5. Synecdoche, New York: The Game
It’s SimCity except the city you create is your own city populated by avatars for your friends, family, and everyone else you encounter. Transcribe real dialogue between your friends into the game, and watch your virtual friends act it out. If your grandpa is diagnosed with lung cancer, put his avatar through chemotherapy. If your parents get divorced, move your dad’s avatar into a luxury condo. Things get complicated halfway through the game when you’re introduced to your own avatar who’s also playing Synecdoche, New York: The Game on his own virtual television set. Help your avatar create avatars for your friends’ and family’s avatars and virtual versions of your virtual acquaintances. Then, when you discover a virtual version of your virtual self, help him create avatars for your avatars’ avatars. You win when, after coming to terms with life’s inevitable decline into misery and despair, you die.
4. American Splendor: The Game
You play as Harvey Pekar, a bitter pessimistic schlub navigating the mundane yet surprisingly complicated trials of daily life. In the dishwashing mini-game, guide Harvey’s sponge across a dirty dish, carefully removing caked on bits of day-old ham and cheese hot pocket. In the file clerk mini-game, take hospital patient files off a cart and organize them alphabetically on a shelf, occasionally stapling in additional forms and documents requested for inclusion by the doctor. In the hateful glare mini-game, control the direction of Harvey’s gaze as he plods down the streets of Cleveland, Ohio and press X to launch a hateful glare at any passers-by. You win when Harvey’s finally old enough to retire and enjoy his pension for a few short years before dying.
3. Greenberg: The Game
You play as Larry Greenberg, a forty-year-old self-centered hipster whose pretentious overanalyzing and inability to laugh at himself threaten to alienate everyone around him. As you guide Greenberg through parties full of responsible adults who’ve moved on with their lives, use the L1 button to say something awkward and self-absorbed. When you meet Florence, your brother’s 26-year-old personal assistant, the game becomes a dating simulator where the goal is to emotionally eviscerate your quarry. Choose from a selection of statements over the course of several dates, making sure to undermine her self-esteem, keep the relationship as ambiguous as possible, and crush her dignity by frequently using her for sex. You win when, after having an abortion, her sense of self-worth is negligible.
2. Squid and the Whale: The Game
This is a fighting game with only two characters: washed-up novelist Bernard Berkman and his ex-wife Joan Berkman. Each character has the usual moves like kick, punch, and block, but also a special move, activated by a complex series of button mashing, which isn’t a fighting move so much as a cutting remark. For example, Bernard’s special move is, “You cheated on me, you cunt!” Joan’s special move, on the other hand, is, “You’re fucking a girl our son’s age! Don’t you think that’s confusing for him?” Her other special move is to have sex with her youngest son’s handsome tennis coach Ivan. Bernard and Joan can also summon their respective favorite children to perform a truly vicious attack. Bernard can summon Walt, the older son, to call his mother a slut while kicking her in the ovaries. Joan meanwhile can summon the younger son Frank to tell his father he wants to grow up to be a tennis pro like Ivan while smearing semen on his father’s face. However, the game always ends in defeat when the children realize how they’ve been used as pawns in their parents’ ongoing squabbles.
1. In the Realms of the Unreal: The Game
Based on the documentary as well as the epic 15,000 page novel by noted folk artist Henry Darger, you play as the Vivian Girls (yes, this is where that dumb band got its name), seven feisty little girls who inexplicably have penises and lead the Christian nation of Abbieannia in a brutal endless war against the evil General John Manley’s Glandelinian child slavers. The game is an RTS (Real Time Strategy) so the girls must gather and direct an army of children to fight against their prospective enslavers. Power-ups found throughout the Realms can allow you to summon various giant colorful monsters called Blengigomeneans to defend your child soldiers and devour any Glandelinians in their paths. It’s difficult to say whether this game could be sold in the U.S. as it would contain scenes of child murder, child torture, and children tied to trees with their intestines hanging like tinsel.