Lost in “La La Land”

A screen shot from La La Land, showing chaos

Anna Anthropy, creator of the creatively structured Calamity Annie, just posted about a series by TheAnemic (I think) called “La La Land:”

the la la land games, of which there are (to my knowledge) five, are haunting and surreal short tales. in the way that static might draw attention to the pauses in a phone conversation, la la land emphasizes those vast between-spaces in the dialogue between player and game. it is here that the games take place.

A warning up front: on first glance, these games come across as some guy screwing around with Game Maker and being deliberately weird. And that’s what they might be. But it all feels so deliberate. The special effects must have taken long enough to code, and there’s such a unifying bizarreness to the games, that I might as well assume that the creator knows what he or she’s doing, and try to make some sort of sense of it.

Four of the five games are weird, surreal fables, teaching lessons like “the rich can’t live without money” and “don’t exploit resources” and maybe “don’t cook soup.” The controls and graphics are deliberately obtuse, with the first game, “La La Land,” being the most difficult. It’s missing the fable vibe; it’s theoretically a collection game, but there’s no world beyond roiling chaos, your character randomly duplicates and teleports, and there appears to be no win condition. These games are weird and not particularly fun. But they’re weirdly compelling.

Is there a message to these games? Um. Maybe? I feel lost playing them, like I don’t have the background to fully understand them. Perhaps if I dropped some acid, or took a course in experimental film, I’d have some frame of reference. As it is, the games make me feel unmoored, without a firm surface to hold on to. My feelings are buffeted about. Am I missing something? Is there a hidden meaning? Is it just an elaborate joke? Even if it is an elaborate joke, is there something hidden beneath the joke?

I’d recommend playing them in reverse order. “La La Land 5” is the one most like a conventional digital game, and as you move back through the series they become increasingly strange and mystifying. Anthropy has graciously hosted the series here. The games are made using Game Maker 6, so Windows Vista users may experience error messages. If so, they can be converted using the GM_Convert_Game tool. I’d love to hear what you folks think besides “lol these games are dumb.”

3 thoughts on “Lost in “La La Land”

  1. And here I thought I was the only one that thought these games were good. 5’s (my favorite) message is pretty clear well to me anyway a business man’s rise and fall from success from changing of times or people getting sick of the products. But maybe I’m just reading too much into it…

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