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July 12, 2007

Mushroom Clown: Nuclear Destruction and Fun

Posted in: Art/Design,Games,War

See the clown face in that mushroom cloud? Ironic, no? Mixing childhood smiles and nuclear detonation to hock Playstaton 3. We’re supposed to read it as “atomic fun” but I can’t help but see it as a perverse commentary: laughter at death. Sexy bombs, slick fun, sick stomach.

Many who encounter “Mushroom Clown,” though, seem to focus on the (admittedly impressive) art direction rather than the twisted irony of its message (see discussion at aotw). And I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, “weapons of mass destruction” is part of our daily vocabulary now — more a slogan than anything real. What those weapons do to people seems an afterthought.

As a lover of unusual games, I very much want to see the industry push the envelope in every way imaginable. And sometimes that means offending folks. But Sony could have done better. Games like DEFCON and Balance of Power, for example, let us use nukes without ever letting us forget the damage they do. The specter of nuclear winter hangs over both in very different but equally potent ways. That’s important stuff.

It’s easy to trivialize nuclear war. It’s art to make it matter. Sony should learn from its mistakes.


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