A Blank Canvas

A Blank Canvas
The Milkman Cometh

Lara Crigger | 17 Oct 2006 08:01
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But the most disturbing piece of this mental puzzle - the part that makes "The Milkman Conspiracy" more than just some eerie, demented vision and transforms it into art - is the fact that Boyd is right. There is a conspiracy, and Boyd himself is the one behind it.

Buried in a tomb deep underground rests The Milkman: the physical manifestation of Boyd's brutal, ultimately unstoppable rage. Out of the remains of his sanity, Boyd has erected a defense mechanism - the conspiracy - to protect the whereabouts of this anger, so that for his own safety, he cannot access it. But the overwhelming number and the persistence of the trench-coated men, whom Boyd has also created, indicate that he is desperate to unleash it once more. Boyd's paranoia is not his true mental illness. It is merely a symptom of his psychotic rage.

But without the benefit of this surreal mental imagery, from the trench-coated men to the sinuous suburban roads, it would be impossible for a player to understand Boyd's particular experience of insanity. The graphics here are not particularly realistic; they're not even that pretty. But they are real. The visuals resonate with the inescapable truth of what they represent. And it is this disturbing reflection of insanity that makes Psychonauts a work of art.

Great art is a mirror, bouncing our experiences back toward us. Through the funhouse mirror of Psychonauts, we see our minds as a child might see them: distorted, hyper-real and in colors almost too bright to bear. Ugliness and beauty intertwine, as if they are one and the same, and we see what's important - what's real - in a way that makes it more easily digestible. Psychonauts is a tapestry of madness, which few other games - or even other works of art - could match. Through it, we learn to appreciate the potential of the human psyche for corruption, dysfunction and even heroism; the experiences it shares feel far weightier, far more relevant than those from a mere game. We feel them innately, on a subconscious level, resonating in the depths of our souls.

As Boyd would say, the milk is indeed delicious.

Lara Crigger is a freelance gaming journalist whose previous work for The Escapist includes "The Short, Happy Life of Infocom" and "Escaping Katrina."

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