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The Procession
of the Line

Ridiculous Fishing

Ridiculous Fishing is not a game.

Much of the aura of Ridiculous Fishing is bound up with its predecessor, Ninja Fishing. An honest game in its unimaginative execution and its obvious intentions, Ninja Fishing is clearly a commercial product and nothing else. We can praise it for its absurdity, or deride it for its banality. We can discard it as a trifle, waste time with it, or consume it like content. Our own desires and perspectives can so easily overpower Ninja Fishing because it is, like Radical Fishing (its predecessor and the game it mechanically reproduced), playful.

Ridiculous Fishing cannot be played. Whatever your own intentions your relationship with Ridiculous Fishing is always a moral one.

Ridiculous Fishing is a conservative action. Positioning itself against the decoupling of creation and propriety it also satirizes the corrupt and manipulative ‘free-to-play’ model, which is the most critical change made by the designers of Ninja Fishing to the formula laid out in Radical Fishing. Where anyone can play Ninja Fishing and advance more quickly by paying a small amount, in Ridiculous Fishing you must pay a small amount up front, and then grind for in-game currency. The currency of Ninja Fishing has an exchange rate, both with everyday currency and with time (the existential currency). Ridiculous Fishing is much more hardcore, demanding of its players their money and their time, on its own terms.

That Ridiculous Fishing defends legitimacy and purity by taking a form which was itself once considered corrupt and manipulative doesn’t matter. Forms are not important. As with all moral issues the purpose is not to find the perfect design but to structure relationships. Ridiculous Fishing serves to articulate a line so that people may better understand their distance from it, and to make it more difficult to walk with subtlety. That Ridiculous Fishing is a popular success rather than a financial failure is also irrelevant to this purpose since the line is drawn in both cases, whether in redemption or in persecution. Though it’s pleasant that in this case talent has been rewarded.

Indeed, Ridiculous Fishing‘s retrograde form is what makes it so effective at its task. Ridiculous Fishing is a simulation of a game. It resembles so well a game that it perfectly masks that there are no games anymore. In this way it is a more perfect player than its contemporary, Proteus, which still believes that being a game is important. Where Proteus wants to cheat and be caught, Ridiculous Fishing is happier to play the secret spoilsport.

This is why Ridiculous Fishing is not a game, and why there are no more games: because it is actually a move in a larger ‘game’ in which the player cannot refuse participation (a type of bad game we sometimes call ‘war’). There is no free play in regards to Ridiculous Fishing. There is nothing voluntary because playing and not playing, boredom and interest, approval and disquiet, have already been cast as moral stances which are non-negotiable. Even those who play without knowledge of the higher struggle are no more playing than a pawn is playing at being single-minded. Everyone has already been placed on a side.

Ridiculous Fishing is art. It follows a different path but arrives at the same destination as Brenda Brathwaite’s Train. Few could play Train and so the thing itself, what ever it might have been, was easily subsumed by the discourse that surrounded it. Ridiculous Fishing, on the other hand, is ascendant and easy to access, but its discourse is similarly inescapable. In both cases the games become simulacra: the model precedes the referent because the game precedes its play.

This transformation, where the substance of a work is dissolved, made immaterial and so indistinguishable from what the work is ‘about’, is the process by which an object is made sacred and worthy of its worship.


  1. Aaron Isaksen wrote:

    Upon speaking in person with Charles about this article, I realized I entirely missed the point of this article, largely due to my inexperience at parsing postmodernist-like text. So my original comment, auto generated by is probably not very relevant, though I believe it can still has potential to advance the discussion:

    “If one examines textual objectivism, one is faced with a choice: either accept structuralist patriarchialism or conclude that narrativity is meaningless, but only if the premise of dialectic construction is valid; otherwise, society, ironically, has significance. But the subject is contextualised into a dialectic neodeconstructive theory that includes language as a whole. Bataille uses the term ‘structuralist patriarchialism’ to denote a dialectic reality. The main theme of the works of Gibson is the futility, and subsequent defining characteristic, of precapitalist class. Thus, in Mona Lisa Overdrive, Gibson affirms dialectic construction; in Pattern Recognition he deconstructs Derridaist reading. The primary theme of Dietrich’s analysis of dialectic construction is not deappropriation, but predeappropriation.”

    Ultimately, I think that when we try to elevate the discussion of games and make bold claims about Art, we have to be careful to not alienate ourselves from those who love playing games but don’t have the context or training to discuss games in this manner (like me!).

    Monday, April 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  2. If I’m not misinterpreting: What I like about this is that it seems to explain why I have a hard time focusing on just learning the mechanics and improving my skill and trying to get a better score (depth) when I play Ridiculous Fishing. Like conceptual art, the game is first and foremost about an idea outside of itself rather than its actual content, and that works its way into the play of it. The grinding, which the game requires for moral reasons, distracts from the core. In that way it’s less like the old arcade games it’s simulating than it thinks it is, because those games didn’t (couldn’t) take a position on the free-to-play model. It’s interesting that by taking quarters for each play they were actually as far away as you could get from that model or Ridiculous Fishing’s. Instead of protracting their use of your time and, in the case of free-to-play, asking you for money later on if you wanted to win more quickly, they took your money at the start of every brief chance you wanted at winning. The stakes were a lot higher with each play instead of being dissolved across time, which made players focus on playing in the moment and which made these games more like real games.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

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