After playing Jazzpunk, I feel like I owe the avatars of every game that I’ve ever played an apology. After guiding them along on the most important journey of their code-generated lives, I drop them like a bad habit and damn them to utter nothingness. Only when I get a hankering to bring them back to life do they get a chance to run, fight, and rack up the points–but even their repeated rebirth carries a tinge of melancholy with it, for they have been resurrected only to complete the same series of predesignated quest commands that we’ve previously accomplished. Our video game avatars essentially become nothing more than digital incarnations of Sisyphus, forever cursed to repeat the same actions over and over–but what is their crime?
Throughout the process of playing Jazzpunk, your character, a secret agent by the name of Polyblank, slowly comes to the realization that he’s actually stuck inside a computerized simulation (which is little more than a fancy term for a video game). None of his missions served a purpose, and he was left navigating through the belly of a crocodile while the game’s credits hovered innocuously above his head. Something about this intentional rejection of what a video game avatar truly is made me think long and hard about the nature of our existence.
Considering the fact that Jazzpunk sends a mixed message about the lives of video game characters, it does so with a beautifully surreal backdrop. Characters that look like they were ripped from the kingdom of Fisher Price’s little people populate the dank urban sprawls and ominous beaches of the game’s story, and it’s packed with Easter eggs that will get a chuckle out of gamers–my favorite was a mini-game called “Wedding Qake” which was an FPS that required players to shoot each other with champagne corks and wedding-cake gatling guns.
Every so often, one needs to experience the batshit crazy in order to gain wisdom. As he is a prominent fixture in the misadventures of Polyblank, I feel it’s necessary to quote Hunter S. Thompson: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”