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RE:BIND

How has it come to this? As far as I can see from my apartment, lofted high above the deserted streets — save a car or two — there’s nothing. Nothing but property management companies and liquor stores. A never-ending sprawl of grey, lifeless, dead nothing. Why bother? Another rejection letter from another application to another company. The bills pile high, high, higher and I drown. The rain outside trickles through the cracks in the walls. I check the fridge for a bite, decide against it. But, even after walking away from the kitchen, the hunger in my stomach bares knots that demand something be put in there. I go back, take another look: empty. Ah. Right.

These days just blur, endlessly, into a homogenous murk of misery. I forgot to get the groceries yesterday. Well, not so much forgot as I can’t, because of the whole “being broke” thing. The kitchen fills, threatening to burst, with dirty dishes. When had I done them last? Had I ever? I can’t recall the feeling of it, much less what the motivation would be like should it strike. The bills continue to pile. Lights short out, one by one. But never the lights outside. The city shines a dim, red haze in the twilight. It can’t stop, for if it ever ceased consuming those who live in it, who would gild the thrones the powerful sit atop? A stepladder of exploitation allows the climb to that seat, for the glorious few who can surmount the scramble below, those with the generational luck to be boosted past those unfortunate many.

But those below? The hungering masses, desperate to survive, clinging to a now-hollow life built on a foundation bricked with Skinner Boxes. Keep pulling the lever, get the reward. What happens when the lever is unreachable? What about the mice trapped in this cruel experiment, starving, a systemic wall separating them from the mocking lever? I lay in bed, ruminating on that lever, that escape, that freedom. I can’t muster much else, and it’s not like there’s anything else for me to even do. How I’d love to put in the effort, how I’m craving a place to be needed, how I can’t live without the cycle keeping me afloat for its feedback loops that are too great to escape.

Yet, I am detritus.

A red light fangs through the window, grows ever-brighter. The hell is this?

I lurch from bed and peer out the window. There’s… lights floating above the city? The window opens, and I am lifted into the sky, the light enveloping me. When I’m granted vision again, I look down over this place, the city far below me. A cricket begins to speak: “The hopelessness you feel has been consciously designed.”

They Came From a Communist Planet (TCFaCP from here on), from David Cribb (@colestia) and Elijah Cauley (@small_signs), is a powerhouse. Following up from Cribb’s previous title, A Bewitching Revolution, the two have created a harangue, a demand for the status quo to no longer be. Revolution focused on the action of the individual rippling out to uplift the many, and the unity that can come from that. It’s soft, subtle, but does not waver in the intensity of driving home its messages. As I stated in my coverage of it, it is “something of an interactive manifesto, laying out the crimes of the bourgeois, a call to arms against the demands of labor and the exploitation of those forced to take part in the rat race.” TCFaCP is very much the inverse of it.

First and foremost, TCFaCP is downright angry at the state of our world. The gameplay is built around the act of rioting. As you descend from the heavens, back to the city, civil disobedience has permeated the whole of the populace. You kick down barricades, and are granted a gift from the visitors: the ability to throw. Bricks become your raison d’être, flung through windows of corporate establishments and at riot police alike. Both scatter to pieces under their weight. The crowd you amassed with slams them into CCTV cameras implanted within streetlights. Advertisements are shattered and replaced with graffiti, iconography decrying the rat race we are all tied to.

Throughout your uprising, the visitors will bestow other gifts upon you: molotovs, gas masks, but their greatest boon is that of political critique. They cry for the plight humanity is forced to undergo, providing views on the inequity inherent to this societal system, and the need to break free of its grasp. These words become emblazoned across buildings lining the streets, their shine cutting through the hazy sky, a mantra to repeat as you rip apart the machine rending your livelihood.

The ennui of existence weighs heavy on us all nowadays. I’m sure your Twitter feed is aplenty of other’s apathy much like my own. Capitalism makes fools of us all, especially those who don’t fit within the neat, orderly boxes of packaged, palatable life that goes with the grain and questions nothing. We mangy mutts have spent our time here, together, and most know community far better than any among the majority. For the queers, for the outcasts, for the burnouts, for those left behind, we have one another, and we always will. It is truly our greatest strength.

Not a day goes by where financial ruin doesn’t loom overhead. For some, it’s a far-off dread that has been sufficiently distanced by luck and thrift. For others, it’s a constant struggle against the poor hand they were dealt at the onset; medical burdens, debts, abuse, and so on. The reasons differ but the outcome remains the same: we fight the current, to not be swept away, to not starve, or go homeless, or lose our loved ones. It’s a fight that can’t be won alone. Some can try, and some can succeed, but the odds are increasingly stacked in favour of the house. So then, is the attempt to fight and tackle the odds a gambler’s fallacy? Success now won’t mean success later, and who knows how bad things can get. Carrying that weight becomes insurmountable after a point for those who can’t stand the burden any longer.

But none of us are alone.

It doesn’t take an invasion of benevolent alien benefactors to realize that banding together is the way out of this mess. Truly, there is nothing that cannot be surmounted with sufficient community and care for one another. If it comes to a head, we can fight together, fight back, and we can win. “Capitalism is always at war,” one of the visitors says. A war against the people. Against humanity. Against hope. Against organization, and strength, and unity.

Wars have victors and an ending. Should Capitalism continue met with no resistance, there will never be an ending for it as it is an ouroboros that will simply eat itself forever; endlessly destroying the past for momentary gains in the future for no reason other than to continue and profit. There is no victor, but the people will always lose. Catharsis is good, it gives an out for frustration and fear, which TCFaCP provides in spades. It’s certainly the kind of power fantasy we need nowadays.

However, it’s also a playbook. A broad brushstroke of revolution, but it paints the outlines nonetheless. Fragmented possibilities exist within its promulgation, the hope for a waning future. Its basic aspects are all we need to take hold of that possibility: desire and collaboration. The systems in place will always be able to take us down individually, but in a unified push, there’s no way to stop all of us. We will always outnumber them.

They Came From a Communist Planet is currently available on itch.io and Steam.


Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.