may not inspire teenage boys to sit for hours hunched over game consoles, but it may keep us as a species from annihilating ourselves and every other life-form on the planet.
When ennui is packaged in pop-culture and political activism is gift-wrapped in an ascii-arcade then it may be true that as a fin-du-siecle culture we have reached a strangely fertile abyss. La Molleindustria is the perfect accoutrement to such caustic complicity. Go visit them today. Defy the body count.
Previously published in
CIAC's Electronic Magazine no 21, Winter 2005