ISAAAAAC? ISAAAAAC!
March 4, 2012 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Grotesque Body Horror in the Binding of Isaac.
posted by empath (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, Ed McMillen talks about Isaac and game design.
posted by empath at 8:06 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just me, but I got stuck on the Alien / Monstrous Feminine line of reasoning in the Grotesque Body Horror link.

I'm pretty sure that you don't really need a working knowledge of where babies come from to find the idea of being devoured from the inside out by parasites to seem pretty horrifying. Maybe it's my firm policy of "No haplodiploidy chicks!", but I'm having trouble seeing a "monstrous feminine" in the xenomorph from Alien. Even the alien queen, at the end of Aliens, is only feminine in an angry Rush Limbaugh in drag kind of way, which makes the fight between it and Ripley (I am woman, hear me lay down suppressive fire with my assault rifle) a fight between the one true queen and a pretender to the throne.

And then I start thinking about the alien life cycle and how every other generation is essentially a different species and try to work out how the DNA for that would even work and pretty soon, what were we talking about?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:20 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Related: Nintendo blocks 3DS Binding of Isaac for "questionable religious content".
posted by xqwzts at 9:28 AM on March 4, 2012


Rush Limbaugh in drag

Hey, some of us are trying to eat lunch.
posted by cropshy at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2012


Related: Nintendo blocks 3DS Binding of Isaac for "questionable religious content".

That's interesting, because Nintendo lets all kinds of 'blasphemous' content through. I think the problem with the Binding of Isaac is that it's a rather 'serious' treatment of religious symbolism and it's incredibly visceral and discomforting on multiple levels.
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on March 4, 2012


Alien is the tamest body horror. For the good stuff, you need modern Asian media. (tvtropes, crazy hand image on page) Alterntiavely, photoshop. (WARNING: trypophobia/holes-in-skin image!)
posted by curious nu at 9:39 AM on March 4, 2012


I love it.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:48 AM on March 4, 2012


I'm pretty sure that you don't really need a working knowledge of where babies come from to find the idea of being devoured from the inside out by parasites to seem pretty horrifying.

Sure, totally, but most viewers of the film are adults who are at least roughly familiar with the notion of mammalian incubation. And considering H. R. Giger's well-established predisposition toward overtly sexual/reproductive imagery in his art and design work (the facehugger eggs, for example, were supposed to have openings shaped precisely like vaginas), it's further on the nose. I think you can totally watch Alien without thinking of it as specifically some commentary on the Monstrous Feminine (that sure wasn't going through my mind when I was ten) but it's pretty hard to get away from that as part of the ready symbolism in the film if you look at the film in detail.

Related: Nintendo blocks 3DS Binding of Isaac for "questionable religious content".

That is probably a very smart, and definitely a very disappointing, decision for Nintendo to have made.
posted by cortex at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble seeing a "monstrous feminine" in the xenomorph from Alien

Indeed, especially since it has an enormous penis for a head. I think that Alien is supposed to make you hate all flesh. And pretty much all machines.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:15 AM on March 4, 2012


I thought Alien was about rape. Where did I read that?
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2012


Thinking about an angry Rush Limbaugh in drag (sorry Cropshy) got me thinking about the duchess from Alice in Wonderland. Rush Limbaugh in drag? Check. Big hat giving the appearance of a huge bony crest? Check.

So, Red Queen? Prometheus? Hmmmm.

And dammit, there's still like four more screens full of thoughtful article I haven't even mused over and another game on my Steam wishlist to go with all the other games I've already bough and haven't had time to play. Sigh.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2012


The definitive Binding of Isaac interviews are found on Roguelike Radio (my favorite) and Press Start.

The first interview is definitely comprehensive, leaning slightly towards game design theory, but the second contains some interesting points as well; Edmund McMillen talks about his hobby of collecting Jack Chick gospel tracts among other things (Jack Chick being no stranger on the blue).

On a conceptual, aesthetic, and cultural level, the Binding of Isaac is quite the powerhouse. The game demands a bit of skill to complete, but what hooked me for the ride were the adorable barks and bellows of the Four Horsemen. You just want to hug the life out of them. *SQUEEZE YOUR CHEEKS* you abominations of nature!
posted by lemuring at 1:29 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Other than cute characters designed to rankle "christians" and gameplay reminiscent of smash tv, I dont get it. This seems like precisely the overwrought literary analysis cum emotional projection those in the hard sciences love to make fun of. For good reason...

(I made a poopy!)
posted by smidgen at 2:41 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it was designed to rankle Christians, and I don't think he made it to court controversy. It's actually a fairly deep game, design wise. I sunk about a dozen hours into it. Still haven't finished the final boss. (or even gotten to him yet)
posted by empath at 2:51 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never played Super Meat Boy or Binding of Isaac, but thank you so much for that interview link, empath, it's super interesting.

This is off-topic I guess, but one of the questions he's asked is "why are your games so damn hard?" and his answer is that if something isn't challenging there's no satisfaction upon completing it (and he notes this applies in life in general and not just games). I was having the same conversation with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, talking about playing games like the original Mario Bros. as a kid, failing over and over until finally finishing a level, and how the immense satisfaction I'd get from that I never get from [AAA] games today.

I've basically come to the conclusion that AAA games aren't really for me anymore. I find myself playing Skyrim, and despite the deserved praise the game gets for creating an immersive world, my brain goes into RPG character-building mode, where I'm exploring dungeons to fight enemies so I can find treasure that improves my character's skill at... exploring dungeons to fight enemies so I can find treasure... and so on. So really, at the center of this loop is the combat. I'm on this treadmill and customizing my character so I can make my character more specialized and effective in combat, right? And the combat, even after increasing the difficulty, isn't particularly challenging or deep. You can take it on from a few different angles, because that's what makes it an RPG, but in the end, if you've met your character-building goals, the combat is going to be pretty simple and not very challenging. And at this point, the entire game feels vacuous to me, and I wonder why I'm even playing.

So I guess my point is that I'm incredibly happy that the indie gaming scene has developed in the way it has, and that there are now ways for smaller games to be more easily distributed. Because for me I suppose the satisfaction I get from a game comes from core mechanics that are deep and challenging, and it seems like AAA games are trying to accomplish something else entirely where the core mechanics (usually combat) are fairly simple and, by their mass market nature, unchallenging; and then they pile a bunch of shiny shit on top.

Anyway, sorry for this long off-topic comment but I guess I needed to spit this out somewhere! Though as happy as I am that there are all these great indie games out there, it's also kind of intimidating figuring out which game to choose over other ones to check out, especially having a backlog of games I own I haven't played yet. I suppose that's a good problem to have!

also mad at myself for not taking advantage of humble bundles
posted by palidor at 11:59 PM on March 4, 2012



I thought Alien was about rape. Where did I read that?


Alien: A Film Franchise Based Entirely on Rape.
posted by wingsandfins at 5:25 AM on March 5, 2012


also mad at myself for not taking advantage of humble bundles

I linked to the Flash version of the game in the original post. It's basically the same game minus a bunch of power ups...
posted by empath at 5:46 AM on March 5, 2012


the satisfaction I get from a game comes from core mechanics that are deep and challenging, and it seems like AAA games are trying to accomplish something else entirely where the core mechanics (usually combat) are fairly simple and, by their mass market nature, unchallenging

I mostly agree, and I think you should definitely play Binding of Isaac.

But there are a few fantastic big-studio games out there too. Have you played either Dead Space game, or Deus Ex:HR? Dead Space on the hardest difficulty was enjoyably punishing. It did feel like a fight for my life. And doing a stealth run through DX - also on highest difficulty - was immensely satisfying, and it's a perfect example of open-ended gaming, especially the DLC mission (which is the size of most other full games being put out these days). And I guess it doesn't really count as a AAA game, but, still, there's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. [lowers head for moment of silence].

As for Bethesda RPGs... yeah. But they can be modded for more hardcore gaming. Not sure if there's anything comparable for Skyrim yet.
posted by regicide is good for you at 6:55 AM on March 5, 2012


Rumor has it that the new Bioshock is going to have an 'old-school difficulty' mode that is much more demanding on your character, and it's possible to get to a state where the game is basically unbeatable if you build your character wrong.
posted by empath at 6:58 AM on March 5, 2012


I am still trying this, haven't managed to win yet. The variety and randomness keeps it new even with many many playthroughs. Even though you constantly lose, you build up tiny perks and unlocks by reaching milestones. There are a million interesting little tweaks for your poor guy. Tonnes of fun in a tiny simple package.

I hope my endorsement brings the authors at least $5 worth of business! GO BUY THIS GAME!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:43 AM on March 6, 2012


It really is a great little game. I've found it hard as well, though the other night I gave it a couple more goes and did finally get to and beat Mom. At which point the game promptly added a couple more stages for future playthroughs. Tricksy!
posted by cortex at 8:04 AM on March 6, 2012


It's hard, but it's also short, and because of the randomization, you're never really doing the same thing twice.....

Pro-tips:

If you get the character that starts with 'lucky foot' (or you find it), go to the arcade and go back and forth between all the vendors there... If you're just a tiny bit lucky you can use them all until they explode (use hearts to get money, use money to get hearts, take every pill you find). There's a fairly decent chance of getting 99 coins when the slot machine explodes, too.

If you pick up whore of babylon, never, ever pick up regular hearts. Only pick up spirit hearts. If you find a blood bank, always take yourself down to half a heart with it (it never takes spirit hearts). The Book of Revelation is amazing with this power up (constant supply of spirit hearts)

Chocolate Milk sucks, don't get it.
posted by empath at 8:14 AM on March 6, 2012


(use hearts to get money, use money to get hearts, take every pill you find)

Is this game some kind of... simulation of my life?
posted by palidor at 9:24 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


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