Static Lagoon is a game you play with your butt. It’s not as crude as that makes it sound. But it is as capricious as a game of Simon Says. “Sit,” its suave black font commands. And so you do. “Stand and keep standing” it then demands. Moments later: “Sit” appears once again. And then, much to the lament of your thighs, “Stand” once more.
For Static Lagoon is a physical game. If played as intended you actually have to hoist yourself up and collapse back down again, over and over. It was originally designed to be played with a virtual reality headset, and the RestBox, which its creators deem “the world’s first cushioned entertainment system.” It’s a plush, comfortable cube that you operate by parking your backside on it, with the other option being to relieve it of your weight.
This binary function is formatted as a meditation on the endless routines of our lives in Static Lagoon. It’s a non-linear adventure steeped in the mundanity of a morning routine before and during the daily commute. You start by getting out of bed, then having a shower, before catching a taxi across the city to your place of work. This is divided into six segments, each of which have prescribed windows of opportunity; a chance to break the rules—to stand up when you were told to sit—and indulge a forbidden reverie or a moment of leisure.
The game quite clearly wants you to break away from its endlessly looping chapters, too. And this is communicated by more than the enduring repetition. When a distraction from the choreography is possible, it’s pronounced with static noise and matching visuals, erupting with a sudden fuzz. The screen is further occupied by the opportune rebellion as a box appears at its center with either “sit” or “stand,” proffering the notion with a brazen presentation.
And what should happen if you do take up this offer? While it’s best to find out yourself, I’ll share a few examples: sitting at a restaurant while various fast food items are passed before you then chucked into the trash; dancing through the mall, where it rains clothes and six-armed persons have evolved to carry flocks of shopping bags; climbing from the window of your bedroom to perform a daring “dumpster dive.” They’re the kind of wildly imaginative activities you’d expect to be born from procrastination. Whoever wrote the game’s description calls them “momentary distractions.”
None of this tangential warping of the daily routine feels out of place either. In fact, when compared to the game’s florid, color-rich world without walls these distractions seem almost ordinary. Even a ceiling fan isn’t untouched, it being comprised of the word “bedroom” criss-crossed to form the fan’s blades. It’s a world of form, kept simple with structures made of the nouns given to them, as if to elicit the very normalcy of the place. And yet, it’s all rendered in bold, garish colors to overwhelm your senses and encourage exploration.
And with no walls to hide spaces there’s plenty to look at (including the insides of others’ living rooms). It’s a visual style that bears similarities to vaporwave and its purpose. That is, to satirize the tackiness and omnipresence of commercialism in our lives by accelerating it to its extreme. There’s none of vaporwave’s dollar sign fonts, nothing as obvious as that, but Static Lagoon does have its art-pop: uniform rows of bright blue and yellow cars, a dream-like encounter with the mall (the church of commercialism), a weird sequence involving bottled alcohol and the multiplying clothes in your wardrobe. It all being a shinier rendition of our capital lives.
By its end, you enter the ultra-fetishization of the commercial world, surrounded by sports cars, passing by the twitching masses of dancers in what is either a club or a swimming pool, before being swallowed by the work place. Then it starts all over again. The great tragedy being that you’re caught up in this great cycle of products and plastic. And using the RestBox makes it as exhausting as implied. Even the optional distractions can’t get you out of the repetition for long. Except for one of them. And the ending it takes you to suggests the worst; that the only escape is death.