Bryce Bucher & Ayden Machajewski‘s “1Boss1Battle1Button” came out of nowhere, a visually striking reminder of a long lost era in once cutting edge graphic design. Built for the Game Maker’s Toolkit 2019 Jam, the dynamic duo set out to put a fresh rhythm twist on the competition’s theme of “Only One”.
The result is a passionately clever minimalist platformer that stirs the imagination and demands a reflection on the bold stylings of a design trend known as “Factory Pomo“.
When we think of the “90s” from a contemporary western perspective, many things come to mind like the renewed sense of optimism and safety after the long “cold war” finally came to a close. In light of America’s supposed position as the now undisputed cultural champion of the world, Factory Pomo entered into the collective consciousness as the new vogue. It wasn’t just that it was visually appealing or easy to replicate, both physically and digitally, but the fact that it symbolized an underlying sense of mastery that echoed the sentiments of America’s brief Art Deco / Raygun Gothic phase.
It was also a statement about western design trends not only standing apart from, but in domination of the global sphere with the new universal visual language of capital and industry. Practical, Evocative, Visionary, Strong, and full of masculine bravado: whether it was a workout video, a fashionable t-shirt, a museum, a science fiction paperback, or a post-modern art gallery, Factory Pomo could seemingly represent or do everything with unprecedented momentum. It was a trend that 90s entertainment companies immediately rushed to adopt, giving everyone a sense that they were now finally moving forward on a path of inevitable progress and prosperity. Helvetica and American Art Deco came together on a high speed bullet train to the future.
This old god is awakened by an era of cultural binaries and tension-driven polarity, the stark vision of its angry mask emerges from the darkness of obscurity to mash you into submission with hands that resemble a mouse pointer. The boss is semi-symbolic of our obsession with the never-past, the false future, our vengeful yearnings come to haunt us in a flurry of rage, flailing about in a rhythmic temper tantrum that the world no longer fits into sleek, sharp boxes of definition and intuitive “common sense” instructions. Its future has been cancelled, and, if it has its way, so is ours.
After all, that’s what Factory Pomo played off of in the first place, a nostalgia for somewhere you’ve never been. When the dreamlike futuristic ambitions of the 1950s (created to restore American confidence in large scale business operations) failed to produce consumer-grade jetpacks and orbital colonies, the atmospheric high of the moon landing found itself followed by the “But.” of the Vietnam war. The following depressive spiral of nihilism that afflicted the zeitgeist left a malaise hanging in the air, harming productivity and leaving rusting manufacturing towns in the forgotten future-past.
What Bryce and Ayden have managed to tap into is a holistic recreation of the era’s traits, a scanline haze blurs the image evoking a half-forgotten memory of flickering CRT monitors, the simplistic music stays in touch with the roots of early digital synthesizers and sampling techniques. Nothing about 1Boss1Battle1Button comes across as out of place, and it would fit right inside a forward-thinking Infocade complete with “Encartacore” trim.
Factory Pomo was a way to tap into the desire to finally restore the order we felt we were entitled to, all while cleverly disguising the throwaway consumptive methodology that has us locked in environmental crisis today. It also represented an implied improvement in Russian-American relations, with the design trend pulling heavily on the Soviet Constructivism renaissance of the post-war era. Harsh contrasts, angular geometry, muscular silhouettes, and perfect circles were now the hallmarks of the neo-american spirit; pragmatic decadence peppered with a “might-and-endurance-make-right” attitude perfect for the unearned political confidence at the apparent “End Of History”.
This jam entry isn’t just a fun stylistic callback to our need to return to the 90s, itself a composite nostalgia built on the prior ambition of decades past, it is a fully-fledged ambassador of the mindset where we once thought we had everything figured out, and that all you really needed was One Boss, One Battle, One Button.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice