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Wednesday, February 28, 2018
We Need Cli-Fi Videogames That Are as Intelligent and Smart as ''Annihilation'' the novel and the movie!
A blogger somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy writes:
[edited for amplification]
When I left the theater after watching the movie Annihilation, I was thinking about what good storytelling does. Anyone who has read the first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, which the film was loosely adapted from, will tell you that the film is drastically different from the novel. Despite the film’s commitment to some pretty heady concepts, the book’s range is even wider, and any given reader-then-watcher would probably tell you that the choices that the film makes to pare the book down into something more filmlike was a work of necessity (whether they like that paring down or not). In thinking about the big ideas of climate fiction, I started thinking about videogames. And I wondered why videogames don’t have their cli-fi versions of Annihilation. They should. I hope in the future we will see them.
The best cli-fi stories work constantly troubles what we think we know. By extrapolating our current society into the future or by introducing a new, unknown thing that changes human life, climate fiction often makes us strange to ourselves. It can function as a kind of bizarre mirror that makes us see our actions in relief, contextualized, and we can use that reflection as a way of getting a handle on what we’re doing.
Without spoiling anything, I feel confident in saying that Annihilation asks us to interrogate what makes us us, and more importantly, if we can deal with any significant alterations to our identities and subjectivities. Politically, we are living during a time when a number of major democracies are swinging rightward and implementing nationalist, far-right policies of social control. Global warming is getting worse faster than we had anticipated, threatening drought, rising sea levels, and the destruction of inhabited land all over the planet. Racist policies of social and economic exclusion continue to exist and be enforced in even the most “enlightened” countries. Shit is bad, and getting worse, and the way that we live our lives is going to fundamentally change in the coming years. We’re living in the middle of it now, and it’s slow, but it’s happening.
And Annihilation stages this as a kind of metaphysical, pseudo-scientific set of questions about what makes me me or you you or a plant itself. It puts these question into the familiar format of CGI special effects and horror film violence and close-up shots of intriguing dialogue being spoken to the camera as much as to the other characters. But it’s hard to walk away from the film and not understand that it was less about what you saw onscreen and more about the ideas that you’re taking away from the argument that those images are making. No one speaks the moral of the story, but when the film closes out, it’s been communicated to an almost-excruciating degree.
I don’t know where this is in our videogames. I’ve heard so much about the storytelling power of games to change the world, but I haven’t played many things that have made me feel changed. Climate fiction videogames seem to still be largely stuck in nowheresville.
When I watched Annihilation, I was thinking about how wonderfully cinema was being used to communicate how small, how strange, and how contingent our lives are as a species. It made me consider me. And here I am, supposedly living in the middle of a ludic century where games are going to take hold of creativity and possibility, and the best I can do in the realm of future thinking is the occasional cyberpunk tactical game or mind-bending roguelike. Give me our cli-fi Annihilation game. I’m ready for it.