Amid the Slow Decline of Troll Games, a Terry Richardson Simulator Appears
Images: EJZ Games, presumably

FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Amid the Slow Decline of Troll Games, a Terry Richardson Simulator Appears

Until I got an email about a Terry Richardson video game in the works, I began to assume a certain tone in games had gone extinct.

Until I got an email about a Terry Richardson video game in the works, I began to assume a certain tone in games had gone extinct.

In grade six I had countless sleepovers at my best friend's house. He had a number of things I didn't: a Sega Saturn, satellite TV, a lizard. We'd play Guardian Heroes and watch "Iron Chef" until it was time to see his pet chew on some live crickets. An exotic juvenile vacation three blocks from my own home.

Advertisement

One night, after his parents stopped watching and it was late (late being, like, 11:30) he wanted to show me something else he had that I didn't: a personal computer. He turned it on, hopped to the internet, and brought me to a treasure trove of childhood contraband: Newgrounds.com.

It was massive portal to early Flash games, dozens of lowbrow dress-up games, dirty parodies, and dude crafted sexcapades. There was a Pokémon riff, Celébmon, where MS Paint-edited celebrities could be tossed into battle, such as a topless Britney Speaks Pikachu, a drooling Clinton Lickitung, and Pee Wee Hermander, who has a dick for a tail, in reference to an infamous arrest that I didn't even really know about at the time. We laughed regardless.

I can remember entire sections devoted to performing violent sexual acts on crudely-drawn representations of Britney Spears—early millennium web geeks apparently did not appreciate her talent—but if you look at Newgrounds today it's entirely different. The dirty birdy skeletons are only a specific Google search away, but the Flash works featured on the site are largely pixel platformers, Ludum Dare entries, and Portal tributes.

Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp has gone on to start The Behemoth, the studio behind Castle Crashers, Alien Hominid, and other games that are, on average, no more or no less crude than other mainstream offerings. I'm certain the dumb shit still makes its way on the site, but it's not proudly worn.

Advertisement

What amount to the dead-baby-jokes of videogames seem to have gone into a permanent slumber, which is why it's weird in this day and age that someone would want to make a Terry Richardson video game.

"Without giving too much away," said the game's creator in an email, who did not give his real name and asked to remain anonymous for reasons he wouldn't elaborate on, "I will just tell you there are certain sequences where you get points for coercing models into performing certain acts." Gross.

The creator described it as an "RPG mixed with an art game"' The art samples, which were advertised as "leaked" in an initial email from a third party (more on this in a bit), amount to a few black and white 3D renders of a detailed Terry torso, plus a floating pair of pair of shades that I laughed at for a solid three minutes.

Scarce details were given about who was behind the game, which was first mentioned months ago in a Kernel story that doesn't appear to be online any longer. I was told they call themselves EJZ Games, and once made some kind of 'atheist' Christian and Islam murdering sim, which lets you behead Muhammad. They're hoping to get it out next summer on PC, though I can't imagine it getting through a major distribution service like Steam. Richardson is not officially involved with this game in any way.

Simply learning about the game was a weird affair. After responding to an email from a man promising "leaked" stills from the game, the leaker said that he is actually friends with the designers, and that they would be happy to do an interview, which seems like a goofy way to leak something.

Advertisement

WE CALL THE OFFENDERS TROLLS NOW, NOT GAME DESIGNERS.

The leaker emailed Motherboard's Derek Mead and I numerous times in the intervening weeks to give updates, which largely consisted of opaque jokes from the dev team, forwarded emails sent to Richardson's PR address, and attempts to bring up a completely different Harmony Korine game they've assured they have also started.

EJZ doesn't seem to have any web presence outside of a year-old IGN forum post. All in all, it's curious behaviour from a group that says they make games for themselves and aren't looking to spur controversy, and, outside of the renders, don't have anything tangible to share.

So what's the point of developing a game starring a controversial figure if you don't actually want it to gain attention? The creator assured me he wasn't making this simply to be inflammatory.

"I hardly would include calling [the Richardson game], or the atheist game, merely 'fishing for a reaction' in the actual article. I made these games so I could play them," he said. "I mean we aren't stupid, we anticipated the reaction like the Columbine RPG guys but that is certainly not the reason why we made the games. Weren't trying to be controversial."

"Some subject matter just is… I have to remind everyone that we sat alone in the dark at NYU and UVA to finish the atheist game because we ourselves wanted to play it," he continued. "There was no guarantee it was going to be on something like the news."

Advertisement

The game, he said, was inspired by the ugly shames in fame, that at an all too early age he was taken to see Paul Schrader's Hardcore, a grimy late 70s movie about a parent trying to rescue his daughter who had vanished into the world of pornography.

His father and uncle, who took him to see the film, only knew it starred George C. Scott. Even though they left halfway through, the game's creator said left him both traumatized and fascinated with Hollywood's underbelly, which brought him to Richardson.

Fishing for a reaction or not (also: vaporware or not), the game is evocative of a type of web denizen out there that just wants to be a dick. The dead-baby-joke games—those with little more point than to inspire Beavis and Butthead-style laughs at the ridiculous of it all—may have faded, but they've not completely disappeared.

As you might expect from a trollish medium, caricatures of race stand right alongside controversial portrayals of sex. Newgrounds once got heat for a suicide bombing game, which stood out even within its collection of cringe-worthy offerings.

It's not limited to Newgrounds or even the early millennium, either. The Postal franchise lasted for more than a decade, and only a few weeks ago some asshole Android developers decided to give players the Gaza bombing experience before being swiftly removed from the marketplace.

These games will still get made. The big question now is if they're being squeezed out like a blackhead by a changing gaming scene, or if the Newgrounds-era success of single-serving shock games has lost its luster because the world no longer gives a shit.

Advertisement

Postal and Newgrounds grossouts existed at a time when web players and micro-developers had few alternatives. Self-published breakout stars like N, Knytt, and Cave Story were getting their footing, but those games distracting handfuls of dorm residents at a time pales to where the indie scene has grown.

Now, not only do independent developers have real estate in the industry, it can even make them an overnight millionaire. Perhaps ambition, or just the potential for distribution and real success, has pushed developers to invest themselves in something that isn't an unruly, forgettable farty vapour.

There's also the factor that, as far as numbskulled time wasters go, players have endless better options. If you want to go on bantam murder sprees, you don't need a stick-figure murder sim, you can take flight in a wide variety of proven open world mayhems, like Grand Theft Auto and Saint's Row.

If it's a very pure stupidity you want, you can be catered to by Goat Simulator. Even South Park can now be described as social satire instead of a fart parade. Oh, how things have changed; now we have more nuanced options to be digital asshats.

It's also hard to believe in the altruism of someone whose previous submission into the universe was a game about slaying clerics.

It has to be said that it's difficult to imagine that any game about giving a woman a poop moustache before murdering her could weather the modern environment, with social media uproars caused by less violent offenses. This is not a complaint; to hold games as a whole more accountable is a positive thing.

Advertisement

It'd be self-centered to suggest homegrown games had forgotten about donkey punches just because I had. But even amid many of the misogynistic and racist issues games still suffer, at least the very bottom of the basin has been worn off. We call the offenders trolls now, not game designers.

As for the Richardson game, its creator said that, despite featuring coerced sex as a key gameplay mechanic, the goal was to shed light on Richardson's own controversies, which have rumbled through the fashion industry for years but came to broader light in a recentNew York profile whose headline asked simply: is he an "artist or a predator?"

"What I took away from the New York magazine article was where he was surprised at all the backlash from the very same things that made him famous," said the game's creator. "As for my outlook on it, I think, if anything, it emboldens the game in that it was one of the first things to put his behavior under the microscope before the controversy increased tenfold after the 'Wrecking Ball' video was released."

The thing is, Richardson's behavior isn't going to have any light shed on it by a game he isn't involved in. It's also hard to believe in the altruism of someone whose previous submission into the universe was a game about slaying clerics. Games have shown themselves able to tackle tough topics, to be sure, but how does Supermodel Harassment Simulator elevate the conversation?

No matter how much you can defend, deflect, or inject intellect into the hostile nature of what you're making, it's going to be performed with hostility by the kinds of player who would desire it. It is a dead baby joke, told in the school yards and pre-teen sleepovers to get a shocked reaction. And like a dead baby joke, it feels like you have better things to laugh at once you grow the fuck up.