I feel that deeply, since more and more I can’t stand the internet. There are too many people there. Too many thoughts, opinions, and content flying around in all directions. It becomes impossible to parse the important information from the irrelevant. Worse yet, companies like Google are continually pushing irrelevant content to the forefront by allowing those who produce it in bulk to rise to the top of searches.
I’m not sure why I need an interactive interpretation of this distressing reality we live in, but here’s iPad Baby to extrapolate on the relentless assault of garbage we’re under each day.
Into the sludge
You’re dropped into iPad Baby with absolutely no explanation of what is going on, and none is forthcoming. However, your screen is already dominated by an iPad perpetually displaying meaningless video and a Ring camera pointed directly in your face. The world you are in is a spaghetti nest of corridors painted with watermarked and conflicting images. Flitting around these abominable hallways, are 2D homunculi compiled of various imagery. Almost immediately, you probably want to leave.
The iPad on the side reminds me of “Sludge Content,” a TikTok phenomenon where videos are cut together with other unrelated ones. Your digital companion shows ceaseless footage of gameplay of (maybe) mobile games, the head and shoulders of a Sim, and scrolls of microtransactions. It’s meaningless to gameplay, but that’s perhaps the point. It’s just there, passively gnawing at your attention.
The actual game here is actually rather simple. When you get near enough to one of the figures, you’re displayed a few items that you need to collect from the environment and throw at them. The obstacle you run into is that the hallways are intensely disorienting, and the inhabitants of the world move at a hyperactive pace. By the time you find the item they need, they could be absolutely anywhere.
You wind up just dashing through the passageways, a can of energy drink in your hand, trying to find a person to fling it at. The “people” you pass keep on dropping bizarre, meaningless statements about their lives. Insecurities, complaints, hopes, and advice bombard you in grating text-to-speech voices. The manic soundtrack playing over all of this is strangely appealing throughout all of it.
Then an alarm sounds, a horrific police bulletin appears on your phone, and darkness engulfs the world before receding. The police are after you, every bit as compellingly twisted as everything else in the world. Don’t worry. If they catch you, they’ll simply take whatever item you’re carrying and slap handcuffs on your wrists. That has always been more of an enticement than a deterrent to me.
And that’s it, really. As you find objects and pass them off to the appropriate monstrosity flitting through the hallways, more of them get dropped. Once you manage to deliver them all, you “win.”
We are all damned
iPad Baby is not as complex as Tyko’s Dying Together, and that wasn’t too deep to begin with. The message it carries behind its garish jank-pop graphical assault is also far more overt. Tyko’s Dying Together dropped you into a confusing world where the deeper meaning very gradually surfaces, whereas iPad Baby kind of gives it away in the title.
The whole experience is as anxiety-inducing as the systems that it represents. The thing about iPad Baby is that it ends, whereas social media is so entrenched in society today that it’s hard to avoid it. Not impossible, but to demonstrate how necessary it can be, walkedoutneimans contacted me through Twitter to let me know of their new perversion of the Doom engine. The trailer is hosted on YouTube, because where else would you put it?
TikTok is something else, though. I already avoid YouTube unless I really need it, but the ability to just scroll down through a bunch of videos all competing for attention makes me nauseous to even think about it. It’s just, well, sludge. Enough of my attention already goes to waste.
The horrible desecrations of Doom that walkedoutneimans puts out are my favorite type of art. It’s the type that looks like offensive trash, but when you actually dig in, you learn something about the creator’s perspective and maybe connect with it yourself. I mean, analyzing iPad Baby caused me to start spitting venom at the culture that is growing like mold on the ass of the internet, so it obviously got a response.
Meanwhile, my husband leaned over to look at my screen and said, “Ew, does it always look like that?”
“Yeah,” I replied, pointing the camera at the most offensive thing in the vicinity.
“That upsets me,” he said.
Well, yeah. That’s the point.
iPad Baby is available for free over on Itch.
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