Sam Strange Remembers: GAMER

Sam Strange obliterates the "Are video games art?" argument by making a piece of art about video games which Ebert gave four thumbs up. Case closed.

One day I walked past a Best Buy and saw how far video games have advanced since I stopped playing them after Aries died. I couldn't believe my eyes. A kind of nosey concern for a world that had moved on without my permission took over my senses. For the first time in my life, I was an old bastard.

This changed my perspective on everything. Suddenly things that seemed fun and thrilling became dirty and abject. You can't just tell someone what this looks like because you'll sound like a grumpy old dick and people will stop listening. But, if you have talent with the filmmaking arts, you can sure as hell show people.

So Gamer is my attempt to illustrate what the current world looks like to the kind of 99-year-old who fought in two World Wars and many smaller ones on three continents and led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses to swords to artillery and tanks. The kind of 99-year-old who has seen the headwaters of the Nile and tribes of natives no white man had ever seen before. The kind of 99-year-old who has won and lost a dozen fortunes, killed many men and loved only one woman with a passion other, not quite as cool, 99 year olds could never begin to understand.

Gamer takes place in the future (2013). Video games have changed a lot. Instead of thousands of games available on a myriad of gaming consoles and mobile devices, there are now only two, and they're only played by about 200 people. Both are popular television shows, though, because watching someone play a game is always so much more fun than playing one yourself. Proof: pornography.

Also, video games now have real people for characters instead of a bunch of CG assholes. See, this guy name Southern Dexter invented a video game cell people can inject into their brains which turn them into slaves that must do whatever players tell them to do. Video games literally rot their brains and turn them into zombies.

The first game Southern Dexter made with this technology is called Society. This is a game that approximates a guilt free version of the real world. You control one of a hundred human beings huddled within a small concrete courtyard. It's a really small area with very few props, so even the most altruistic gamers can resist only so long before making everyone fuck each other. When you're tired of making your person lick another person's person, they can also knock each other over and eat dog poop.

But that's not all! Before your avatar heads to the big, fun concrete courtyard, you get to dress them up in a wide array of rubber outfits. You can even design their mandatory face tattoo and choose which of five available neon wigs they wear.

Playing Society isn't easy. For one, it requires a lot of free time, otherwise you're avatar won't eat or drink or go to the bathroom, and if one dies, you lose rep. It also costs a lot to play Society, not just because of the steep monthly subscription, but because it can only be played on a computing system with five different monitors showing the same thing. Only real hardcore fatasses with rich parents can make good on Society's demanding commitment.

Only three kinds of people are willing to actually sign up as a Society avatar: 1) Actors, whores, actors, people who have sex for money, and actors. 2) Sociology Dept. TA's. And 3) Single mothers who need money because they're husbands have been wrongfully imprisoned.

Which brings us to Southern Dexter's second game, Slayers. With the money and power given to him by Society, Southern Dexter was able to make a deal with President Santorum in which death row inmates receive a full pardon if they let some asshole kid drive their body around a killing field 30 times. The killing field in question is basically a paintball camp given a grim industrial makeover. All players have to do is survive running from one side to the other.

Of course, it's not so easy. All the other players are trying to kill you. The place is also stocked with faceless extras from 1980s action films who are trying to kill you too. And because there's a slight lag in player commands getting to Slayer ears, your timing is always a bit off, making even the smoothest badass alive move like Crispin Glover dances.

There are also a bunch of NPCs robotically doing activities despite the obvious danger. These are prisoners as well. Not the badasses. More the John Leguizamo types. And even once John Leguizamo himself. These guys only have to survive one game to get their pardon. The problem is, all the players have a silent agreement to cooperatively wipe them out as soon as they enter the arena because they're always getting in the way and their stupid faces are fucking annoying, especially the one that looked like, and was, John Leguizamo.

I would have loved to just end the story here, but ediquette dictates I actually tell a story. So this movie is about the most badass Slayer, played by Girard Butler. He and his player are about three matches away from hitting the sweet 30 wins spot. Because Southern Dexter promised President Santorum that no man would ever actually go free, he's brought in a ringer, a big black hulk with a neck so massive that it contains extra bones and he has to turn his head all the way around to pop it. Not only is he scary looking, but he's not controlled by any player, so his moves have no lag. Also, he's been given the invincibility cheat code.

But that's okay. A group of Southern Dexter haters led by Ludacris Speed contact Girard Butler's pathetic player and talk him into severing Girard Butler's connection during the next match just to be rebellious and see what happens. Ludacris Speed's group is angry that the world's only two available games are a ramped up dating sim and a 3rd person shooter. They're fighting for an RPG, or at least a Tower Defense game with leveling up capabilities. The kid, who is bored by all aspects of life despite having experienced absolutely none of it, perks up at the idea of doing something so crazy and agrees.

Ludacris Speed's group is also talking to Girard Butler, so he's ready for his big escape. To get out of the arena, he'll need a vehicle. There are plenty lying around, but they're all out of gas. He also has to deal with the guy they sent after him. He asks for two items from the rebels: a bunch of vodka and a bunch of orange juice.

Right before the big fight, he makes eight or nine screwdrivers and chugs them down. Drunk, he stumbles around the playing field just firing randomly. The bad guy throws a red shell at him, but he ducks just in time and it hits some other poor bastard. The bad guy then tries to hit him with a spiked shell, but Girard Butler and everyone else gets shrunk by a lightening bolt and it goes over his head. The bad guy is just about to turn on his invincibility star and simply ram Girard Butler, but he slips on a banana peel and skids in an abyss. By the time the little toad fishes him out, Girard Butler is missing.

Having found a car, Girard Butler proceeds to make himself vomit into the gas tank. But it doesn't work because the hole needs to be pressed open for anything to go in. So it all splashes back into his face. Never one to refuse a good lay, he sticks his dick through the gas-nozzle sized hole and pisses all the alcohol in instead. The big bad guy catches up just as Girard Butler starts his car and runs over him several times.

Finally free, Girard Butler hooks up with Ludacris Speed while he and his crew are having an illegal Street Figher 2 tournament. They want him to kill Southern Dexter for them. At first he refuses because etiquette dictates all badass action heroes refuse to be action heroes when first asked. So Ludacris Speed tells him that his wife and the wives of all his Slayer buddies are all whores in the Society game. Then he says yes.

Girard Butler goes to rescue his wife, but when he finally meets her, she's having sex with some dude, so he kills her instead. Already on a roll, he goes ahead and kills all the Society avatars even though many of them are married to wrongfully imprisoned buddies of his. On the other side of the computer screen, a massive backlash against Southern Dexter erupts.

The big bad guy shows up, still alive and popping his neck like he wasn't ever run over twelve times. Having no time to fuck around, Girard Butler shoots him in both knees and feet and thighs and balls. He grows them back, but they're weird and wrinkled, and he's too sad about it to continue fighting. He tries to jump off a building, but he just bounces unhurt on the pavement. Eventually, he learns to use his invincibility cheat for the good of mankind. Then a meteor lands on his head and a baby Superman pops out.

Girard Butler wants to regroup with Ludacris Speed's people, but they've been killed by Southern Dexter's people. Now he has no choice but to walk to Southern Dexter's house, enter the front door without knocking, and killing him with no computer help.

This proves difficult. When he gets there, Southern Dexter performs 'N Sync's popular "Bye Bye Bye" with a bunch of mind-controlled convicts as his backing boyband. Girard Butler is impressed but not deterred from his mission. Right when he's about to stab Southern Dexter, however, he loses control of his arm and begins to inch the knife toward his own stomach. Southern Dexter reveals that he has control over not only Girard Butler but the whole world now that he's put his video game brain cell into McDonalds food. His goal is to get one blowjob from every living person, even those poor African kids you see on late-night television commercials.

Suddenly, Southern Dexter's front door flies open and an army of angry overweight ex-Society players roll in on their Rascals. They've built a robot with no brain programed to fight and kill Southern Dexter. But they need Girard Butler to drive it because he's the biggest badass. With Girard Butler at the wheel, the robot crushes Southern Dexter's skull in no time and the world is free to play older, kinder video games again. Girard Butler defeats Santorum in the 2016 presidential election.

(three stars)