Now I know what you're thinking, and that is, what do I think about sans undertale in Smash? This issue is multifaceted, there is a lot here to address, and I couldn't do it in only a few posts. That's why I'm going to make it the topic of this week's thread.
First and foremost, Smash expresses a dialectical tension at the heart of our contact with art in this day and age. At once, we yearn for a more extreme demonstration of creative freedom, a more spectacular displacement of formal boundaries with each new artistic creation we encounter.
But on the other hand, we yearn for tightness and cohesion. We want the worlds constructed by art (and the construction of worlds is all we have come to expect from art at this juncture) to *make sense* in a way our world doesn't. But because we have been conditioned to avoid genuine philosophical considerations, this "making sense" takes the form, not of thematic cohesion, but of "worldbuilding coherence".
In short, we do not want art to tell us something new, we want it to show us something familiar and graspable.
Smash attempts to resolve this contradiction. It is an infinitely expanding vehicle of excess, through its grandiose roster of some of the most recognisable characters in videogames and pop culture. But it is also deeply uncreative, as it condenses these individual creations, the games and stories these characters are taken from, to a character skin in a barebones fighting game.
Smash is therefore the ultimate subsumption of our creative instincts into the uncreative form in which art has come to be absorbed into the capitalist productive world. Art's capacity to bring us into contact with what Georges Bataille called Limit-Experience is repackaged into a quantitative, rather than a qualitative operation. We can play as and encounter an infinity of characters, but within a finite and highly limited framework.
What is Sans's place in this? As @hierarchon very astutely pointed out, he represents, first and foremost, creative freedom in the face of capitalist uncreativity. His absorption into Smash is therefore yet another index of capital's capacity to absorb and commodify all oppositions to itself.
But this is just one side of the story.
For there is Sans, the undertale character, but there is also sans the cultural figure. Sans, the undertale character, is a symbol of conscience, or absolute morality, with which the player character is confronted with the fact of their choices. Sans undertale, the cultural figure, is something else entirely.
I think that here the ironic perception of sans as a cultural figure is more instructive than the sincere one. As he appears in humorous material, sans undertale is used to deride the so-called "undertale fandom". What does this "fandom" stand for precisely? Some would call it "cringe", but I would prefer to call it: naiveté.
What we see at work in the undertale fandom as its popular critics like to portray it is a naive belief in the purity of art in a capitalist society. One of the most widely cited sins of the undertale fandom is its aggressive behaviour towards people who follow the genocide route in their videogame of choice. Yet, is this attitude not precisely encouraged by the game itself? As we know, taking the genocide route permanently restricts the paths a player can take in further replays.
So what the game tells us is, "your actions are not consequence free". Why would we blame undertale fans for acting upon this, I'm sure you'll agree, highly agreeable moral? The greatest sin of undertale fans was to believe in the honesty of art.
To see the character that represents this, the central message of undertale, subsumed into the emblematically amoral machine of smash is not a service to fans of undertale. It is a service to people who have an ironic position to videogames and art in general, and who helped spread the meme of "sans in smash".
And here we return to our central dialectic. The only reason anyone would want sans in smash is because he is so meaningful. And the only way he could ever be put in smash is by being stripped of all meaning.
So, while Sans's actual incarnation in Smash will not resolve the dialectic with which we started, the irresolvable contradiction between our longing for a Limit-Experience and its impossibility under capitalism, I'd like to propose that there is something else that does come pretty close.
And that is, Sans in Smash as a cultural event. The absurdity of wishes that were brought into the world as nothing more than an ironic joke being realised in the extreme cultural artefact of smash brings us, for a single precious moment, in contact with the limit, as the grandiose ridiculousness of everything is brought before us in this flash of videogame crossover hell.
There is a strange sense, when we see this happen, of being shown the full extent of our power. Corporations which have successfully alienated us from ourselves, the most inhuman of human creations, have successfully taken over artistic creation in such a way that we increasingly fail to see said creation as a "human" act anymore. And yet.
Here they are these behemoths, that are so unlike us, reflecting our own image back at us. "You want sans in smash?" a voice beams down from the heavens, "there it is". In a world where creation is impossible, a joke we'd made up about that very impossibility is suddenly brought into being. Irony bleeds into sincerity, truth into falsehood, fiction into reality.
This is the alienation that is created by capitalist ideology. We are at once completely powerless, and all-powerful. Sans is in Smash because of us and only because of us. Our combined efforts brought this into being. But none of us had any say in the matter.
Nobody saw this coming, nobody could ever have predicted this even though this is, in essence *what WE did*. This is colonialism. This is imperialism. This is capitalism. This is climate change. This is something that we are all collectively responsible for, and that none of us has any control over.
In a way, Sans in Smash is the consecration and the undoing of Sans himself. If he symbolises the absolute facts of our moral decisions that we must all reckon with, then his incarnation in Undertale falls sorely short of our ideological reality, in which "responsibility" is not absolute, but rather engaged in a slippery dialectic. And his appearance in Smash cements the death of this signification for the character.
And yet, Sans in Smash DOES make us face the truth of our responsibility because it proves that even the things we imagine to be furthest from our control (ie which characters nintendo puts in smash) are in fact very much within our sphere of influence. We have lost all belief in change, and yet when it does happen, it was all our fault.
@garfiald commit to the bit or you're a coward
@jimpjorps i mean now youve thrown down the gauntlet
@category im waiting on that lsagna
@garfiald garfield i have a feeling no matter what the media presented, your crit will still come down to "worldbuilding and plot holes are the downfall of art"
@Jewbacchus ok I definitely do beat that drum way too often but in this particular case I had to come up with a 27 post thread on the fly, I feel like I can be forgiven a couple of stock responses
@garfiald At the end of this thread, the entirety of Mastodon will pack its bags and go its separate ways, because it will be officially over
@skelltan i improvise all my threads
@garfiald how do I mute other people's threads
@garfiald We can't believe that you're actually writing 27 posts of this.
@garfiald oh my fucking god Garfield why
@garfiald sincerely thought about replying "shut the fuck up" to every post in this thread but I think I'm just gonna log off instead. you kids have fun
@garfiald shhut up idot and play the game
@garfiald.. stop..... please...
@garfiald curious what you're avoiding doing by posting all this...
This is the worst bit
@garfiald this is beautiful and terrifying
@ItsMorgan im glad you like it monarch
You know buddy, reading this thread is a bit like a limit experience. I can't wait to expend resources without the intention of having my investment returned.
@garfiald Jesus fucking christ, you actually wrote an essay worth genuinely reading. I fucking hate that I love this thread. But then, that's every thread with you...
@garfiald i want to kill myself
@garfiald I feel like the maximalist nature of many Nintendo games (specifically the 3D Mario games, like Super Mario Galaxy) is one of the major selling points. These games actively work to not limit you in the way most video games do.
Also, I don’t think Smash is chiefly a fighting game. I’d say that, first and foremost, it is a party game, and that idea, bringing people together in a party, can be seen clearly in the game design.
@garfiald although I’ve got to say your thread is a perfect metaphor for Sans in Smash. Arising from a joke, it became more real than we ever could have hoped (feared?)
@garfiald i am logging off forever
@garfiald I too yearn for tightness and cohesion ;)
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