Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beyond Good And Evil: A Game For The Post 9/11 World

It is no surprise that a game named after a Friedrich Nietzsche book has layers of philosophical and political depth. Beyond Good And Evil is a game for the War In The Middle East, post-9/11 world; a game that applies even better to a WikiLeaks world of 2012. in my opinion, than the world of 2003. 

 The Alpha Sections are the primary antagonists in this game. They are can be thought of in various different ways, depending on how you interpret the game. Hillys, the planet the game takes place on, is under an apparent threat of the DomZ, a species of hostile extraterrestrials who appear to be attacking the planet parallel to the activities of the Alpha Sections. The Alpha Sections essentially hijack the planet's political system, taking credit for "holding back" the DomZ. They achieve this through propaganda that is viewable on every street corner in the City that constantly parrots the "success" of the Alpha Sections, and how the opponents (a rebelling network named IRIS) need to be stopped at all costs.
 There are two ways I've thought about this game (which doesn’t mean there aren’t many other possible interpretations). The first is from the view of the Middle Easterners in our world (the Hillyans in their universe.)
 The Alpha Sections may be an analogue for the United States. In the view of some people, America used 9/11 as an opportunity to invade Afghanistan (some people even say America caused it, though those two viewpoints don't necessarily intersect.) The Alpha Sections established power on Hillys because the attacks by the DomZ frightened people to submission, and made people more lenient about the actions of those who defended them. As a result, some people think America only promoted war in Afghanistan because the populace was scared. The Taliban and al-Qaeida might even be represented by the DomZ, a catalyst towards invasion, a scapegoat for people that were lying. 
 However, the game might also be interpreted from the side of America. We might see the Taliban working with al-Qaeida, and want to be the whistle blowers that stop it. Perhaps the IRIS Rebel Network is an analogue to the people who worked with the US and their allies in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban. They exist to promote the truth to Hillys, to bring about freedom. Their only way to break through propaganda was the truth, and the truth was communicated with photographic evidence. 
 Another interesting idea, however you choose to interpret the game, is the optimistic idea that informed citizens will do the right thing. In some ways, the IRIS Network reminds me of organizations like WikiLeaks; they exist only to tell citizens the truth. What Hillyans actually do with the photographic evidence isn't sure until the end of the game where the whole populace is in open defiance of the lying Alpha Sections. Certainly, this view is optimistic; we have people in our world that can easily see the evidence of the truth, but choose not to listen. However, something about it is comforting and romantic; the idea that people will listen to the truth and change their world because of it is a powerful one. 

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