Before NotGames, UnGames.
Doodle City is an alternative mode in Atari’s I,Robot. A self styled “ungame” where the player is tasked with doing nothing more than drawing things on the screen using the objects from the videogame as brushes, for when you’re burned out with mass destruction.
Doodle City is a tool that allows anyone with a handful of change to create digital art and, at the same time, a tool that takes away your digital art as soon as the money runs dry. For 3 minutes, this piece will exist and then it will be gone. Lost in time, lost to everyone.
Doodle City may be digital art as performance as the player strives to doodle a thing in front of their chums, it could be digital art as competition as the player and chums strive to outdo each other in what they throw up onto the screen or it could be digital art as the personal, where the player smears and spins shapes across the screen to produce something just to satisfy themselves.
anyone can move a joystick around and make relatively pretty pictures
It’s a fascinating moment of self awareness from early arcade machine creators where the emphasis was truly upon little more than blowing shit up and a concession to those for whom jumping around the place trying to avoid being shot in the face by a disembodied eye may not be that appealing.
And of course, there’s always the small thing that sussing out the controls of a videogame isn’t necessarily intuitive but anyone can move a joystick around and make relatively pretty pictures, making I,Robot one of the first videogames to offer decent concessions to accessibility for your money should you so choose.
Doodle City is digital, it is so very computer and so very videogame.
And yes, I’d adore it if more games brought back Doodle City as an option. I’d like that very much indeed.