Plug & Play is a short film and art game released last year, which gained wide play through its inclusion in a Humble Indie Bundle. Lucky for the creator that it did, because I find it unlikely that art or game critics would’ve paid a penny for it on its own. Plug & Play claims to “explore… feelings” beyond “sexuality and reproduction: love.” For a game claiming to explore the meaning of love, the entire experience strikes me as largely sexual. Gameplay consists of point-and-click animations, involving plug-or-socket-headed creatures either inserting themselves into each other’s respective ports, entering one another anally, or making finger gestures of such acts. The aesthetics of Plug & Play are actually quite nice—they are reminiscent of the high school study hall appearance of art in films like Napoleon Dynamite and Hot Rod—but in a more “serious” art piece, they take away from whatever message the player is intended to receive.
The film/game falls short of its message due to a series of artistic choices that ultimately make the experience nonabsorbable in an attempt to be more artistic. The only dialogue options in the game are short snippets such as “do you love me?” “I think I love you”—which are player-selected, and met with short, brusque responses. Based upon the art team’s other works, I think the real message that comes through is that, as usual, cishet men find love and feelings a foreign concept, which they can only access through overcomplicated drivel. “Not About Us” is a short film by the primary art director of Plug & Play, and in his own words, it is “a symbolic staging of the complex dance of rapprochement between a man and a woman.” Much like Plug & Play, the film is aesthetically high-school-level, and the message it delivers is essentially the same: “Love confuses me.”
Too much art by men (specifically cishet white men) boils down to this: very simplistic concepts, slammed out to the audience in the most complex vehicle possible. Michael Frei, the man behind Plug & Play, probably derives all of his inspiration from a single mediocre relationship he had, wherein he probably didn’t give as much to a woman in a relationship as she gave to him, leaving him forever shackled to the knowledge that he just isn’t good enough. And these men who do not meet the bar in any other aspect are allowed to go on to exceed expectations in the art world: Plug & Play won or was nominated for over a dozen awards. White male mediocrity is not only tolerated but praised at the highest level when it comes to the world of art—be it through video games, film, or more traditional mediums. We as an audience, though, do not have to tolerate it. I would highly recommend that, if you were planning on buying Plug & Play, you instead spend your money on either a sincerely entertaining piece of media…or art done by someone who has something real to say.
Art by Jun Joestar.