So I was reading my friend Isaac’s blog, his links specifically, when I came across his link to me:
“I have no idea why Borut chose the name ‘Plush Apocalypse’ for his site. I’m still waiting for him to explain.”
Which made me laugh out loud for some reason. It still does, actually.
That’s because I know I have a tendency towards obtuse titles for my own work – there’s a true art in coming up with a title, one that makes a person intrigued enough, but still unsure of what it might contain, that they open it up (or click & read, in this case). And I don’t necessarily know that I’ve mastered that art yet, so maybe I should explain a little.
First, I’ll admit I’m somewhat fascinated with tales of the end of the world – maybe a bit inevitable for any of us born in the shadow of a millenium, I suppose. We see stories about the end of the world all the time. Especially in video games (you’re also usually an orphan, magically healed by green herbs, and the ultimate evil threatening the world always shapeshifts into a much larger form just as you think it’s done for, but I digress).
There’s many versions of this sort of tale. There’s the cautioning of the evils of “Science!” (pretty much any story where something mutated into something bigger, uglier and, on average, oozier). There’s the warning of controlling our aggressive tendencies (as in Dr. Strangelove). Or our rampant abuse of the planet’s natural resources (ala The Road Warrior). And the zombies, can’t forget the zombies.
But one version of end of the world never seems to be covered much… the one where we basically grow fat and stupid saturating ourselves in meaningless diversions and luxuries – losing all sense of priorities, value, and meaning by slow, accidental degradation, causing many more dire, drastic, and horrifying consequences. To be fair, Mike Judge does sort of cover that in Idiocracy. And occasionally the zombies serve as a metaphor for this too (as in Shaun of the Dead, but not as in Night of the Living Dead, where they’re a metaphor for communism… Or was that Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Er, maybe both).
So what’s the point, other than maybe being a little depressing, and talking about zombies? Well, today, one of the lead stories on Yahoo covered what Paris Hilton would experience going to jail. The Iraq War? What the fuck’s that? Genocide in Darfur? Huh? Who’s winning on American Idol, that’s what I want to know. Or more accurately, that’s what I’m going to be told, regardless of what I want to know.
And in games, it’s the same thing. Games are “fun”. They can’t show you anything outside of that one tiny piece of the entire spectrum of the human condition. They certainly can’t have any meaningful message or can’t be used as a vehicle, directly or via analogy, to point out societal ills. We’d rather ooh and ahh over a controller that can be waved around in the air like a tennis racket, magic wand, or light saber, than discuss games that do that.
TV’s Angel tells perhaps my favorite apocalyptic tale, where the end of the world spans a 1000 year battle of good vs. evil. The war can never really be won, but if you don’t fight, it will assuredly be lost. And this version of the end of the world is much the same.
The whole reason I got into games was to be able to make games that talked about these kinds of things. When I was a little kid, spellbound by the games I was playing, I knew their persuasive power even then. Meanwhile I was also spellbound by stuff like the original Star Trek, and lots more science fiction of the time, which covered the whole gamut of social problems in various guises. And the problems of today, this disconnect between things like the horrors we support via our elected officials, and the things we actually choose to spend our time and mental energy on, it’s something that desperately needs discussion. My chosen medium of expression is games, which means I think a lot about discussing these problems in that form.
So, welcome to The Plush Apocalypse.