Originally published at posts.postlight.com on February 19, 2016. It’s Friday! One thing you can do with computers is the maximum. That is, you can try to do as many things, at once, as you possibly can. And people do. There are whole subcultures organized around making a computer do as much as it can for no practical reason. Once you look for this cultural pattern you can find examples everywhere.
In music, there’s “Black MIDI,” dedicated to the art of playing as many notes as possible in a digital song. For example — “Ode to Insane Joy.” Or “Bad Apple”, with nearly nine million notes (or listen to the original). Or you can hear Call Me Maybe layered on top of itself countless times, or (related), listen to Justin Bieber slowed down 800%. And then there are the mashups: Here are 39 pop songs in four minutes; and of course there’s the work of DJ Earworm, which are always amazing.
In film, there are supercuts — you can see dozens of people get hit by a bus, or go inside every nightclub with bad lighting at once for “Hell’s Club.” There’s the intricate repetition of Cyriak’s work (more), or a Superbowl adsupercut. There was the insanity of the 2008 Speed Racer movie.
But this aesthetic becomes a whole damn thing when you get into 3D and videogames.
People go crazy in 3D. Some like to see how many polygons they can observe and manipulate at once on a given screen. 100 million? A billion? 19 billion? What about 4.5 trillion? How many polygons is too much? Then there are websites that test just how much your browser can handle, like the Polygon Shredder, or the amazing the Solitaire Winner.
But that’s just one axis: Bullets. You can find that one person replaced every sound in the videogame “Morrowmind” with the grunt of Tim Allen. One person figured out how to have 128 Marios playing at once. One person did…something…to Mario…with countless half-presses of the “A” button. One person played SimCity to its absolute limit, building a walled dystopian hellscape of 6 million sim-souls.
People love messing with barrels in the Crysis engine, and of course the entire world of Minecraft is about gently leveling children up from cheerful miners into TNT-exploding maximalists. A lot of video-game hack maximalism is about figuring out how to literally blow up the figurative world — making the biggest explosion possible. Then again some people justwant to add tons and tons of banana-men to their games.
There’s a tradition at work here, going back dozens of years, of seeing what you can get out of the hardware and software at hand, especially if it’s old and busted. The world of high-class, expensive design is all about removing options and making things as simple as possible. The digital maximalists are gleefully adding back all the polygons that they can, making as much of a mess as possible. It’s an enormous amount of work to make a 1981 IBM PC show exciting color graphics, but then again, why not? Working against arbitrary limits leads to exciting and novel results: See, for example, this 3D rotating panda on a Commodore 64.
The Web is of course full of different maximalist whatevers. A search for “Worst Web Pages” gives you a short course in bad design:
But there are also legendary web pages like the sewing and embroidery guide that accidentally increased the font size with every paragraph (they fixed it, but it’s archived).
These are fun to collect. Add anything that should be here to the comments, please.
Thanks to @theEddieH, @a_butler, @mambocab, @maztik8r, @friendofpixels, @rad_fax, @tophtucker, @ethanchiel, @AleexYablon, @spikespike, @livlab, @gretared, @AdrianChen, @mpbambach, @flangy, @said_mitch, @genmom, @jk_keller, @dfglv, @leyawn, @bensk, @lucasrizoli, and @ilikescience. Sorry if I missed anyone.
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