Fashion mogul Marc Ecko’s eponymous
clothing company now brings in $1 billion a year in revenue.1
Recently, Ecko has branched out from rhino-emblazoned t-shirts,
shoes, and underpants to popular media, including the consumer
culture rag Complex Magazine, the extreme lifestyle YouTube knock-off
eckotv.com, and the 2006 video game Mark Ecko’s Getting Up:
Contents Under Pressure.
Recently, a canned interview with Ecko
ran in popular magazines like Wired, paid for by financial
consultants CIT Group.2
It’s one of those “Special Advertising Sections” designed to
integrate so seamlessly into the magazine that it’s easy to mistake
it for editorial content. In the interview, Ecko explains “What’s
next” for his growing media conglomerate:
I want to keep growing in the video-gaming space. I believe it’s
the Wild West of media culture. There’s something magical and
abstract about gaming. Games aren’t yet demystified — versus
movies, for example; there are TV shows about the making of movies.
Ecko’s point is both insightful and
ironic. It contains a rather complex observation about the current
state of video games as a medium: television is so familiar, it’s
not even startling to think about television programming produced
solely to discuss other media forms.
The same could not even be
imagined of video games. The form of the insight reiterates Ecko’s
point: his comments appear as a paid advertisement simulating a
magazine interview, an absurd situation that is nevertheless
completely legible to the millions of magazine readers whose eyes
will pass over it. Magazines and television are just too mundane, too
boring for these things to be very surprising.
Marc Ecko is not interested in the
mundane; his sights are firmly set on the flashier side of the medium
he already began to explore in Getting Up, itself a critically
underappreciated game that hides a critique of an autocratic police
state in a game about graffiti.3
But we can turn his observation on its head and use it to find an
omission in the industry’s vision for the future of video games:
demystification is a possible design goal for game developers.
The commercial game industry largely
strives for Hollywood blockbuster-style spectacles. The fledgling
indie game scene often privileges new gameplay mechanics or subjects
for games, but just as frequently it showcases the hopeful yet
derivative swing of so many minor-leaguers trying to break into the
majors. Despite major differences, both efforts trace the earnest
hope that video games are an expressive medium as important as film
or literature, but different in form.