If anyone understands the preciousness of summertime, it’s our fellow neighbors in the Midwest. All across Minneapolis WTT? discovered artists and creatives playing Minnesota “Nice.”
Tuesday Night Music Club at the Lyndale VFW.
Our week in Minneapolis started correct when on Tuesday friend and former ACRE resident, Cris Cloud, invited us to the Tuesday Night Music Club, a post-kickball dance party at the VFW by Lyndale and Lake Street (FYI- also the name of a ’93 Sheryl Crow album). Not just any TNDC, this evening was the after party for the annual kickball game between the Kennwood Kickball Club and the team from Uptown who were decked out in full clown regalia.
Fraternizing with the locals outside TNMC.
Not a party for the faint of clowns.
In addition to the annual kickball game TNMC’s MC Jacobs was celebrating his last night at the club before leaving MN for China. The night’s sets started off with The Artist Formerly Known As jams and escalated into full booty dancing on the ol’ VFW juke box kinda night. Scantily dressed clowns danced alongside the somewhat dejected Kennwood-ers, who exhibitied true Minnesotan-sportsmanship.
Possibly the best ever use of Nite Brite.
When questioned about their lack of costumes in the face of the triumphant clowns, one player retorted, “Do you know how much planning that takes and how much we don’t give a fuck?” A teammate added, “They go hiking for fun.” Either way, the party was worth it and there’s always next year.
Later that week the T? got in on the game. Having beefed up on our Basketball Bidness all summer on the Stueben courts, it was awesome to ball at the regular Thursday afternoon game played by the Artist Basketball League at Lyndale Farmstead Park. We ran into artist Jesse Draxler near the California studios on the way and he assured us that the game was collegiate. “Sometimes we play 11 year olds,” he said as we parted ways.
Draxler wasn’t kidding, at the half court game there were four artists and ballers Malachi, 11, and Xavier, 8. What he didn’t mention is that 11 year olds are sharks, just running back and forth steady scoring. Informing me that he “didn’t like art,” Malachi showed me his moves, the low dribble, the layup. Xavier followed suit, dribbling between his legs along the side of the court. Impressive.
Artist Basketball League’s Thursday game.
Serendipitously, that day our old tubing buddy, Sara Caron, got in touch right around the time of the game to invite me to the Blue Dress Cup. If you didn’t already know, Blue Dress Cup is an annual competition to determine the Best Artist in Milwaukee.
We’re pretty sure you don’t have to be from Milwaukee to be the best artist in the city, so why not apply now? We definitely think Malachi has a fighting chance despite his aesthetic apathy (maybe in part because of it). I want to see what happens when Minnesotans meet Wisconsinites meet Illinoisians (?) on the field of battle. See you on September 20th in Milwaukee for the summer and sports’ real final hurrah. Tri-state tournament anyone?
T around Town(s)
Twice as Nice in the Twin Cities
After visiting Minneapolis recently for Bad at Sports’ participation in Open Field at the Walker, WTT? was excited to return for a longer and more in depth visit to the MN art scene. After a week we don’t know the true definition of “Minnesota Nice”, but we found MN dwellers to be genuinely nice, chill people to hang out with. Oh yeah, and the art wasn’t half bad either. We found the artists we met to be a proud and supportive group with just enough buzz. It’s kind of like being in Chicago, but nicer, and cuter (super compliment) and with better bike trails. Here’s just a sampling of what we saw on our TC getaway.
First on our Nathaniel Smith sponsored tour was Soo Visual Art Center in Uptown we were caught Lovesickness with Trees: Recent Work by Sophia Heymans and Garrett Perry.
We had heard about SooVAC and Soo Local from Negative Jam on our last trip, so we checked it off our list first thing. Word on the street is that the Local space is pretty rad, but we unfortunately just missed the closing of Congruent Influence, a collaborative show between Mark Schoening and Drew Peterson. Carolyn Payne was way cool, we talked shop and it seems obvious that Soo’s got big things coming on the horizon.
Work by Sophia Heymans on view at what the locals call “SooVAC.”
Work by Garrett Perry on view at what the locals call “SooVAC.”
SooVAC ED, Carolyn Payne with Nathaniel Smith in the gallery.
We also managed to battle our way into a few studios during our trip. An old friend from our SAIC daze, printmaker Drew Peterson, invited us to lunch at the teeniest Tiny Diner and then showed us his to his studio in the Powderhorn neighborhood, east of Uptown. We were stunned by the surprisingly painterly pixel paintings of Mathew Zefeldt at his studio at the University of Minneapolis. Right before we left we were able to squeeze in a visit with Nate Young, more on that later.
We want to tell you all about the beet tagine we had with Drew at Tiny Diner, but this isn’t Instagram.
The Weatherman Report
For Twin Cities, MN
Work by Drew Peterson, from his series Waterworks 2013-14.
T around Town(s) Continued…
Our favorite work, a sweet and sold(!) fire butt by Garrett Perry.
Peterson’s Waterworks series in his studio.
Peterson has been busy since we both left SAIC. This and the other unique screen prints he showed me are destined for the artist’s solo show in the fall.
Peterson in his studio, the type of tight and well organized space you’d expect from a seasoned screen printer.
Mathew Zefeldt’s studio at the University of Minneapolis. The artist is working on his upcoming show at the Minneapolis Institute of the Art, opening October 16th. We heard there’s wallpaper involved. Excited.
Zefeldt looking svelte in his studio.
Not only were these paintings clearly a glorious mindfuck, they also include the last two video games I remember playing as a child. I fucking loved killing Nazis in Wolfenstein.
Despite the digital feel of the paintings, Zefeldt doesn’t even touch photoshop. This “mood board” is his way of testing out aspects of the painting before committing them to canvas.
We had a chance to visit some of the major cultural institutions, most notably the Walker (can’t get enough!) and the Minnesota State Fair, where you can see sculptures made of butter and “The Miracle of Life” barn (too real for this city mouse). We partook of all of the mini donuts and cookie buckets we could muster at the fair and had our minds freaking blown away by the awesomeness of the Walker. The Flux exhibit was pretty cool but the Radical Presence exhibition was well, radical (as you might expect), featuring 36 artists and over 100 works spanning the 1960’s to the present there were a ton of blockbusters, lots of Chicago favorites. It’s an exhibition that really can change the way you think about art. Oh yeah, and OMG! The Clock! Who even needs the east coast? We have everything we need right here in the middle.
No caption necessary. At the Minnesota State Fair.
There were more items and artifacts from Lorraine O’Grady than we’ve ever seen it one place. It was resplendent.
A image from O’Grady’s series Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire.
Detail of sculpture/video work Jacolby Satterwhite on view in Radical Presence at the Walker.
Installation view of work in Radical Presence.
Even More T around Town(s)…
Video by Kalup Linzy at Radical Presence.
Saturday night, David Petersen Gallery had an opening that we were tipped off too by our buddy Nathan Coutts from Midway. Probably the most chi-chi thing we did in MN, the exhibition, What Was The Question was replete with NY artists, Joshua Abelow, Sadie Laska, MacGregor Harp and Adrianne Rubenstein mingling with the Minneapolitians. We were particularly fond of Rubenstein’s beach umbrellas and I don’t think we were the only ones.
The turnout for What Was the Question at David Petersen.
Midwest meets Midwest. Andrea Hyde and Cory Schires at the Petersen opening Saturday night.
Aforementioned paintings by Adrianne Rubenstein.
B@S fan Nate Lee with Rubenstein and Joshua Abelow at What Was The Question.
Last but super not least, we were lucky to meet up with Nate Young on his way back from the Black Artist Retreat in Chicago on our way back to the city. Everyone in Minneapolis was pointing us to The Bindery Projects in St. Paul, the space that Young runs with his wife and fellow artist, Caroline Kent. Young was MN nice enough to open up the space for us so we could see Zachary Fabri’s solo show, Video is Dead (he’s also in Radical Presence at the Walker). The spacious and industrial alternative space has two large exhibition spaces, installed with images and a game board/ assemblage of dice and painted chicken bones in one room and a video called The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, which was shot outside the Apollo on the day Michael Jackson died in the other. We also got to check out Young’s studio in the background and even explore the old factory building a bit before emarking on the long ride home.
Installation view of Fabri’s show at Bindery Projects.
Detail of Morgan Freeman image from Fabri’s ongoing series, Aureola.
The formidable Young in his studio.
Work by Nate Young in his studio.
Our last minute trip to The Bindery Projects was definitely the most clutch way to close our trip to the Twin Cities. We’re happy to finally wind down in Chicago, but this summer we’ve learned there’s good T to be had all over the Midwest. Until next time, Wisconsin, Twin Cities!
Header image features a detail of Ink Babel by Andrea Carlson on view at Bockley Gallery through September near some of the 10,000 lakes.
Curated by Daniel Bruttig, with work by Boris Ostrerov, Erin Thurlow, Frank Pollard, George Blaha, Jessie Mott, Joe Cassan, Julia Klein, Kelly Kaczynski, Lauren Carter, Mike Schuh, Paul Nudd, Peter Fagundo, Scott Wolniak, and Shane Huffman.
Garden Apartment Gallery is located at 3528 W. Fulton Blvd. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.
The green line in front of the Temple du Goût Voyage à Nantes 2014 Photos by Lise McKean unless otherwise credited
Thanks to my husband who’s from the Atlantic coast of France, I’m a regular visitor to Nantes, a city the size of Boston on the estuary of the Loire River. I just got back from there and besides long days and lingering twilight, another good reason to visit in summer is to take in Le Voyage à Nantes. I first saw it last summer, and 2014 is the third edition of this two-month arts festival. Voyage creates visual and conceptual conversations between contemporary works, cultural treasures from local museums, and the sites themselves. Alongside centuries of architectural, urban, and riverine forms, installations resonate with green innovation and spaces–Nantes was Europe’s Green Capital in 2013.
Voyage activates the city’s green identity. A fluorescent green line painted on the pavement leads voyagers to exhibition sites and suggests destinations to everyday flâneurs. The 8-mile line branches into three circuits covering 42 sites in central Nantes. Another route brings visitors further afield by bike, boat, car, or bus to see Estuary, a collection of permanent installations occupying industrial and natural sites near the river between Nantes and downstream at St. Nazaire.
Le Maison dans La Loire, Jean-Luc Courcoult. Photo by Bernard Renoux
Like any trip, some sights and moments on Voyage appeal more than others. The 2103 and 2014 shows aren’t padded with works so obvious that they’re slam-dunk crowd pleasers. That is, thankfully the organizers don’t mistake facile for accessible–a problem less savvy large-scale public exhibitions pose for art connoisseurs. One year to the next artists and curators create installations that produce different experiences of the same indoor or outdoor spaces.
For example, the works occupying the expansive Place du Bouffay in central Nantes in 2013 and 2014 enliven the space very differently. Follow the Leaders by Isaac Cordal for Voyage 2013 is at once large and small: the installation takes up a lot of the plaza, yet it’s the fit-in-your-hand personages dotting the work’s gravel and rubble that grab the attention of viewers and passersby alike. Cordal’s little, grey-suited, briefcase-carrying men look like they rained down from a Magritte painting.
Follow the Leaders, Issac Cordal Voyage à Nantes 2013
This year, Vincent Mauger created Résolution des forces en présence for Place du Bouffay. It’s large, spiked, and wooden. It could be described in terms of natural forms: hedgehog, reclining pine tree, spiny sea creature. Medieval weapons enthusiasts might see the piece as the gigantic head for nasty armaments such as the morningstar or holy water sprinkler. Its size and spikes might seem menacing, but the tentative way it rests on only some of its phalanges invites an imaginary journey à la Nantes luminary Jules Verne–might it roll like a log or crawl like a scorpion across the plaza?
Taking the green line to the Temple du Goût brings visitors to a temporary exhibition space that was built in the 1750s as a commercial and residential building on the quay of the Loire and the epitome of the era’s lavish taste. Going from the bright sun into the building’s subdued light and damp interior feels like stepping back in time–or into a dungeon. Last year Cordal’s work filled the Temple’s gallery spaces with Le Nouvel Esclavage (The New Slavery). The title resonates with the site’s history: the port of Nantes was the epicenter of the Atlantic slave trade in France.
With eyes still adjusting to the darkness, visitors pass into the first exhibition. Cordal’s little men aren’t in their outdoor wasteland anymore. And the change isn’t for the better. Here they sit or slump at desks that are lined up inside animal cages that in turn are piled atop and beside each other. It’s like looking through Loop office windows from Chicago’s green line and seeing cubed workers in the ghoulish glow of fluorescent light. The savage eloquence of the installation’s stark materials and repeated forms wrenches the gut. Cordal’s additional Temple installations also explore contemporary anomie, placing the little men and other figurines and objects in different settings, but with less visceral effect.
Le Nouvel Esclavage (The New Slavery), Issac Cordal Voyage à Nantes 2013
This year the Temple du Goût offers visitors another sensibility with Curiositas, a subset of Voyage exhibitions that is unified by the interests of curators from the Nantes Musée des Beaux-Arts. A line-up of bird specimens and an Inuit kayak (1836) are near the entrance. Turn the corner and it’s another world: Alighiero e Boetti’s painting Il Progressivo Svanir della Consuetudine (1974) fills a wall with ballpoint blue. Nestled adjacent to it is a small painting by Yves Tanguy (Untitled, 1927), responding to the Boetti with its own swathe of blue.
Temple du Goût, Voyage à Nantes, 2014
In the next rooms a sculpture of the python spirit by the Nalu people of Guinea consorts with Personnage avec Yeux Bleus (Personage with Blue Eyes, 1954) by Gaston Chaissac. This Chaissac gem is from the Nantes art museum; one hour away, Les Sables d’Olonne’s magnificent beach is matched by collections of Chaissac and Victor Brauner at its Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix. Anne and Patrick Poirier’s Phantasma, a site specific work in the Temple whispers archeological spells while sparkling in the dimly lit room. Last last year Cordal held forth here with a fortress of briefcases.
Sculpture, Nalu people of Guinea; Personnage avec Yeux Bleus (1954), Gaston Chaissac. Voyage à Nantes, 2014
Voyage gives old and new works summer homes to bring them closer to locals and to bring tourists to Nantes. And visual art isn’t the only attraction. Voyage offers a couple months of classical, jazz, folk, and pop music concerts, along with the Electropixel Festival and a rooftop place to watch movies, consciously riffing on old-time American drive-ins. And this being France, art extends to food: visitors eat locally produced food and wine at artist-designed picnic spots and cafés along the green line, and chefs with stars prepare dinner for 200 in a local vineyard.
Voyage also brings Nantes’ best-known sights into its orbit with works commissioned for these spaces. For example, last year Cordal’s little men were bobbing in the moat at the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne. Installations also pop up around the Parc des Chantiers, where the Compagne Machines de l’île builds and operates its grand mechanical creations on the grounds of former shipyards. On this island in the Loire, Royale de Luxe also creates monumental mechanical beings, and brings them to life as street theatre in Nantes and beyond. Just maybe one day Royale de Luxe will make its way across the Atlantic and work its magic on us here in Chicago.
The Deep-sea Diver, His Hand, and the Little Girl-Giant (2009) Photo by Royal de Luxe
Lise McKean is a social anthropologist and writer based in Chicago.
I cannot read the news at night any more. I lay awake in the fading heat filled with outrage, sadness, my heart breaking with lives destroyed, communities torn apart, people disempowered and displaced. I have been dreaming of death, loved ones suddenly gone as I sit next to their hospital bed, the charred remains of buses and cars. As summer roars into its last gasp, I need relief, escape from heat, humidity, simmering tensions. Instead, I read the news in the morning, a bitter taste lingering, a veil on my daily activities that hazes my coffee, blurs my to do list, turns food into ashes.
I am privileged. I am privileged to be aware of and called to action by the multitude of crises happening in my neighborhood and around the world. I am removed enough and have enough leisure and access to knowledge of events that surround me and that take place across the globe to choose what I consume and how I act. I am privileged to sit and write these words.
Invoking Adorno again, we must ask what is possible in the face of daily crises? What is tenable when confronting the contemporary world? How can we continue to create when the world seems to crumble around us?
There is a reason we need art. We do not need art because it expresses the experiences of people in terrifying situations or because it brings escape or comfort, although we must remember its ability to do so. We need art because we are told there is a solution to the problems we face by people who have power, who want to maintain and restore a sense that they are in control in an increasingly uncertain world, who fear their power crumbling away from them. There is not a simple or easy solution. Real change takes longer than we can conceive and cannot happen within the frameworks that surround us. We need art to help us abandon the idea that there is even a solution to be found. We need art to push boundaries, not by imagining or creating alternatives that reinforce or are co-opted by existing conditions, but by shocking us into new ways of envisioning ourselves and our power in this tragic world, by opening doors to us that we did not realize were closed.
It is not enough to read the news and be outraged, although we must be aware. It is not enough to protest, although we must make our voices heard. It is not enough to sit down to dinner with your neighbor, although we must build meaningful connections between us as individuals before we see connections between us as communities. It is not enough to be radically local, although our work here ripples beyond our sight.
Contemporary art must be that which is inextricable from the hour it was made, the neighborhood where it was conceived, the global panorama from which it arises. With the exponential expansion of information, evidence, visual records, we must be aware of what we make, what we put out into the world, the context it enters. We must pay close attention to who we are, where we come from, the privilege we embody, the impact our actions have, and we must continue to create.
Read the news. Be outraged. Protest. Eat dinner with your neighbor. Be radically local. And continue making work that pushes the boundaries of what we know to be desirable. Art and artists are not a way to fix the broken systems that surround us, but they may be one way to begin a future we cannot foresee.
I am for an art that admits and proudly wears its context. I am for an art that is inextricable from the world which shaped it.
I awake from my dreams. I push aside the veil of of despair and apathy. I rise to meet the challenges of the day. They do not decrease.
In his 2012 essay “Saving Zelda,” Tevis Thompson takes the Legend of Zelda series—of which he is a lifelong fan—to task. “Zelda sucks, and it has sucked for a long time,” he writes, not so much as to incite fan rage, but to lay what we all maybe suspect on the table: “modern Zeldas are broken at their core.”
He’s right, in a sense, and his long missive does a better job of explaining it than I ever could: that it retreads the same territory it’s covered since the halcyon days of the N64. Each new entry has its detractors and defenders, and while the most recent, handheld title into the series attempts to return to its roots (a certain excitement in the idea of unfettered exploration), there’s still something in its heart that fails:
“Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks. A lock is not only something opened with a silver key. A grapple point is a lock; a hookshot is the key. A cracked rock wall is a lock; a bomb is the key. That wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.”
The first time I discovered Thompson’s essay I was in the middle of playing Super Metroid, which is a part of one of Nintendo’s other famed franchises. While Thompson castigates Zelda for offering keys in the form of action—for instance, a grappling hook that will let you climb ledges or stick to walls, accessing areas you couldn’t before, in the same way that a key opens a door—Metroid doesn’t even attempt to hide the item/key comparison. In Metroid, weapons are keys: in addition to dispatching specific enemies, each weapon corresponds to a specific color-coded type of door, and you must shoot it until it gives way. The world is locked, and destruction is the only way to open it. The difference, ultimately, appears to be in the spaces in-between, in Metroid’s (literally) alien landscapes, its empty areas, filled with unpredictable landscapes, unpredictable rhythms.
Zelda’s issue, I think, isn’t so much in the keys,—it’s in the rhythm. So much of Zelda relies on a predictable formula—block until an enemy attacks, then counter attack—that even the bosses, great, exciting monoliths they may be, are reduced into a pattern, usually performed three times. Avoid attacks, wait for a weakness to open, and use whatever item/key you received most recently to attack that weakness. It will be covered up again, but it will once again be revealed after a similar pattern (if not the same but faster), usually twice over, or more, if the boss is meant to be more important. If Metroid’s patterns are unpredictable and exciting, an odd song, Zelda has become a top 40 pop-hit, regurgitated over and over, continually sampling itself. Instead of hitting a large boss 3 times on the belly, we’re hitting him on the head (or sometimes, the butt), or vice versa, ad infinitum.
The rhythm is stale. In the past couple of years there’s been a popular trend in which people, usually digital artists, sometimes programmers, create what they call “demakes.” These are often presented as single screenshots, or maybe title screens that depict modern day games as how they might have been had they come out on the consoles of yesteryear—for instance, a first-person shooter might be rendered in the side-scrolling manner of an Super Nintendo game, or so on.
But, overwhelmingly, the idea of the demake is entirely graphical, or technological—what if this game was made within these constraints. Rarely, if ever, does a demake ask: what would this game be like if the interactive system of playing was reduced? In the case of Metroid, you could take out the empty space between each door, reduce the weapons to keys—it could be one long hallway, moving back and forth and unlocking doors in a straightforward progression. Same with Zelda’s exploration—weapons could become keys, large areas could be reduced to whatever specific encounters defined them. Large fields to run across could simply disappear.
Or in the case of Zelda’s fighting—the 3-hit beat—it’d be easiest to reduce it into a genre that is already alive and well: the rhythm game. It’s easiest to define this genre by pointing to its well-known examples, namely games like Guitar Hero (or Rock Band) or even Dance Dance Revolution. These are games that exist as a series of button prompts that demand buttons be pressed in a specific order, with specific timing. But even this is not exactly new, nor are GH and DDR their first demonstrators: I remember spending time in an arcade plugging away at the scripted sequences of a Die Hard video game, where on-screen prompts demanded that I hit jump or directional buttons at the right time, or perish in a spectacularly visual fashion.
But even then, before it: my family owned an old Simon machine, whose four colored buttons would light up and beep in progressively faster and longer sequences, demanding the player to return the order, the rhythm, existing on a plane without screens. It’s this sort of action—and games like Pattycake before it—that ultimately give birth to the idea of the music/rhythm/button-press combo that moves to the forefront of games like Guitar Hero—where it stands as a delightfully singular purpose—or in Zelda, where the rut is evident with each new hero that demands the same exact tactic, but presented in a different visual manner.
I think at their cores, most games may be easily reduced into the rhythm genre. Since games and their enemies are programmed into familiar patterns, it makes sense for the player to learn them as musical phrases, as loops, so that they may easily step into the pattern whenever it’s most comfortable and easy for them. All they need to do is wait for the right moment to step, press a button, or whatever, and they fit into the game world’s rhythm, move on to the next phrase, be it in the form of shooting an enemy while he is reloading, to jumping on a flying turtle when they reach their rhythmic low point, to parrying a predictable sword attack and returning the favor.
I’ve been playing a lot of this game, OlliOlli, which is a skateboarding game, but also—and maybe predominantly—a rhythm game. The most obvious comparison is the Tony Hawk series, but I can’t help but wonder if the comparison is specious and only obvious because of the subject matter: they are both skating games, but are they really siblings as games? While they’re both about skating the perfect line and doing spins and tricks to rack up point combos, OlliOlli often feels like an authentic and realistic demake of Tony Hawk, and I think has a sort of privilege because it came afterwards. As though if a modern Zelda were to predate an original Zelda, the latter might be seen as a demake, removing the superfluous, returning to Thompson’s praisable roots.
OlliOlli is pure skating: where Tony Hawk’s missed tricks and accidents merely pause the action until your character gets back up on his board, they spell the end of a run in OlliOlli; the level resets in total. (In this way, it takes inspiration from auto-running mobile games like Canabalt, Flappy Bird, or Temple Run.) But the resets are so quickly that the game feels fuller, more defined: it is a more distilled skating experience, even though it is limited to a two-dimensional plane, limited solely to skating. It takes Tony Hawk’s punk mentality and refines it with rhythmic stimuli: release the jump button when stairs appear. Hold down when a railing appears. Press the landing button when the ground appears. While Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution use actual buttons scrolling vertically on the screen to make the player act, OlliOlli substitutes physical objects that have a corresponding button to be pressed, with player-affected tweaks within—similar to Guitar Hero’s pointless but fun whammy bar. The action is refined, distilled in the core parts that are so memorable about other skating games. It removes skating around in 3D space to find obstacles, and the extras that sprouted out of that space. It removes the chaff.
Which makes me wonder: when we rail about sequels, either in games or movies or whatever, are we railing against the muddying of pure concepts? Thompson’s annoyance might seem propelled by nostalgia, but it’s not just that these older games came out when we were younger, it’s that they came out against technological limitations that made them simpler. And as games grew, their concepts grew, consoles grew more buttons, and the modern era became defined by a lack of simplicity. Which is why it’s exciting to visit the idea of the conceptual demake, not just for art’s sake, but for gameplay. If we’ve hit a peak technological level—graphics might be as good as they ever need to be—then the only thing left to fine tune isn’t visual crispness, but the snap of gameplay mechanics. If rhythm is the purest form of a video game–and in someways, I think it is: the back and forth of a pong paddle, the block and strike of a sword game, the ebb and flow of Mario and Sonic–a return to that can be seen as the same sort of limitation as writing in a poetic form. If modern Zelda’s problem is a false open world, then maybe game design’s problem is also that idea of unlimited potential that ultimately falls flat.
Just as not every button needs a purpose, not every game design element needs to show up in the same spot. While older games were groundbreaking technologically, they were also purer, more focused, prime examples of what can happen on a limited plane, both design-wise and visually. OlliOlli seems like another entrant into a space that realizes greater graphics bring with them more complicated action, because bigger, more bombastic spaces call for bigger action lest the spaces or worlds feel empty or overdrawn. A player can feel frustrated if they’re limited too harshly by a seemingly-open world, but if the world itself acknowledges those limitations and welcomes them, it shows the player to do the same, and the experience becomes more focused, more pure, more less.