As an art game playing off our constant need for reward, Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise propels you into surreal scenarios of strutting through a landscape of explosions unharmed, collecting endless coins, and jumping inhumanly high into a digital infinity. As the title suggests, you don’t deserve any of this, nor the continuous chatter of encouragement and incredulous praise as you blow through the levels of beautifully flourishing flowers against a background of anatomical models. But it’s fun to succeed.
Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise was created by Oklahoma-born, Australia-based digital artist Jason Nelson. Nelson has made other internet playable art to contrast the absurd logic of games with life, such as the trippy experience of consciousness Game Game, Game And Again Game and This is How You Will Die. In the latter, a somber slot machine lets you spin to predict your death, with winning only getting you more spins and none of the options particularly promising (ex: “Someone you have yet to meet, but will come to love, is going to accidentally electrocute you in your sleep.”)
New Radio and Performing Arts commissioned the project for its Turbulence site of net art, with other current commissions including Awkward_NYC/Awkward_Everywhere by Zannah Marsh to map social mishaps, and Submersible by Yotam Mann and Niv Bavarsky where you drive a submarine into an ocean of sound. Nelson’s game is a euphoric experience, where our love of real life and digital praise (social media likes/favorites come easily to mind), where just about everything we do on the internet we hope for some sharing or response for reward, is evoked in a chaotic gamescape of surreal images. As Nelson explains: “Our worlds (digital and breathing) are filled with needless and unearned praise, we are built to love exploding trophies for fifth place.”
There are a few bugs; move the wrong way on some levels and you could suddenly find your character tumbling endlessly into the abyss, which in a game like this you might think was part of the theme of futility. Some of the screens of Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise are quite beautiful though, like the explosions bursting into flowers (there are a lot of explosions, a perhaps not too subtle reference to our love of “over-blown rewards”). And despite you knowing you don’t deserve it, that you’re not very good at this game you just started playing, there is a blast of triumph as you run through a level of collectable coins and voices crow “Score, Score, More Score, Nice Score, Score Again!” or you win “a sea of dismembered applause” and wade through a forest of waving detached arms. Alas, just like in other moments of vapid internet praise, the victory is fleeting and in the end you’re left with the abyss and the loneliness of the screen.
Jason Nelson’s Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise is playable at Turbulence.