Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise



Last November, Jason Nelson published a flash game poem he describes as something that “satisfies your compliment addiction”. “Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise” excellently captures the essence of all of those distracting and arbitrary Xbox achievements that seem to be lauding us for sitting in front of a TV and accomplishing nothing. Nelson has found an engaging way to explore our compliment-saturated culture by designing a game in which the protagonist you control does nothing other besides walk, fall and occasionally jump while “earning” an immense amount of praise for it. This allows for the interactive portion of the work to fall back and leave room for appreciation of Nelson’s text that works its way into the environment of every level. As you play through, you “unlock” more stanzas of the poem.

The fact that “Nothing” is a game rather than a more static form of poetry allows for Nelson’s already forceful imagery to become an observable part of the environment, and thereby the whole experience. Just wait until you earn yourself a sea of dismembered applause, the game definitely gives you plenty of time to let that one weigh on you. Nelson’s poem is effective in drawing awareness to its concept, as his sharp writing will indicate, but some of that also comes from the nature of the gameplay. A level near the end involves your character running over white squares, each of them launching absurd point values in every direction while a sardonic voiceover (a cheeky but impressive element throughout the game) congratulates you. Eventually, these numbers fill in the screen until they almost take it over completely. This works as an image suggesting how suppressing such wanton rewarding can be, but it also seems like a parodic take on games like Dynasty Warriors, wherein you spend all your time playing through history as someone who slashes at everyone nearby until insane quantities of numbers generate from them.

Effectively sarcastic yet not without its sobering awareness, “Nothing” is just as enjoyable as it is innovative.

Play it here:

  5 comments for “Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise

  1. mstange
    January 20, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I thought this was a pretty great piece, mostly due to its ridiculously rushed artistic design as well as its concept of essentially making fun of games that hold your hand too much and praise you for doing essentially nothing. The artistic and game design also give the feel that this made just over the course of one night when, perhaps, Jason was upset about this hand holding in games and life and just angrily made the piece in one shot. I like that.

  2. kdiemer54
    January 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    I love the sarcasm in the piece, as well as the worthlessness of the achievements. I love video games, but the achievements drive me crazy – they distract me from the beautiful art and stories in games, and remind me that I’m just playing a game. I’d also like to add that this game seems to portray the sensory overload present in some games as well. Whenever you get an achievement in “Nothing,” there are bright explosions and loud booming noises. Just as you pointed out, in one level, the player gets thousands of points for achievements, which pile up onto each other to dizzying levels.

  3. Bekka
    January 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    I love games that mock other games/game culture so this is something I immediately wanted to play once I read about it. The blatant sarcasm and bitterness towards the achievement system is wonderful. The praise for simple things such as falling or walking make me think of all the silly achievements you can earn in games for simply completing a tutorial. If you’re going to use achievements, at least make them worth something. Don’t congratulate me for being a competent human being.

  4. nbemis
    January 21, 2014 at 10:55 am

    During the score-collecting stage, I tried as hard as I could to jump over the score-increasing items, just as a “screw you” to the game’s hollow praise. I like that the game made me uncomfortable. I felt like yelling at the screen for making things so easy and then pretending I’d done something cool. The part with the evil pixel-wizards gave me a little hope, but then, after jumping at them over and over again, attempting to kill myself, I found that they couldn’t kill me, and that made me sad. Having the delusion of persevering against some form of adversity when said adversity is just an impotent conglomeration of colored rectangles makes me feel cheated out of a possible challenge. It reminds me of “death-free” games like Prey and the original Bioshock, where during a boss fight, you could quickly and simply respawn after losing all of your health, without any major penalties. I’m just glad that some game developers have recognized the need for honest achievement with games like Dark Souls.

  5. bosco1213
    February 3, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I love how Nelson executed this piece. The way he parodies the average game that is released now by constantly praising and congratulating the player with annoying pop-ups is brilliant in my opinion. Constantly rewarding the player for doing something so simple should start to annoy them after awhile. From experience, I was getting really annoyed when my screen was covered in numbers and equations to the point where I couldn’t see where I was going when playing this piece.
    I interpret this as Nelson trying tell the player that you do not need such annoying notifications to prove that you accomplished something in a game. I believe you will always get that feeling of achieving or accomplishment when you move on to the next level, next chapter, or just finally beat a really tough boss after a lot of retries.

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