In Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s Icarus Needs, users get to go on a “hypercomic adventure” as they try to wake up “everyone’s favorite mentally unhinged cartoonist, Icarus Creeps”. The premise of this work is that Icarus fell asleep while playing video games and has somehow ended up in a surreal, cartoon-esque dreamscape
ruled by a squirrel king??? Icarus needs to find a way out of this nightmare while rescuing his girlfriend, Kit, and defeating a very squirrely squirrel king. Users play as the main character, Icarus, and can control his movements through the story via the arrow keys. as users move through the game, they encounter minor obstacles they must overcome in order to progress. Often, solving these puzzles involves going backwards in the game to locate some kind of item like a key or some apples or a crown from a locked chest at the bottom of a “royal bath” for which bolt cutters will need to be located. This game is designed to look like a kind of De Stijl comic strip, making use of strong blocks of primary colours as well as simple shapes and lines. Users “jump” from one comic panel to the next using arrow keys. Additionally, Icarus expresses a kind of sardonic, almost nihilistic, wit which imbues this work with a strong sense of so-called “Millennial humor” which could also be classified as a kind of Neo-Dada revival.
To be honest, I was not expecting to enjoy this work. Despite my deep appreciation for Elit and new forms of digital content creation, I’m not the biggest fan of “game” works or works that could be classified within the video game genre. It’s not that I don’t believe these kinds of works can tell a compelling story–far from it–but I tend to find that I am, well, bad at them. Video games are not my forte. So, anything that vaguely resembles a video game is usually moved far down on my list.
Anyway, that said, I found myself drawn in by Icarus Needs. Almost immediately, I was intrigued by the premise. (Icarus being trapped in a dream-world brought to mind surrealist interpretations of dreams, automatism, etc. and so connected this work to art from the start.) Also, I found Icarus’ dialogue to be witty, relatable, and so engaging. I loved the running dry commentary and self-awareness (“It’s a long way down” “At least six panels”) of the character.
I would say most of Icarus’ speech as well as this work’s story line has a strong postmodern, Millennial sensibility to it. There’s this humorous self-awareness of ridiculous circumstances on both Icarus’ and Kit’s parts that I believe plants the work firmly in Millennial territory. Like, I feel younger generations more than older generations would appreciate this work.
“Breaking the fourth wall” is another component of this work, in addition to the art style, simple interface design, and text, that I found to be compelling. Not only would Icarus mention the panel bounds of the work, there were also ample mentions/references to flying and falling which seem to reference the myth of Icarus.
These references to the myth, within the context of this work, I would classify as a kind of “breaking of the IRL fourth wall”. It’s an element that is asking readers to step outside of the context of one story and recall the contents of another story. It’s interesting, also, that the whole premise of this work is based around Icarus falling asleep under inconvenient circumstances.
What really makes this work Neo-Dada-esque for me, though, is the ending. The work just kind of nonchalantly ends with Kit finding Icarus knocked out on the couch and waking him up. It’s one of those “it was all a dream” endings, leaving users to wonder about the nonsensical journey they just went on. I feel like users are left wondering, “Well, what was the point?”
But, that is the point–there is no point.
Traditional Dada an its following iterations can be viewed as a kind of celebration of absurdity, of nonsense, and of pointlessness. The meaning is that there is no meaning. I think Icarus Needs plays off of this sensibility and, really, makes a game out of it. In this way, this work subverts traditional gaming narratives. There are no high-scores or rewards and there is no closure. Yet, I find this work, as a game, is still entertaining and engaging for users. This is accomplished through design and dialogue and, I believe, riffing off of Millennial humor and sense. But, that’s just my opinion.
What do you think????
~Find me #suffering on the Twitter till next time~