Content Warning: Discussions of COVID-19 and social isolation.
Whether we like it or not, we now live in a video game world. Locked doors, empty streets, vehicles with owners nowhere to be seen and wide open cityscapes that go nowhere. There’s stores but no commerce, there’s restaurants but no patrons.
Increasingly, our reality has turned into a skybox or the aesthetic backdrop for a multiplayer power struggle where the server is empty yet the player remains. But there’s still signs of life, diegetic worldbuilding that hints at a larger narrative.
(CW for profanity, mentions of cigarettes, fatalism, mortality and alcohol)
(Disclaimer: This article is presented in its original form, without editing or oversight from the Re:bind team. Enjoy.)
Most of us wont ever know the best nights of our life when they’re happening. That’s what makes getting older hard for so many people out there. History is a short change, it’s easy to feel like no more good nights are coming. Living in the ones that are half remembered. Running through the streets with friends. Living right means having just a few of these to get through life.
Ring. Riiing. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. Who is it? Who could it be? Why….. love is calling….. and it’s… for YOU?
….. Actually, taking a second look at you, you’re kind of…. disheveled? Come to think of it, when was the last time you even showered?! Ugh, well… I… suppose we can work with this? Go change your clothes, slip into something nice, put your receiver on straight, clean your keys, whip out the phone book… yeah, y’know what, I think we can find you…
The American West is not exactly a unique landscape given the ubiquity of Eurowesterns like Western All’Italiana or Osterns, which were Soviet produced films imbued with alternative underlying political subtext to counter capitalism’s individualistic narratives.
Yet despite the inexplicable fixation the global imagination has for of the genre’s impact on our culture having redefined our perspective of Cinema endures to a point of spilling over into video games long past parody.
Countless times through the ages, hundreds of thousands (if not more) fans and players of a multitude of MMOs have congregated in streets, fields, and other such spaces across their worlds; banded together in solitude against the breaking of the light as their preferred online space/game is forever shut down. After a night of dancing emotes, tearful goodbyes, exchanges of contact info, finally, the servers are turned off, and all goes black. Months and years of memories shared amongst friends, old and new, are lost to the ether of time.
The end never comes the same: a meteor collides with the game world, admins summon a legion of demons to murder the players over and over, or a silent simultaneous worldwide death descends on the remaining few. Regardless of method, the end of an MMO always feels like the end of an era for its playerbase. Many pump endless hours into these games, build massive social networks, and eek out every ounce of fun the game could possibly contain — and, when necessary, make their own. The freeform play of MMOs brings together all kinds, and when the bills can’t continue to be paid for upkeep, all of these people unite once more in the face of loss.
That is until those fans rob the grave and prop the body back up to keep the fun going.
Edutainment…. EDUTAINMENT! a frankengame meant to EDUCATE, striking cringe into the hearts of all young gamers everywhere, shudder. The only thing we’ve ever traditionally learned from school is the many ways which lessons are painfully dull, to the point that games like Frog Fractions have famously riffed on their ineffectiveness.
But what if we could envision a world that was different? A world where you could have fun….. AND… learn something, without making a mockery of both the subject and you as a person?
With the release of the hyped final entry in the most recent Star Wars trilogy, eyes have turned to the lackluster reception and immediate backpedaling present in the subtext. With numerous concessions made to comply with fan backlash since the first entry, heated debates about the appropriate level of fan service, the responsibilities surrounding a reboot or revival, and arguments on who should helm one of the most established contemporary pop media franchises, has finally culminated in one tumultuous yawn. Not quite a failure, not quite a success- just a lingering bitter taste in the mouth of those with expectations cultivated beyond reason. The impossibly high bar of quality demanded induced by runaway marketing strategies, artifically assembled as a sort of bulwark, a last ditch defensive effort by media corporations against cynical counter-culture.
It becomes increasingly self-evident with every passing year that we have an ethical obligation moving forward to examine the conditions that lead to this scenario, there are many lessons regarding the future of interactive media, film, and commercial games and the toxic influences that pervade each respective industry. As hardware innovation and novel inspiration reduce to a simmer, an uneasy sense of doubt begins to take root in the institutions we take for granted on a daily basis. The audience’s enthusiasm that has driven us unquestionably to this point begins to run dry- suddenly, the glamour has worn off and we’re no longer impressed with the emperor’s new clothes.
Where will the next decade take us when we can no longer coast on established success and the familiar momentum of presumption? after all, ‘He who controls the spice-‘ waitaminute, wrong franchise!
There was a kind of magical sensation, a sort of delightful glee that would wash over you when, at the edge of Computer Store, you found a powered-on IBM Windows PC. As it towers over you, you hover your mouse over the start menu and your cursor grazes over an icon, firing a nerve impulse the strongest you’ve felt since hiding in a dark room during a game of hide-and-seek, or burning your hand for the first time.
That icon is for SkiFree – each session you’ve ever played has felt as exhilarating as though you could feel the wind in your hair. What a funny game it is, to briefly grant you unlimited freedom, only to cruelly snatch it away in the claws of that terrifying entity, the Abominable Snowman himself. Is this what people older than you considered “fun”, you think to yourself? “Who is this for?”
Is home a physical space or a state of mind? Then again, maybe it’s the feeling of booting up a long-forgotten machine, comforting clicking churrs audible as an ancient magnetic platter spins to life. This is, in my experience, the real homeland for many of our generation, a world locked within the shifting grains of decaying binary, digits, and bits left to erode like so many distant ancestral abodes.