Friday, March 5, 2010

Grotesque: Heroes Hunted

I have dedicated a chapter of my thesis to 'grotesque games' or, more accurately, 'games that make use of notions of grotesqueness during gameplay.' For this reason I was pretty excited to discover that there is an actual game called Grotesque in the making.

In what way do the developers understand their game to be grotesque, I wondered. Will it be in terms of gross/disgusting? Full of turds and/or blood and gore? Or will the game be about human/animal/plant beasts? I can think of a number of existing games that concern themselves with such content, but they do not call themselves 'grotesque.'

It turns out that Grotesque: Heroes Hunted is a German role playing game intended to operate as a parody of other role playing games. Stay with me.

You play as Roger Sun:

"an everyday hero from the present, who is neither particularly strong nor particularly honourable. He is the guitarist in a heavy metal band, loves animals and is a huge fan of role-play games and adventures."

The game narrative begins as follows:

"Through the mystical force of an antique mirror he has recently bought [Roger] is sucked into another world and lands, complete with his lounge furnishings, right in the midst of a conflict between a kingly character and some grass-like creatures. It seems as though the eternal battle between light and dark in the game, which has been going on for years, suddenly become reality. However, Roger had never imagined that a hero’s life, as a prospective chosen-one, would be anything like this. The forces of the light that Roger urgently needs as co-combatants and friends, emerge mainly as arrogant, egotistical and to some extent even inter-fighting."

Apart from being a bit confusing, what the heck is grotesque about all this?

"When the vampires, Dawnclaude & Solithaire appear, and with sadistic fiendishness hunt down everything human, it becomes quite clear that they are merely the forerunners of a very angry and very murky power, a power that would not remain hidden to the sudden appearance of Roger Sun... Now it’s up to you to blend into the world of Grotesque – this is not the ultimate quest of any hero; it is the one of your own life!"

So, it turns out that Grotesque is the name of the world; a noun as opposed to an adjective.

The emphasis upon parody indicates that the notion of grotesqueness in use here is bound up with humour. There is a whole body of grotesque theory that argues that 'the grotesque' is a species of the comic, so this is not revolutionary. To rudely simplify a lot of interesting theory, the primary argument tends to be that 'the grotesque' occurs at the intersection of the comic and the horrific. So is Grotesque: Heroes Hunted both comic and horrific? You can judge for yourself, if you so wish...

"Mandy, don't get jealous."

The female characters are large breasted and whiny, but the chicken things are funny, right?

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