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: http://turbulence.org/Works/nothing/