Why I Want To Fuck Barack Obama

It's The Hair

Quicksand Games

Quicksand Games, creators of We Want You bring us another politically charged masterpiece, inspired by J.G. Ballard's 1968 short story, Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan, it serves to transplant the political machinations of hyper-personalized political celebrity to the mechanics of puzzle-by-proxy AI manipulation games -- or, it's Lemmings with Barack.

I remember when I played Super Columbine Massacre RPG and sent out those e-mails that lead to it being picked up by the AP - I feel like I'm handling something similarly incendiary here. The game has you mousing around the floating head of BHO, leading lemming-like followers around through the history of the world. There's an implicit dance of meaning involve, we control by proxy a sort of idol, representing our own surrender of our sovereignty through voting and placing hopes in a political emissary that we hope will represent us. But we can only be represented in a fragmented way. Indirectly. The Quicksand guys took this idea and fused it with Ballard's contemplation of a culture where image replaces substance, where politics is not about policy but body politic. Ballard, using mere text, could only dip his pen into post-modern devices and weave then golden-boy, Reagan, as a sexualized image, but games can do this directly with the wetness and dopamine-reinforcement that comes from successfully manipulating the game avatar.

But leading around "spastic children" is only half the gameplay, if you push the right-mouse button the game shifts... changes... from "HOPE" mode to "CHANGE" mode, and Barack transforms into a different form depending on the level. My favorite level involved Washington DC, a place that I lived near for the better part of my life (the part that involved being on drugs). During the first half of each level, these special Barack forms will change the spastic children into different kinds of helpers, similar to the sub-forms of Lemmings such as the blocker, the stair-layer etc. Since the level designs are focused on a single permutation, they're uniquely designed for them, and I thought the DC level pulled it off great by having the spastic children turn into Washington Monument-esque stone phalluses (modeled after the Egyptian God Osirus, an object of worship for the Free Masons that designed Washington DC). The genius of this level design in particular is that these permutations aren't passive, you must time them exactly in order to launch the child preceding the transformed one onto a higher ledge. It recalls the paternalistic idea of sacrifice in the name of liberty, and it works.

And here's the goddamned kicker of them all, each level must be completed by the game changing around completely, because CHANGE-mode Obama becomes the level boss as soon as one kid reaches the level-exit (an anus-like structure) and the roles reverse. The number of children you saved end up becoming the number of lives you have at your disposal. So as the player the conflict of interest is pure, that is, it isn't really there, but ostensibly you are Barack and then the children, and who wants to fuck who isn't really clear, except that you want to win.

Now this is all very clever, and the gameplay seems cogent enough and gets twisted through as well as you expect from a less artistically ambitious title just trying to be fun, but it is the game's final (or first?) level that rivals Braid's end-sequence in terms of sheer amazity. It's a parody of the monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey with a MIDI rendition of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", children that can be turned into bouncing monkeys or enlightened, slowed but monolith-immune folks, and the Changed BHO is like a cyborg version. When you get to the end the final boss is a Bush/BHO hybrid with six nipples that shoots out laser milk, and the kids have to combine the slowed versions with the bouncy versions to kill him, reach Canada, and start civilization anew. The national bias is obvious, since Quicksand Games is composed of two Canadians. My reading of the whole thing as the denouement is that they're talking about synthesizing our primal and rational natures to break out of the complacency of a false messiah who would impose a false enlightenment through a sort-of transhuman death-march - which is the game itself.

I find myself extremely lucky to have been given early access to this game and Rohrer's breakthrough in the same week, I highly recommend pre-ordering this game, it could be Indie Game Of The Year, if not the decade.