Michael Jackson baby-drop game!

Dig this online game: Micheal Jackson drops a bunch of babies out of a hotel window, and you have to catch them!

It is, of course, totally hilarious. But there’s more going on here under the hood, I’d argue. This game is another one of the genre I wrote about for Slate a few months ago: “Games as a form of social comment.”

The game itself is not that addictive or even playable. At best, it’s a sort of intertextual swipe at the Kaboom-style games from days of yore. But playability or addictiveness is not the aim here; that’s secondary. The primary goal is to use the rhetoric of games to make a political or social comment — using game physics as a way to metaphorize a subject.

I mean, everyone and their cousin has written a piece decrying Jackson for endangering his child. But this is truly shooting a fish in a barrel. Jackson is irretreivably bonkers, has been for years, and everyone knows it; there’s no point belaboring the fact. But …

[BEGIN POMPOUS LANGUAGE/JARGON WARNING] … by avoiding the rhetoric of text (or that of video, today’s other dominant medium) with which everyone is familiar, and using the newer rhetorical style of gaming — with its odd fusion of animation, physics, and interactivity — this kooky little Jackson game makes a bunch of funny little points all at once: About Jackson’s clear insanity; about the weird position of those horrified fans who watched him dangle the kid (my god, is he going to drop it?); about how we also have this sick, can’t-tear-my-eyes-away fascination with the whole spectacle (part of us wants him to drop the kid). These are all things you can explore implicitly in a game, in a fashion that feels qualitatively rather different from other media. People call this stuff “new media,” but they don’t realize how profound it is to have a genuinely new medium. [END POMPOUS LANGUAGE/JARGON WARNING]

I will now pull my head out of my ass. Go play the game; it’s fun listening to the babies shriek as they plummet to the ground.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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