The word maximalism is very rarely used. So rarely, in fact, that the spell checker is bitching at me to change it. Apparently it’s not in the dictionary or whatever. It’s singularly linked in my brain to this picture that Esquire ran of Takashi Miike awhile back (apparently his name’s not a word either):
Now what I wasn’t aware of before starting this article is that maximalism is apparently a poorly documented artistic movement. Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace have been described as maximalist writers due to their extensive use of reference, digression, and like 100 pages of fucking endnotes that one time. Endnotes, also not a word. You heard it here first. Another lit-wonk called their work hysterical realism, which seems pretty accurate considering that reading enough Wallace could probably make anyone uneasy. The Big Red Son is an essay so jam packed with extra facts and figures about the porn industry that you won’t even look in the mirror after a shower for a week.
This kind of throws a wrench in my whole line of thinking, because there is no way, in good conscience, that I can compare Q*Bert to these giants. Q*Bert is something, but literary is not that thing. In its original incarnation Q*Bert was a game that involved turning colored squares into other colored squares. There are occasionally snakes. Q*Bert says cuss words when he loses. It’s basically isometric Pac-Man without AI or tight controls or pop culture currency, but I digress.
This update to Q*Bert, which I was going to call maximalist, I am instead going to call a hot mess. It’s like a tech demo for the Super FX chip with Q*Bert pasted on top of it. It’s immensely distracting, possibly seizure-inducing, and severely unpleasant to play. I’ve been entirely unable to suss out the designer’s reason for doing this.
We can probably chalk up the stark minimalism of the original Q*Bert to technical limitations, but how do we account for this? Was this what was going through the creator’s head when they first started putting pixels to screen? Was this their chance, at long last, to make this 16-bit fever dream a reality?
Maybe this is an early 90’s example of web design creep? Did a series of compromises lead to this?
I’m not sure what to believe.