Somewhere after the 10th waving, severed arm that I added to my masterpiece in Super Sculptor!, my patron’s response switched from joy to horror. The game by graphic designer Michael Shillingburg, available as a pay-what-you-wish download on Itch.io, is a short sculpture-building simulator. With Dan Flavin–like neon tubes, Nam June Paik–esque television sets (broadcasting a view of your own sculpture, naturally), oversized gemstones, roving eyeballs, empty soda cans, and other accoutrements, you can build the colossal installation art of your dreams, or nightmares.
The value of your assemblage may go up the more gold bars you clunk on it, yet your audience is fickle. Their boredom can turn to distressed puzzlement if you attach too many whirring “danger enhancer” saw blades. Once your sculpture is complete, or making you dizzy, Super Sculptor! adds a perfectly snazzy artspeak title, like “The Beauty Featuring Us” (2016) for my manic mix of arms, lights, and flaming hot plates, or “Flirting On The Final Moment” (2016) for a work made up of half waving arms, half saw blades. My patron’s reactions varied from disgust to terror, possibly in response to the up-to-$10,000 price tags.
Super Sculptor! is one of a few new art simulators I’ve tried out. Passpartout by Flamebait Games features a sort of MS Paint canvas on which you sketch heavy-handed drawings for visitors who wander through your gallery, generally complaining about your prices, your titles, and that you’re a nobody. If you’re lucky, one of them will take an interest in your wavering stick figures and give you €100, allowing you to advance from rookie status into the art world.
The most beautiful of the new art game crop is Joy exhibition by Strangethink. Your goal is to “communicate with the mute alien race using shape and colour,” and your studio is a spaceship where abstract, neon-hued humanoids roam a circular hall filled with waiting canvases. Paintings are made first-person shooter style with pigment-loaded guns, although it’s hard to determine success, as the aliens mostly mill around, pausing at one splattered canvas but ignoring another. Outside the spaceship window a psychedelic landscape flies by, its stunning colors mocking your violent attempts at art.
The joyous music and general insanity of Super Sculptor! make it my favorite of these art simulators. Of course none of them captures the real nuanced act of making art, but they do reflect some of the frustration, experimentation, and absurdity of it all, as well as the difficulty of pleasing the public, whether human or alien.
Super Sculptor! is available for download on Itch.io.