Monday, August 27, 2007

Southern Fried Gothic

Today, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is in the news again for their successful mobilization in opposition to Atlanta Falcons' football player Michael Vick, who has plead guilty to involvement in a brutal dogfighting ring. Of course, I thought the big story today should have been the resignation of the U.S. Attorney General, who liberalized torture practices and secret detentions throughout the world. Nonetheless, most of the past twenty-four hours in the past twenty-four-hour news cycle has been taken up with Vick's offenses and well-publicized remorse. It's worth pointing out that Vick's official fan site has exceeded its bandwidth today, while PETA TV is running spots with other athletes condemning his behavior.

Also on the home page of the PETA website is an announcement of the launch of a new game Super Chick Sisters , which is an obvious parody of the Super Mario Brothers classic. In the game, as one of two fluffy yellow chicks, the player navigates five levels in order to rescue Pamela Anderson from the bloodthirsty Colonel Saunders. At Kentucky Fried Cruelty Anderson also speaks out against the fast food chain.

Joystiq gave the game a good review, largely for thumbing their noses at Nintendo's copyrighted characters and for providing a good interface for rapid hand-eye action in a Flash game. I actually thought their uncourageous send-up risked few legal consequences, given that it was done in the context of both political speech and obvious parody.

Perhaps it was because I played the game with my teenager, who is reading Fast Food Nation this summer, but I thought that the rhetoric of the game play was relatively unpersuasive, particularly because it merely borrowed the mechanic of a famous game without thinking about rules and constraints in a more politically engaging way. I'll admit that when my avatar plumped up after successfully garnering an extra life, I did find myself suddenly craving similarly zaftig poultry.

There are good political games about fast food out there, which deal with the complicated economic interactions and cultural dynamics of the industry, as Ian Bogost points out, such as the McDonald's game and his own send up of the franchised labor market in the Kinkos-style setting of Disaffected!

I and others in my household enjoyed the most gothic level that took place in the colonel's Faulkneresque mansion in which the decrepit interior was littered with bloody chicken buckets. Given the message, however, the relevance of the jungle level lost me, and the drive-through, factory, and toxic run-off levels weren't much better.

I'm afraid PETA ultimately didn't get any converts at our house, despite a few hours playing the game. The best sections of the game reminded our teenage audience of Orphan Feast, which they spent the rest of the evening gleefully exploring.

Spoiler Alert: If you enter the code, "gopam," you can navigate the mazes as the doll-like spokesmodel Anderson.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Ian Bogost said...

Dang, genius title. Wish I'd thought of it.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Clarity.Bot said...

"Of course, I though the big story today should"

5:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home