Order/Disorder in Hotline: Miami

Timothy Kennett
  1. Hotline: Miami is a platform game. It looks like a third person shooter, but it isn’t. (Or, at least, it’s both.) To succeed at the game the player must execute a high speed series of actions across space in sequence. Small mistakes necessitate restarting the sequence. Completion of each level is attained through repetition, by memorising the contours of the avatar’s careening, bloody path.
  2. The shooting elements are not in the management of space of a traditional shooter, but rather in response to limited randomness. The AI’s movements are not exactly repeated on each play through of a level: they seem to be subject to slight variance. This gives the player the opportunity to add improvisation, of a sort, to their choreography.
  3. It follows from 1. and 2. that Hotline: Miami is a demonstration of the truth that shooting games and platform games have much in common. Both are about the efficient management of and movement through space. Both are the rationalisation of an economy of action.
  4. Hotline: Miami is an example of the pleasures of such efficiency. The game, played at its fastest, is a satisfying blur of geometric effectiveness. It’s gore is a necessary correlate: after your spree, the level is left splattered with pixelated blood and dismembered bodies. The gameplay is a celebration of the joys of sorting; its aftermath a remind of sorting’s entropic burden. To create order in one place is to create disorder in another. The efficiency of the player’s order creation — rapid movements, swift button presses, elegant lines — is reflected in the disorder violence that lies in its wake.
  5. There is a second correlate to the player’s efficiency: the narrative structure of the game itself. The gameplay is to be efficient and ordered; the structure surrounding it — a confused plot, mysterious phone calls with vague orders, masks and jumps in time, room mates and girlfriends you can never interact with, the tedium of picking up slices of pizza from the store — is entropic, confused, chaotic. It is reflective, perhaps, of the mental state necessary to unleash such violence.
  6. In my game, there are glitches. I don’t know if they are intentional, but I hope that they are, because they reinforce the fragmented disorder so effectively. Words and points don’t load on the screen properly. Occasionally I’ll get a new weapon and the text describing the amount of ammunition in it won’t load. The level names rarely load all the letters. Speech is often cut out or distorted. So are my end of level scores. Occasionally the skins of the locations glitch out, and the dirty beige floors are replaced with blinding neon pink.
  7. The game gives you points for traditional game-y things, like combos and speed. They accrue glitchily at the end of levels. I realise that I have absolutely no interest in points. I wonder who does. They are meaningless information. They only make sense as part of the game’s disorder. To attend to them would be to place order in the wrong place, to reduce from the order of efficient murder. They must be noise.
    Timothy Kennett

    Written by

    BNOC; hipster; dilettante; banterlope.

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