Just Keep Playing, Don’t Think Too Hard: A Message from Corporation X
Thank you for tuning into our live press conference. We do hope you’ve enjoyed seeing all of the great games that you’ll be spending money on soon enough. Yes, some things have happened internally—maybe you’ve even heard about them—but you shouldn’t worry your pretty little heart with them. Just keep playing. None of it affects the games you play. Don’t think too hard, just press “X” to jump. And the best part is that none of the games you’ll be pressing “X” to jump in are political at all—yes, this includes the game that takes place in a vague fascist nation and the newest title in the long-running series inspired by a now-dead (but everliving through our games) war-mongering author! Hell, even our “Mr. Robot but even more online and fueled by Monster Energy and Sour Straws” game looks political, but trust us, it really doesn’t even have anything to say. See the voucher below to download your free game and thanks again for tuning in—please do not think too hard about us, just play our games.
Phew, now that we’ve got that aside, that Ubisoft presser sure was some bullshit, huh? The state of games in 2020 is such a toxic, fractured hellscape that engaging with any of it, especially AAA, is just an exercise in counting down the moments until I just tune out or start to fundamentally rethink my past and future history with games. Maybe I should just sell all of my consoles and buy more books and Criterion Blu-rays—I’d be a hell of a lot happier. But I also bought Dead Rising 1 for five bucks on my Xbox One and it is legitimately one of the best videogames that I’ve ever played. In understanding that it is a piece of interactive, functionally disposable art, it reaches out to the player on even ground. Yes, it is a dumb-as-shit experience where you play as a granite slab of a man who beats zombies to death with whatever he can get his dad hands on. In a mall (and under capitalism), everything is a weapon. Turns out, you can do so much work thematically and politically without posturing as a grimdark prestige title.
Also, every videogame should feel the closing in of time itself. Constraints are good. No one needs to engage with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey—a game that gives you all the time in the world only for the two-hundredth hour to feel the exact same as the fifth hour. Dead Rising only lasts a few odd hours (though it is very replayable) and each hour feels more important than the last because the whole game is constrained under a time limit. This mechanic makes every step, every action feel incredibly important. It turns out that pressing “X” to watermelon a zombie’s head can actually mean something beyond visceral satisfaction when the very act of doing that violence means spending some amount of time. Time keeps going, it does not stop. Games should embrace time more. Oh, and also AAA I’m talking directly to you here, stop letting me press “X” to meditate and let time pass. Gamers are babies, make them wait. Make me wait. Don’t let a mission unlock until morning and make me find my own fun/story in the time between starting that mission. If Shenmue could get it right like twenty years ago, then there’s really no excuse to keep messing it up.
I’m glad I have Dead Rising right now. I am holding onto it and refusing to let it go because 2020 has been the most tired and angry I’ve ever felt at and with games. In many ways, I am so, so done with them. But Dead Rising and other indie titles like A Short Hike, If Found, and Mama Possum (a game I always go back to, thanks Cam for putting it on a class syllabus one time) show me why I fell in love with games in the first place. They can do things other art forms cannot but AAA game dev (and the various hack sad dad game directors) cannot (or refuse to) shake the notion that games can only be art when they ape from literature or cinema. Why would I pay sixty dollars for a facsimile of a story from a better art form? No thanks. Games can and should be games. Just let them fucking be games and pay your workers living wages, fire all white dude AAA game directors, let other people tell stories, piss off right-wing baby gamers, and hurl every harasser into the sun so that their skin fries from their bones. I’m so angry and sad and bored and done with games. But I’ll still be here. Hell, I’ll probably always be here. At least I have Dead Rising.