Friday, October 14, 2011

K.O.L.M. and Mechanical Mommy Issues

Platform: In-Browser Flash
Developer: Armor Games
Release: November 2010

If you have not played K.O.L.M. yet, I heartily suggest you click that link above and give it a go before coming back here. It's a solid, simple, atmospheric platformer that'll take an hour tops to beat—and since you came here, it's likely you have some time to kill, anyway. Otherwise, you're going to hit spoilers, so don't say I didn't warn you.

K.O.L.M. is the charmingly mysterious tale of a robot brought into a bleak world by a remote, matronly being known as Mother. Stumbling and half-blind, the fragile creation leans on the guidance of Mother to find the parts he needs to become whole again.

I wish my mother used emoticons when I was growing up...
If you've been reading this touching synopsis so far (or not reading this and actually playing the game) and thought, “So when does Mother flip out and try to mess this robot's junk up?” then congratulations, you've been paying attention to the role of the matriarchal voice in many sci-fi games.

There's something about a dystopian future that seems ripe for the placement of a calm, feminine voice to lull the player toward the inevitable eviscerating machines. Portal's GLaDOS is the hands-down favorite in this department, although System Shock 2's SHODAN is noteworthy at the most very least for coming onto the scene 8 years earlier. Halo fans even question whether the helpful AI Cortana went nuts during the series.

Perhaps the element lies in the disorientation a futuristic setting effects upon us. Much like toddlers, we are attracted to a helpful voice, even if we aren't fully aware of its source and, as we gain more self-awareness, become increasingly wary and concerned of its behavior. You know, just like with real moms!

But why pull the turnaround at all? Why not keep the pleasant helper throughout the game, especially since it seems we're coming to expect the betrayal? Maybe, deep down, we want it?

I'm talking mainly to you, fellow primary male demographic. Although we grow up and even somewhat appreciate the queenly guidance we may have received growing up, are we still strangely terrified by yet attracted to the thought of meeting a girl who knows way more than us and is willing to use that knowledge to a manipulative end?

Are we frightfully allured by a woman who knows lots of SCIENCE and MATH?

Should I stop now before I try to tie these AWKWARD QUESTIONS back to our MOTHERS?

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