The surrealism of “How Fish Is Made”


Aman_Daharwal, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Surrealism (noun): a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature which sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.

Denzel Valle, News Reporter

The beauty of surrealism is that it can elevate themes being told through words and visuals. A great example is stories, whether they are made to be read or seen. I believe the greatest medium for surrealism would have to be video games because they could enhance the aspects of surrealism by giving the person playing a feeling that they are experiencing it, rather than feeling like an outsider looking in.

Through the media of video games, you can play with sounds, visuals, storytelling, and, what I believe to be the most important, visual storytelling. To differentiate between visuals, storytelling, and visual storytelling, it would be easier to explain what I mean. While instilled by the basic parts of telling and constructing a story, visuals do not have to be connected with storytelling, especially in the writing you describe, does not necessarily mean that they give important information, it could be aesthetically or help the reader visualize. As well as for storytelling, it does not have to tell us the visuals of that scene unless it was to enhance the reader’s enjoyment or to help picture a scenery or item. Now with visual storytelling, it combines both aspects without having to do dialogue, whether they want to or not is up to the writers.

The usage of graphics are meant to invoke emotion, messages, themes, and information that reaches the audience. With that, it helps to let surrealism be a good way of storytelling, especially when done with the medium of video games because it is more immersive than other mediums because of player input. An example of a game using its surrealism well would have to be How Fish Is Made by Johanna Kasurinen, Jeffery Tomec, and Martin Halldin which places you, the player, as a fish in a machine going through the path of choice of going up or going down. Now the obvious connotation would be the religious aspect of going to heaven or hell, but then why would every other fish be adamant that their option is the correct one? Every other fish that you encounter has an opinion on whether the option of going up or the option going down is the right choice. They think their choice is the right one, but they do not know what is after, some are confused about which choice is the right one. There is a fish that could tell you how many went up and or down, the fish asked twice for confirmation if knowing would make the answer easier to decide. It did not, but it is surprising to hear that about 400 went down, and less than 200 went up. In hindsight though if you knew the endings would you tell the fish a different answer, especially if the endings are basically the same thing? If you were to choose up then you would be served up as a nice fish sandwich, and if you were to choose down then you among the hundreds of other fishes would become a part of a mass of flesh, wailing, a Lovecraftian amalgamation, a useless all-knowing god.

“You know I always hated hearing. ‘Don’t worry, a lot of people are going through the same thing. You’re not alone.’ There’s this selfish, barbed wire inside my chest that coils up at that. ’No, my pain is more tragic. Grander! Deeper! If only you knew!’ That’s not true, of course. I hate talking about it. Because I hate people who talk about it. And that’s not very nice, that’s not okay, that’s not how you can be about all this. It’s not romantic, but at least it’s true. Don’t worry, a lot of people are going through the same thing.” -How Fish Is Made (2022)

The thing is no one really knows what choices are going to lead us until after we choose them, and in hindsight, we could criticize the actions taken in the past, but in the moment we do not know the consequences that our choices will lead us to. Just like the fishes they do not know what the choices would lead them to and it is not just those who are unsure, it is all the fishes, those certain and uncertain, that are going through the same thing. At least that is how I take the quote directly from the game itself, even if they want to feel like the only one, others are going through it as well. The game How Fish Is Made is a horror game, but it will still indulge in silly aspects no matter how dark it becomes once you think about it just a little, and I think that is what makes it perfect as a game that tells its themes.