David Lynch Teaches Typing is an absolute delight. It’s easy for me to say that, as a diehard fan of Lynch’s work and as a complete sucker for weird shit like this, but I am being completely sincere. I love everything about this. I won’t even attempt to feign neutrality or critical distance about it.
The game, released a few months after the final episode Twin Peaks Season 3 came out (articles about the game go back as far as February, 2018), merges the core concept of the classic educational game, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, with the themes, aesthetic and even speech pattern of avant-garde director David Lynch. The obvious game comparison here is The Typing of The Dead, but the vibe is closer to something like Frog Fractions, except for spelling. And it’s weirder.
The game begins, conventionally enough, like any other spelling game. David Lynch’s smiling face appears on the top right of an onscreen keyboard, white ascii against a blue background, and he asks you to type various things, but mostly the letters “F” and “J” (which you can do using your physical keyboard). Upon doing so, the impersonated Lynch responds happily with incredibly true-to-life dialogue—the developer, Rhino Stew, captures his essence and his accent near-perfectly. The first few rounds basically go like this, but as the game wears on, things start to get real, real freaky.
Eventually, the game starts to get meta—a tick of self-aware developers that I will never not have a soft spot for, especially when it’s well-executed. For instance, at one point during the game, your playthrough is interrupted by a bug that looks like a combination of the alien baby from Eraserhead and the insect creature featured in Twin Peaks Season 3. Lynch, in his deliberately stilted style of shouting every word, tells the player to click on the “undulating bug.” There is a prompt to do this on the black screen next to his face where other words, letters and instructions appear, but there seems to be no way for the player to actually do this. After a few seconds of the bug writhing, the screen begins to shake and flash, colours and graphics begin to glitch out, and then eventually the player is confronted with an error message and prompt to continue.
The game, so far as I can tell, has only been released in trial version. I looked for more information about a full version, but found nothing, so I’ll have to assume that what exists of David Lynch Teaches Typing is a very short experience that’s playable in mere minutes. I am also going to go ahead and assume that the open question of its eventual full release, at this point, is just one more point of homage to Lynch, who also has a famous tendency of not necessarily always resolving the premises of his own work. The descent continues after this episode with the bug, culminating in a black-and-white short film that’s rich with Lynchian imagery, surreal and existentially dreadful but nonetheless enigmatically beautiful. I don’t want to go into too much detail and give it all away, however. I will say, though, that Rhino Stew has done a stunning job of translating Lynch’s sensibilities and thematic preoccupations into videogame form. To anyone who has paid attention to the alternative games scene for long enough, it should come as no surprise that this translation fits the game like a glove.
David Lynch Teaches Typing is available for free on itch.io, and I highly recommend giving it a whirl if you’re a fan of Lynch and are intrigued by the idea of a game that ably captures his voice. Or, to put it more generally, check this out if you’re interested in the idea of a game that bends its mechanics in order to produce a surreal atmosphere in a way that’s comparable to auteurs like Lynch who bend the language of film. David Lynch Teaches Typing is incredibly on-the-nose with this endeavour, but it also does a great job of it, so I give it two thumbs way up and an eccentric old man’s beatific smile.