Half-Life VR but the AI is Self-Aware (2020, created by wayneradiotv)
by Quint Iverson
I want to be clear about a few things: Yes, this is a YouTube video game playthrough. Yes, you should avoid watching it if you get motion sick. No, this show will not make you think. But the frequency at which “Half-Life VR but the AI is Self-Aware” turns me into a laughing mess is unparalleled. “HLVR: AI”, as it’s known for short, is a wild mix between machinima and Let’s Play that begins as a player turned parent wrangling children in the form of advanced AI companions that turns into something all the more buck wild. As the show grows more popular, it gets more ambitious, turning into a wildly hilarious, endlessly quotable masterpiece of improvised absurd storytelling by its so-called third act. The show so effortlessly and astonishingly dissembles the way video games piece out information to its players it’s stunning that nothing has come before this, despite how many have tried. Not to mention the way the series totally tears the concept of found footage a new fourth-wall hole. But it’s also a show that makes you laugh when a character recites the Wikipedia article for chairs.
Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”
By Brendan Swogger
After 8 years, legendary songwriter Fiona Apple returned with her fifth studio album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, last week. Given Fiona’s past musical achievements, I was of course expecting this album to be good… but not THIS GOOD. Within hours of its release, the critical acclaim was pouring in. Pitchfork gave it the first 10/10 they’ve given in a decade, and Twitter was flooded with acclaim. And though reviews in general are not a true measure of an album’s success, FTBC earns all of the praise it gets. Recorded on GarageBand–mostly on an iPhone–and using various objects around her house–pots, pans, stomping on the floor, dogs barking in the background–to compose the arrangements, Fiona Apple absolutely destroys and reassembles the idea of a musical composition. This alone makes the record’s sounds and production unlike anything else. But the lyrics are what bring this album from great to incredible. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is in every way a feminist album, her words a brutally honest reflection of the female experience: of loving, self-doubt, self-sabotage, every little gritty emotion brought to the surface in full poetic view. It is raw, and it is sometimes hard to listen to. But it is cathartic and important and beautiful. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is unlike any album I’ve ever heard and, I can now confidently say, my favorite album of all time.
Forza Horizon 4
by Quint Iverson
Forza Horizon 4 is, frankly, much too hard for me to really enjoy. I’ve never played anything close to a simulation racing video game before, and even when playing on the easiest difficulty, I find it tough to grasp any sort of footing.
That’s not why I’m talking about this game today. I’m talking about this game because after looking at its 50th pristinely modeled version of a Ferrari, running it through the woods while gathering up nary a scratch, it hit me that the power fantasy this game presents–a world of constantly searching for the best 2000-pound beast of a machine by rampantly throwing out imperfect ones and treating terrible cars like jokes–is fundamentally unstable. Climate change is going to alter all of our lives massively within the next decade–and to avoid the worst effects means moving off petrol-fueled methods of transportation, like “Forza”’s cars. That might mean we’re living in the last ten years of the racing genre as we know it–when the dream at the genre’s core becomes completely unattainable to even the smallest degree, whether through our choice or pure necessity, how will we look back on games like this? Will we see them as a folly, as if it was foolish for us to even fantasize about owning so much waste? Or will we look upon them nostalgically, yearning for the day we all believed we, too, could own a Lamborghini? And what will the new frontier of transportation-based power fantasy look like?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.