I’m anxiously anticipating the arrival of the sheer insanity that acts a a spiritual successor to one of my favourite games ever. Bioshock is imminent, the videos are actually quite scary, and some of the ideas at play here might make it something like a horrific playground….including the brutal murder of little girls….apparently.
Now, I should make clear that there is more to the game than killing children, and the children are technically monsters…but yeah….I think playing is going to be a really uncomfortable experience. There’s a point when games are about more than just ‘fun’. There’s a sense of atmosphere and unease that makes the previous ‘shock’ games a delight to play…though you do genuinely have to stop playing because you fear for the cleanliness of your underwear.
Now that’s not something that happens when playing pac man…often.
Anyway, I was reading a piece in a magazine left on a table in the cafe, and Levine, the head honcho over at irrational games, was talking about how the Rapture, the underwater paradise/hell on earth that the game takes place in, was intended to be a utopia, but somewhere on the line, as according to Levine, so often happens, it became a dystopia. More info on the Bioshock world is over at the wiki entry.
Now there’s a familiar sci fi trope. The great plan for a wonderful society that goes horribly wrong.
These aren’t the cyberpunk dystopias, which are more like cynical (ie realistic) extrapolations of current human behaviour, in a post singularity world in which hi-tech is cheap and normal…but people are still mean spirited and the world is still screwed up, and mostly owned by the ‘corporations’, the military industrial complex writ capitalist in extremis.
For me, and I may be wrong, a real dystopia, like a utopia, has to be based on a moral decision. A specific societal change that defines and effects every aspect of life within that society. At the very least the whole world is defined by a particular ideology (a la 1984) and a system of thought, dystopias are supposed to be warnings, generally political ones.
Now this is always interesting, and it does make sense that these grand decisions are only made in an attempt to create a utopia…nobody aims for failure, especially not failure complete enough to make a completely horrific way of life a reality. Though I guess sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. If you’re the one in charge then you might be happy….but for the most part that don’t make for good stories (especially not interesting/educational ones).
So we have these decisions, this hope for a brighter future, and it goes sour. What’s the common thread?
It’s all about the dogmatism, the monolithic structure of the society structure.
In many ways, cultures are like people, they need a certain amount of flexibility, they need to pay attention to the needs of the bits that make them up. For people that means the body and mind, for a society, it means the people.
As above, so below.
Try not to make your life too focussed on one point of view or goal, allow room for change. If you notice something withering and becoming painful, make a change. Look for imbalance and fight it.
Society and mind need harmony, balance and more than just one rule to live by.
Flexibility is fun and healthy.