Blog - Doomlaser

Video Games as High Art? Roger Ebert & The Cultural Abyss

I ran across this brief talk today, which I gave at the Game Developers Conference years ago, about video games, Roger Ebert, high art & the cultural ghetto. I think it’s held up pretty well over time.

The quick synopsis of my thesis is, simply, that art is something that people do, and the medium is irrelevant.

With video games, “the artist” is designing a possibility space for the audience—what can happen, and what the consequences of the player’s decisions are.

A video game doesn’t need to have any goal or explicit win-state. We’ve seen that with the rise of walking simulators, which are no different than experiencing a piece of architecture, a garden, or an art exhibit itself.

Fun fact: I’m the person who prodded Roger Ebert into writing his infamous essay condemning the artistic merit of video games, which he later retracted after a rousing bit of internet outrage from all corners. But when I ran into him and Chaz at Ebertfest in 2010, and reminded him about our exchanges, he shook my hand and was all smiles.

The Museum of Modern Art has had an interactive wing for decades, but now it holds actual video games in its permanent collection so I’d say the question now is pretty much moot.

MoMA‘s inaugural selections, from Katamari to Dwarf Fortress, express a good range of what the what the video game medium has been capable of producing over the course of its first few formative decades.

Check out our video games on — they’re free

Working On A Game With A Goblin

I’m working on a new game about goblins and a lot of other stuff. It controls from a third person 3d perspective with pixel art.

Aesthetic and mechanical inspirations include:

And you can find out more on the Doomlaser…

Mac Ports for Standard Bits, Shit Game

I’ve ported a couple of my games to the Mac. They’ve previously been available for Windows only.

As always, you can find these along with several other of our other free games at the Doomlaser

Standard Bits

Download for Mac or Download for Windows

Your character is a single pixel who roams an interconnected world in a 100 by 54 pixel environment. It’s got over 70 rooms to explore and no explicit win state. I originally created this for Kokoromi’s Gamma 256 and it was a finalist at IndieCade 2008.

I wrote more about its creation and exhibition at Gamma when it came out.

Shit Game

Download for Mac or Download for Windows

A personal monument to glitchy and half-baked indie games, Shit Game was naturally the first project I ever worked on to be covered by Kotaku.

It’s a short game that shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to beat (use the shift key to jump). Making the trailer for the game was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.

Read more about it here.

Made Possible By

Both of these ports are thanks to Wineskin, a free tool for making fully encapsulated Windows executables in native Mac application bundles. It works very nicely, so if you’ve got a couple dusty Windows games you’d like to bring over, give it a try.

Game Videos

I thought I’d start the new year off with a few videos that feature some of our recent game work.

First up is a video of someone playing Braindead.

Next up is Hot Throttle.

This is a funny story. Back in May, I was out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to show Hot Throttle at Babycastles. There happened to be a German/French TV crew out there from Europe’s Arte TV and they produced this segment. I sound much classier talking about Cactus and man-cars in French.

Finally, here’s a segment from PBS on the cultural relevance of videogames in the modern age. About halfway through, our very own Hot Throttle makes an appearance.

That’s it!

Two Games for the IGF Pirate Kart

It hit twitter the other day that a bunch of indies were banding together to bundle up a slate of games into an IGF Pirate Kart. This inspired me to polish up a couple short games that I’ve never released before.


The first is a one-button platformer that I originally put together for Gamma 4. You have no direct control over your character.

What news of my son?
braindead screenshot
braindead screenshot
braindead screenshot


Z is the only button. Music by my friend Mike Arnold. Cutscene illustration by Kevin Coulton.

Los Mosquito

The second is a game about being a mosquito. You have to sneak up on people and press Z to suck their blood, before they attack you and start calling in cropdusters of DDT.

Los Mosquito Title Screen
Los Mosquito in-game screenshot


Art by Kevin Coulton.

Hot Throttle

Hot Throttle Title Screen

Hot Throttle is a new game from Cactus and myself, created for Adult Swim Games. It’s about a gang of men who like to race pretending that they are cars.