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This Absurdist Courtroom Sim Takes Justice Out of the System

'Murder Dog IV: The Trial of Murder Dog' revels in the arbitrariness of justice.

by Cameron Kunzelman
Jul 26 2017, 4:05pm

All images courtesy thecatamites

At Play in the Carceral State is a week-long series investigating play in, around, and about prisons and prison culture. Learn more here.

When thecatemites's Murder Dog IV: The Trial of Murder Dog begins, our "hero" is on trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity. The Murder Dog has committed over 1,500 brutal instances of homicide and maiming, and the world has finally gotten enough evidence together to put him behind bars. The player, who acts on behalf of Murder Dog during this fateful 15 minutes or so, has the job of figuring out how the trial goes down.

Playing the game is a simple maneuver of pointing and clicking your way around a few different screens of evidence, witness cross-examination, and interpreting photographs. It is important to note that Murder Dog is certainly guilty, and at every turn he mentions his insatiable lust for chaos and murder. It's an absurd exercise to prove Murder Dog innocent, but The Trial of Murder Dog is clear that this operation has nothing to do with innocence and guilt. It has to do with how you bend rules.

"The legal system must make a distinction between what we 'know' as individuals and what can be demonstrated as evidence in this bizarre ritualistic setting."

"The legal system must make a distinction between what we 'know' as individuals and what can be demonstrated as evidence in this bizarre ritualistic setting." That comes from a little dog at the bottom of the screen who provides conceptual commentary on the events of the game. It sits down there, Slavoj Žižek-like, and tells us that the opposite of what we see is happening.

The Trial of Murder Dog revels in the arbitrariness of justice. Like a Terry Gilliam film, Trial takes the core logic of an idea and pushes it to its limit. For instance, there is a photo of Murder Dog clearly tearing someone in half. At the trial, however, the player can argue that Murder Dog was simply putting the person back together. There's no way of knowing, and within the structure of state justice, that's as valid as any other argument.

That's silly, right? Except something eerily similar happened in the Rodney King trial of the early 1990s when the footage shown to the jury had been "slowed down the tape, enhanced the sound, stabilized the picture and experimented with a variety of digitally enhanced exposures." That tape was famously used to craft a new narrative, one which portrayed him as struggling to stand up and attack the officers who were brutally beating him. It turned someone who was plainly a victim into a criminal who had to be subdued.

The Trial of Murder Dog meditates on these real-world ideas in a strange, chaotic, and overly-violent way. It puts pressure on the things we take for granted about the justice system, and about the notion of justice period. The "brutalist id-Dog," as he's called, demands a wider range of thinking.

You can download Murder Dog IV: The Trial of Murder Dog for Windows over at GameJolt.

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