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The Game That Lets You Clap for America and Hate the French

I spoke to Americlap's creator Chris Bulch about patriotism, confusing American culture and freedom fries.
May 26, 2014, 6:00am

Screenshot taken from Americlap

Americlap is a new free PC game in which the player has to constantly clap as hard as possible into the computer microphone and at a cartoon American flag on the screen. The aim is to keep the flag flying high on its pole. If you don't manage to keep a steady tempo, the flag drops to the ground, you are declared a “Freedom Hater” and the French flag takes over your screen. Subtle.

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Americlap's developer, Chris Bulch, is British – because what other kind of person would associate the notions of America, enthusiasm and gonorrhea? – who claims that it all started as a joke based on the aspects of American culture that confuse him the most. With downloads increasing exponentially over the last few days, I thought I'd get in touch with Chris for a chat.

VICE: What do you reckon it is about Americlap that makes it so popular?
Chris Bulch: I don’t know. Initially it was just a joke between me and a few friends. We were inspired by some of the aspects of American culture, that are confusing to foreigners like me.

What exactly is it about America that confuses you?
The way things seem to work in America. Small things like tipping but also bigger things, like gun culture. Obviously it doesn't go as deep as that; I just wanted to highlight those minor differences that are kind of fun to ridicule.

Meaning the more nationalist tendencies?
That was definitely a big part of it, yeah.

Chris Bulch

Does that seem particularly odd to you?
I think that coming from the UK, you tend to think patriotism and nationalism go hand in hand. It’s very strange to look at a country like America and and see everyone so very proud of their flag and national anthem and other such symbols. In the UK, it's strange to even fly a flag.

What about the Queen's birthday though? Brits seem to go completely mental over that.
Americlap is more about probably playing up the stereotype of what people think America is like, just as much as everyone else thinks Britain is all tea and the Queen and fish ’n’ chips. There's a lot of playing with stereotypes in my line of work. Actually, I heard that Grand Theft Auto originally started as an outsider's view of America, and Americlap, to me, is the same sort of thing just on a much, much, smaller scale.

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Why did you decide to make the game?
For me it was partly an excuse to use clapping in a different way. I’m really interested in experimental control systems and I love the Playstation Move and stuff like that. And it just worked so well, do you know what I mean? With the nationalism aspect. It’s just such a perfect fit.

At the same time, you are making the player feel ridiculous. Was that your intention?
Absolutely. The thing I like about video games is the potential they have to make people feel things without directly feeding it to them. Films often say "this how you’re supposed to feel", but games are a lot more subtle than that. Games let people draw their own conclusions, and that seems to have worked really well in this situation, because everyone just gets it – you know? They feel ridiculous, when they begin to clap.

It took a couple of weeks to make Americlap and I felt ridiculous the whole time, because my flatmates kept coming in and asking me what I was doing. They were sure I was bothering the neighbours, with all my constant clapping.

At least you felt ridiculous making it too.
But it was the good kind of ridiculous – the funny kind. I didn’t get bored of in those two weeks or whatever, which said a lot about how it was going to take off, I suppose.

Screenshot taken from Americlap

Who’s been playing it though? Is it folks from both sides of the pond?
There’s a lot of Americans playing it, and, this is really funny – there’s a lot of French people playing it too. I’ve had a look at some French articles, and I don’t think they’re very happy. I think I’ve upset them more than the Americans.

You did kind of equate them to freedom haters. Why was that again?
I tried to think of what an American wouldn’t want to be compared to. And there seems to be a lot of French-bashing over there. Did you hear about the whole "freedom fries" thing? I think it was about the fact that France wouldn’t back the Iraq war in 2003, so there were cases where the Americans would rename French fries, “freedom fries”. I thought that was hilarious so I decided to reference it.

Thanks for keeping the feud going from the sidelines.
I’m just poking people with a stick, yeah.