Guy Debord argued in his 1967 work, La société du spectacle, that modern culture was subject to an ongoing impoverishment of authenticity, a controlled demolition of the boundaries that distinguish past and present in favor of the all-encompassing spectacle.
The Last Day is a dutiful exploratory adventure piece that illustrates this concept succinctly, presenting us with an experience that drives to the heart of how the bleak erasure of divisions between the personal and professional, even having lost within ourselves any sense of ownership over our private time, has affected us on a deeply scarring level. Through the sacrifice of unpaid labor and personal time upon the altar of The Commute, we cede our agency to uncaring concrete gods in hopes they will grant our meek wishes for modest fortunes in return.
Beginning in a quiet office, our protagonist rises from his cubicle to embark on this, his final commute, with the only objective being to guide him home safely. Dystopian drones enforce mundane traffic ordinance with extreme high voltage prejudice, the capriciously unforgiving nature of navigating trivial seeming puzzles often resulting in an untimely death. Aesthetically, it’s Playtime (1967) meets Limbo (2010) in the most flattering way possible, but unlike it’s spindly silhouetted platforming ancestor, The Last Day subtextually stands apart as a more poignant social commentary. Every sparking electrical outlet, every obtuse, seemingly counter-intuitive puzzle solution furthers the message of the work: Capital maintains itself at the cost of all else, reliant upon labyrinthine and difficult to parse systems designed not for ease of use or human welfare, but to more firmly entrench extant power structures and keep the worker working for itself, whether this labor is productive or barren. The system’s cruelty is its ultimate point.
Studio Kiku has managed to establish a dystopic fiction that hits too close to home, not because of the ways the petty panopticon of near-future capital violently micromanages your actions, but rather the relatable ways in which it neglects your personal needs. The office is a sanctuary devoid of harm or hazardous obstacles that could immediately be perceived as threatening your productivity, but in the outside world danger is merely pedestrian, a constant in the otherwise chaotic and unpredictable meatgrinder of planes, trains, and automobiles. The message here is clear: if your personal time has no direct perceived value to productivity, then it may as well not exist in the eyes of the workplace. Even when we become sick, we often must enact the labor of proving to our employers that illness exists, after all, corporations don’t get sick, so how could their cogs?
Our protagonist is even incapable of withstanding the inclement elements, as simply attempting to peek outside the exit without his overblown winter coat and scarf will unleash a traumatic gust of wind and snow. He is tethered to the creature comforts of the modern office as if it was a moon colony, his only interface with the outside world done through the surrogate tactility of a space suit, but in a world of astronauts, your helmets ensure distance by design.
The Last Day is an astoundingly well composed visual buffet, obviously informed by the background of Studio Kiku’s team considering that Dennis Cabella is a film-maker / animator with an extensive background in TV productions, and Daniele De Batté is a multi-disciplinary designer across many artistic mediums. It’s clear that this duo’s pedigree shines through in every moment of polish over the course of the demo, from the stunning introduction elevator sequence as you exit the offices, down to the memorably mundane subway ride transition to the urban outskirts.
A small package with a heavy subtext, The Last Day is a reminder of the ways in which the shallow pursuit of corporate prestige is inevitably all-consuming, that even if we manage to fully integrate ourselves into the system, the moment our liability exceeds our immediate value, we’ll be left out in the cold to be devoured by what lurks on the outskirts of Capital’s walled garden.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice