Duncan Cooper spends a lot of time on the internet. Every other Monday, he pays tribute to the hours spent with original video and audio (or in this case, a short essay). This week he celebrates his new favorite YouTube channel, Classics of Game.
I found this YouTube channel called Classics of Game, but I don’t really know anything about it. Someone posted one of his or her videos on a message board and called it the metaphysical video game version of Faces of Death. There are 24 videos so far, almost all uploaded in March, when the account was created. I’ve looked semi-hard and that’s really all the background I’ve come up with—there are no descriptions on the videos or tags that explain what they are, no profile hints on the identity of the person behind it and just a weird clipart trophy for an avatar. There’s a Twitter account that only posts links and follows nobody. Hardly any videos show referrals from other sites, and when they do it’s only good for 50 hits or so. Somehow there are over 1,000 subscribers to the channel.
The videos are universally bizarre 30-second clips showcasing video games with shitty sound effects, failed 3D representations of walking, and glitches that cause characters to die. Classics Of Game 018, for example, is an arm wrestling match between a normal-looking guy and a shirtless cowboy with super-processed robo-voices making hiccuping noises. Classics of Game 008 shows a sort of Dragonball-Popeye hybrid walking through a bathroom and doing a gravity-defying cartwheel, but his steps don’t match up with where he’s moving and sometimes his body overlaps two police officers peeing. Classics of Game 022 starts with a swordsman jumping off a cliff. Falling face down, his foot barely catches the edge of the wall, and he freezes in the air like he has already smashed into the ground. For the next 45 seconds, the character is frozen, floating splayed out in space while the camera spins around him, zooming in and out on the sun. There’s a bizarre, unending gutteral noise like a cross between toad and Hades. The one that terrifies me most shows a Ferrari flying off a halfpipe, filmed from the front seat as it turns around in the sky and plummets back onto the ramp. That’s pretty much it. They’re just really weird.
But the Faces of Death comment was totally right, and in its campy, tongue-in-cheek way Classics of Game is all about mortality. Watch Tony Hawk crash his skateboard through a gym locker into a tan-colored wall-less purgatory in Classics of Game 019 and it’s hard not to think about it. There’s a rich history of art games talking about death—stuff like One Chance and Loved and Every Day the Same Dream; I Can Hold My Breath Forever and Super Columbine Massacre RPG! and the atom-bomb subtext in Braid—but almost never so indirectly, through what’s presumably programming errors and world-design flaws. Maybe this is more realistic. In May, the US National Endowment for the Arts declared video games eligible for government funding, officially and legally recognizing them as art. But unless Classics of Game is secretly Cory Arcangel, “classics” like these will probably always live (die?) in the thousand-view YouTube free bin. Seems almost appropriate.