I've been playing a lot of the game Crazy Taxi these days and recently something dawned on me. This game is a work of art. It's a lowly arcade game (not my opinion of arcade games but certain game snobs feel as much) made for the fun of the experience and yet it is just as meaningful as more esoteric games such as ICO or Killer 7. I'm intrigued by this because an aracde game is as close to a pure game as one can get and remains an expressive experience while previous artistic games have had to distance themselves from game design to become "interactive freedom software." The game is a monument because it subtly gets its point across and it also manages to be an immensely playable game. Through its rebellious, fast-paced gameplay and carefully planned aesthetic Crazy Taxi encapsulates the punk rock experience in game form.
One of the significant aspects of the game that factors into the experience is obviously the gameplay. The goal of the game is to pick up a client and deliver them to a loactaion as fast as possible within a time limit. This experience is arcade in design with its heavy rule presence and gameplay simplicity. This framework also forces the player into a fast-paced state of mind which is necessary to successfully play the game. Punk rock both musically and culturally is about speed. Insanely fast music and insanely fast lifestyles define punk rock and this feeling is evoked by the basic activity in Crazy Taxi. Another aspect of punk rock is a lack of long-term direction in life. This is represented by the sprawling level design and hyperlocal arrow indicator in Crazy Taxi. The level follows no logic making location extremely difficult to determine with the only direction being an arrow indicator that only responds to immediate location. By this I mean that the arrow does not point towards the objective, it points towards the most convenient direction within a certain radius towards getting to the objective. This arrow indicator represents the "living in the present" direction and exhibits the potential for error with this direction. Finally, punk rock is about going against society. This is represented in Crazy Taxi by the other cars on the road. The player is awarded points for going against traffic, weaving in and out of cars and generally bypassing the laws of society. This strategy for gaining points becomes second nature to a player and thus embeds this ideal into the overall experience of the game. Punk rock is about speed, rebellion and anarchy and so is the gameplay experience of Crazy Taxi.
Crazy Taxi is also punk rock with its aesthetics. The punk rock movement found its center in Los Angeles after an initial start in New York City. Likewise, Crazy Taxi is set in Southern California. Punk rock is also less about the educated and elite and more about the fringes and working-class. Driving a taxi, as in Crazy Taxi, is both a working-class job and a job on the fringes of society. One of the more important punk rock aesthetic concerns in Crazy Taxi is the all-punk soundtrack. This enhances the experience immensely as the game itself feels like an abstraction in the game form of the very music the player is listening to. Furthermore the dialog between the taxi driver (the player) and their client is typical of punk rock. The client is usually critical or demanding of the driver in their task and yet the driver always has a snappy comeback that is confident and rebelious. Though this dialog has context, it is used to convey basic feelings of the punk perspective. In the narrative, audio and writing directions, Crazy Taxi attempts to build the punk rock experience onto the gameplay that already exemplifies much of what punk rock is about.
Players need to begin to look beyond games that they are already playing for meaning. Journalists and lesser game designers tell audiences that games are not yet art but they will be. It is this constant looking to the future for hope that keeps the game industry stagnant. Designers need to go back through the different styles of game to create art as opposed to looking for pretentious new genres for artistic possibility. Crazy Taxi is a fun game. Crazy Taxi is an arcade game. Crazy Taxi is a work of art that sums up the feelings of the punk rock movement. Through intense gameplay and contextual aesthetic, developers built a world for the player to explore, a world of rebellion and attitude that hopes to extol punk rock values on its audience.