A-Gainst all odds this porn should be in a museum (and covered in plastic!)
Videogames have not come very far as art. The amazing success of this relatively young industry is in such fields as design, technology, marketing, culture… but not in art.
Absolutely there have been exceptions to this rule: Planescape: Torment, System Shock 2 and ICO come to mind. The fact that these games were critically acclaimed for their creativity and daring run concurrently with the fact that this games were unpopular upon their release and did not sell well. These games should have never been made in the first place; if the publisher of these games knew that they would sell poorly, they would have withdrawn their support. That’s because first and foremost making videogames is a business, a big one that has since gone to eclipse the film industry in gross profits.
Game makers are not the biggest ones to blame, however, but instead it is the majority of gamers because they don’t demand a good game from a game maker, just an entertaining one. If the gaming public can play a game that is somewhat fun and can gawk at “state of art” eye candy, then they are satiated. Even though the majority of gamers have long since matured, the games they play have not. Modern games either tend to be saccharine cute children’s games or “mature” gore-and-eyeball frag festivals, and most of these have bad, senseless stories with inane dialogue. The average gamer (and even the hardcore gamer at times) just wants to have fun but expects nothing else from their games.
That’s why when people read a review for a game they basically want to know if they should buy it; people don’t want to know anything else. Rox or pseudo-rox? Is it the best game evar? Or, does it sux? Most reviews of games on the net have the same number of words as on a mutant’s hand and always rated 10 or 1—it either rox or sux. What these corporate branded blind fanboys don’t know is that they are working for free when hawking the wares of a game to each other. Every game review seems to have the words “must-buy” or “go rent” with them as though the reviewers work at an ad agency. Most reviewers just discuss the cool graphics or the fact that you can tear arms out of sockets, but just stop there. Don’t games make you feel anything? What does the game encourage you to think?
The main reason that videogames haven’t matured as an art form is because most videogames don’t encourage people to think and talk. Most videogame forums consist of useless fanboy trash talk or “wasn’t it cool when..”-type reminiscing; debates will run the gamut from “who’s the sexiest heroine?” to “what’s the coolest weapon?” But is that thinking? Contemplating the problems of the world and looking deep within your dark soul? People talk about videogames a lot, but do people actually have a conversation?
This isn’t asking too much. I’m not some superficial Cambridge intellectual with elbow patches on my tweed jacket knocking over the smoking pipe every time I reach for the game pad in my high ivory tower. I’m just looking for a mature game that treats me like the mature adult I ought to be. Other genres of entertainment have long grown up: movies, television, and even books used to level my wobbly computer table. Why can’t games do the same? This is the main obstacle facing the industry today and not how realistic a game engine can render human hair.
Art makes you think. Art challenges your ideas of the world. Art will start a conversation that begins with “I’ve never seen a game character depicted so pitifully” to “well, that means there must be no God” (I hope not). Art is not a 50-foot Gundam with beautifully mapped textures running at 60fps. That’s design.
A-Ga by Illusion is by no means a great piece of art, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that it would be a daring Japanese company that releases smut which challenges your pre-set notions of the world; art and pornography have long been awkward, messy bedfellows. Nonetheless, it is a work of art that continues to challenge you the more you think about it.
This game varies substantially from other Illusion releases in tone and presentation, just as with every Illusion release. This time around instead of spending most of your time on game play that eventually unlocks a cut scene, it is completely the other way around; game play has now been limited to short third-person adventure levels, boss fights and, without any hyperbole, simply walking from one room to the next. This “game” is 80% CGI cut scenes; while none of the CGI characters slide on a pair of leather gloves before a fight, you’ll find the visuals are decent.
The set up is like this for a specific reason: the game makers want to tell a specific story, that of the protagonist Eo and her mission of revenge against the evil invading army. There are no multiple endings or moral decisions to make; we are following her particular story. It’s a real shame that the ending can’t be discussed here because this twist makes you re-evaluate everything that you have already seen.
It needs to be stated that in A-Ga there are many scenes of rape, torture and violence. Lots of them. Over and over again. That this is an Illusion release shouldn’t surprise people of its content. What makes this rape special from other rape fantasies in hentai games is the prevailing use of violence as a means to rape. Rapes are committed by enemy soldiers who are pointing guns at naked women’s heads and willing to use them. A-Ga does not delve in the implausible fantasy of a victim falling in love with her rapist. This is brutal and harsh and closer to reality than most people can accept.
To contrast with this evilness, the rapes are all shown as experiences for the viewer to enjoy. Beautiful slow music plays as the women moan their resistance to the soldiers. Multiple close ups of the victims over-sexualized bodies are done for sexual satisfaction. The women’s breasts move in a hyper-realistic way that is engaging as it is detrimental to the focus of the story.
This ambivalence to the presentation of rape as either a horrible evil crime or a deep, dark fantasy to be enjoyed is done for a specific reason: this game is trying to explain and rationalize the ambivalence of woman feels towards the fantasy of rape. Audacious as it is, this game is trying to explain this need of a woman to fantasize about this evil act; a woman, and not a man. Something happens at the end to cause the player to reevaluate all that he has seen thus far.
(if this was a review where you could reveal spoilers I would love to discuss this further, but instead I will say that this rox.)
This theme may be difficult to grasp for a casual gamer or for someone who doesn’t understand Japanese. Still, it remains the ingenuity of the game developers to create something that will either attract or repel you (according to how you view rape and torture) and then after showing you all of that FORCE you to change your opinion. So if rape once excited you it now forces you to sympathize with the tragic victim; conversely, if it once repulsed you rape becomes something erotic and appealing. Genius. A-Ga isn’t asking you to share in its opinion, it’s asking you to change you opinion no matter what it is, and may very well succeed at it.
Not bad for a piece of smut. If all pron were like this, we’d be surfing and philosophizing at the same time.
When taken out of context without the entire story, A-Ga is just horrific, violent porn. Though the story and setting are completely made up, the scenarios it presents are realistic enough. The atrocities the enemy soldiers are committing in A-Ga are not at all different from the atrocities Japanese soldiers committed in World War II at the Rape of Nanjing. A-Ga can not just appeal to the fantasy of rape but of violence and death.
The shame about this game is that most people won’t know the entire story, whether they are looking for a shock or want confirmation that video games are a degenerate, sick form of entertainment that should be controlled or banned. People are interested in seeing Eo and her friends get raped and tortured but won’t care to know why and what for.
That said, A-Ga as a game has some serious issues. While the use of CGI cut scenes over actual game play serves the purpose to add to the game’s main theme, it can’t help but grow old quickly. Though A-Ga is more of a video game with its game play element than is the pure porn of Oppai Slider 2, Sexy Beach 3 or Rapelay, it is ironically far less interactive.
Furthermore, it is obvious that more attention has been given to the design of the female characters than anything else in this world. While it is very gratifying to watch Eo walk around in her lingerie armor (coming soon to Victoria’s Secret), this game environment is an empty one if everything else is put in with only a afterthought.
Speaking of afterthoughts, the actual interactive game play is very poor. A-Ga has bad monster design, too easy boss battles, a bad user interface, bad graphics, bad music and sound effects, bad level design and bad puzzles. These shortcomings threaten but don’t relegate A-Ga to being a mere masturbate-piece. It’s a good thing you’re only doing this for about half an hour at most and that A-Ga is at heart a movie with a story to tell.
The Bottom Line
The best art that is created on this planet will change people; people are resistant to this because people don’t want to change. People work hard all week long and don’t have the time or patience to re-evaluate their ideas and concepts of the world. A-Ga isn’t by any means great but it may surprise you how you come out the other end after having experienced it.