A video game is a reflection of its maker, and usually the smaller the developer team, the more clear it is to see something of its creator within. I think I caught a glimpse of project creator Sos Sosowski somewhere in Mosh Pit Simulator, a game currently in development that according to him is supposed to “bring mayhem upon a crazy world of weird humans in virtual reality.” It was bright, insane, and off-putting, and held together with spit and glue, but deeply and undeniably interesting.
Tucked away in the far corner of the Polish pavilion at Gamescom this past weekend, I recognized the banner of the unforgettably weird game that went viral on Twitter this past April.
I wanted to make a mosh pit simulator but it turned out really creepy! pic.twitter.com/CiTL8mZ6y0
— Sos Sosowski (@Sosowski) April 13, 2016
Back then, Mosh Pit Simulator was just a silly idea, but now, the idea is taking form into an actual game. Well, kind of. More on that later.
Following an environmental accident that turns everyone’s skeletons into brains, it’s your job to punch the attacking, floppy hordes on your epic action movie-style getaway. “It makes perfect sense! When people don’t have bones, how are their clothes going to stay on them? They’ll just fall off. So the people just fell out of their clothes. That’s why they’re all naked,” Sosowski explained.
Strapping into the HTC Vive, I found myself at a public pool standing in front of a low diving board. Positioned on the board was a single bare-ass-naked man, whom I was instructed to push with all my might—a sort of opening tutorial of what was to come next. After pushing a number of static characters into the pool (and some completely off the map) I was taken to a warehouse.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a bobbing and lurching naked man coming at me, just asking for a good shove. Slamming the zombie-guy into the wall, Sosowski informed me it was time to make a quick getaway, so I grabbed a nearby push cart and hopped on for the first leg of my adventure.
Going high speed through the suburbs, I encounter cars, more naked zombies, and soon enough, a television suddenly plops down beside of me, switching on to reveal the face of the Sosowski himself, routed live through his webcam. Now dressed as a mad scientist, replete with lab coat, feral tuft of spiky hair and glasses, he explains to me that something’s gone wrong with the world, and that I should punch everything and everyone in sight (in case I didn’t understand that already).
To demonstrate it once more, he spawned in a character I hadn’t seen yet. “This is Fred. He’s a fat person.” Sosowski tells me, looking at me from inside the television and spawning a morbidly obese version of the naked dancing people. The lifeless, naked man slumped forward, ass-up.
I didn’t know how to respond. Sosowski goaded me to pick him up, this time directing me to use a slow motion function for a more cinematic effect. Like a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), I tossed Fred arse over elbow through a house. Ok. So that’s not at all like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I was humming Johann Strauss‘ Blue Danube (1866) just the same.
The science is still still with us! Come and check out the Mosh Pit Simulator at Gamescom! :) pic.twitter.com/hnmIHBbhYA
— Sos Sosowski (@Sosowski) August 18, 2016
Everything in the game, from suburban houses to a rouge steamship out on the streets for a Sunday drive, is subject to the game’s whimsical physics, making it more of a live-action cartoon than a traditional game. And you’d be justified in thinking it’s strange, maybe even too strange for general consumption. If video games can be considered art though (and I believe they can), Mosh Pit Simulator is clearly the avant-garde.
But even if you don’t think Sosowski’s game is art, you may be asking yourself what the point of it all is—pushing around naked people that ostensibly do nothing more than creep you out and invade your personal space. Sosowski answers:
“What people are telling me is this is what VR should be. And I’m thinking: ‘This is kind of wrong. There’s bugs, and it’s not really a [traditional] game and it’s just kind of this weird thing.’ But I want people to have something that other games don’t give them, the opportunity to toy with a game and experience it as it is, be the master of it, and be unconstrained,” he told . “You can get in a car in this game and drive off the level. Just press the button and reset. You can just keep falling forever, and that’s fine. Why should I prevent people from doing that? I think every game prevents people from doing that because it’s considered a bug, but I can have that. That’s ok. And that’s a thing in my game. It’s something you can’t do in real life, even if it’s relatable to real life. There are people, a city, a car, a tree, piece of a fence, and it doesn’t act like it belongs in the real world. These are the two opposites, that when brought together, are the good balance of chaos and [order]. So I see some games that try to do that, but they’re really abstract. I don’t like making abstract games. I like making games that are relatable.”
In the end, Sosowski’s definition is more broad than some, as he thinks games don’t particularly need a challenge or even an overall goal to be fun. “People like cheat codes for a reason. You can play a game with cheat codes and still have a lot of fun.”
Even though there aren’t any identifiable challenges though, Sosowski says there’s still going to be a reason to play.
“I wanted to have a plot. It’s called a simulator, but it doesn’t simulate anything that’s real. It’s the total opposite. I wanted to leave it like that because I wanted to let players have fun … When you move the buildings [by throwing a naked person], in a normal [non-VR] game you say ‘ok, the building is moving,’ and that’s fine but not really fun. But in virtual reality it’s like ‘this is one huge mother fucking thing flying at my head!'”
Even though my time with Mosh Pit Simulator wasn’t a proper stand-alone demo—because Sosowski orchestrated some of it for my benefit (like talking to me in real-time through the in-game TV)—I did have fun. There was a comedic timing and verifiable weirdness that I hope carries over to the finished game.