Tijuana Time

Colin Rowsell | 29 Jul 2008 08:44
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Nowadays, the fringe feel is too often the result of clever marketing, with polished edges that are impossible to hide if you look with the right eyes. For me this cuts out many things right away, from Suicide Girls to David Hasselhoff, while the MySpace/Facebook world is just creepy. I'm also not trying to out-run the internet with ultra-perversity; the world has seen enough tentacle porn, and Warren Ellis took a recent journey in Crooked Little Vein that ended up with saline testicle injection parties and the aforementioned macroherpetophiles. This is no country for an innocent writer on a sex hunt.

Then, a breakthrough. I hadn't thought of looking in videogames, with their big-budget flavor and nonexistent love lives, until I remembered Leisure Suit Larry, the pixelated Tijuana bible of my childhood.

On the surface, Larry's a pretty mainstream character. The original Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards was one of the most famous and controversial games of the late 1980s, a 16-color, 640K ramble through the city of Lost Wages with a 40-year-old virgin. It's funny, crude and direct, especially for its time. There are plenty of outlets in Lost Wages for you to drink, gamble, and whore-shop till you drop.

Despite its high profile, though, Larry was the progenitor of plenty of weird communities; the game may have been a commercial release, but it was extensively pirated, shared around friends on floppy disks and spread through junior high schools like mono. I got Larry off someone in math class, and I think damn near everyone else did, too. Playing it now with the Tijuana bibles in mind, it's remarkable how much creator Al Lowe seems to have drawn from them for inspiration and style. The clunky graphics, high technology back in 1987, are now as rough and ugly as those of a cheap underground cartoonist slaving away in the 1930s. Simple, direct, and surprisingly naive, Larry shares a distinct charm with long-ago Tijuana silliness like "The Adventures of a Fuller Brush Man" and "Bebby Snooks in the Hay Loft".

The ceaseless demand for MOAR is unlikely to ever relax, but surely there are enough groups of weirdos (all of us) around to take the Larry example and run with it. The curious fantasies and desires of small communities can be stranger, funnier, more immediate than large corporate creations could ever replicate. So let's go find a small bunch of gamers. Really small, like down the road and up the driveway. A place where people with access to the very latest in high-res graphics and Grand Theft Auto scale choose instead to use Adventure Game Studio in much the same way I'd like to write.

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