#SaveShenmue and the Rise of the Shenmuenista
A lot has happened in the last week. Whether you are a gamer or non-gamer numerous events have entered the cultural consciousness, for better and for worse.
For gamers, E3 has wrapped up and, in my opinion, it was outstanding. It was a surprise that E3 was so good because usually, also in my opinion, E3 kind of sucks.
Year after year we see announcements and promotions of the annual shovel-ware and supposed or pre-supposed AAA hits. Microsoft and Sony duel for who can have the most spectacular show, who can squeeze out a few first party announcements, and who can tease the inevitable AAA exclusive. Nintendo does their song and dance telling us that they’re still going to support whatever platform of theirs is dying with [insert various Nintendo franchise].
And worst of all, EA and Ubisoft try to play it cool and be the suits who wear hipster costumes for a day while telling us their with-it projects are still relevant, and not at all the same as they were the year before. Not usually a big fan of any of it, personally, but I am always suckered into watching it.
At this point in my life (late 20’s, lifelong gamer) I only tend to play games that are “up my alley”. I have my preferences, types, and favorite games already ‘set’. It’s rare when a new game will blow me away like it did when I was younger. The last games that truly impressed me—and I mean really impressed me—were Half-Life 2 and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
But not too long ago I got to play another game that took it to that level—The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
It was the first game I could say actually changed the way I looked at how games were being made and made me anticipate the way they’ll be in the future for a very long time. It got me excited, once again, to be a gamer. As such, I was ready for E3 with new eyes.
This year, two big things happened that shook me. First, the reveal of a fully remade Final Fantasy VII and second, the announcement of an official Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue III.
If you look back to March 2014, I penned an article on some of the strategies activists were suggesting to get Shenmue III made. In it, I argued that all avenues are all acceptable and there was only one essential plan: we needed to get involved.
Yu Suzuki, in his announcement video at E3, echoed the same thing. Yu needs YOU.
If you’ve been following the story this week, you know it has been a tremendous effort already. It met its funding goal in under 24 hours. I don’t know if it’s any record breaker, but it surely must be one of the fastest growing campaigns in Kickstarter history.
The point is simple. We as gamers control this industry more than we are given credit for.
The climate in gaming culture is in fact changing. We have a lot of say in what we want made, and if we demand it long and loud enough, we might just get it.
Fight Shin-Ra, Join AVALANCHE
For non-gamers, the big stories of the week included a few things, both good and bad. First, we had a lot of new people enter the American President election (yuck, boring). We also had some sports teams win some sports games (go teams, go!). We saw the end of season five of Game of Thrones (he lives; believe it). But it’s not all fun and games here, there were two other things that were both big and bad.
The thing on many people’s minds and tongues is the recent terror attack in Charleston, North Carolina. Say what you will, but this deliberate and well-planned event was filled with symbolism and historic significance. On June 17th, Dylann Storm Roof gunned down nine constituents at the Emanuel African Methodist Church during a bible study. This date is the 193rd anniversary of a thwarted slave revolt initiated by the founder of that Church.
We only know so much about this guy and his real motives, but we have a fair amount of information as to his ideology or worldview. We’ve seen a picture of him wearing a jacket sporting the flags of Rhodesia and South Africa under apartheid or, in another way, white rule. We’ve also heard anecdotal evidence about what he said during the attack, namely that this was due to black men raping white women and the general advancement of colored people. Of course, we cannot substantiate that, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable or even unlikely.
The debate arising, at the moment, is not about whether this was motivated by hatred or racism, but whether Dylann Storm Roof is a terrorist or not.
It’s an interesting question, because American media is not consistent on what counts as terrorism and what doesn’t. If you’re American, I think you probably already know what a terrorist looks like. Close your eyes right now. Who do you see? We both know who it is.
It’s not Dylann.
The next thing on people’s minds is the release of Laudato Si, the latest Papal Encyclical on creation, climate change, and the reality of imminent crisis in our midst.
To some, this is a fantastic step in the right direction. To bring Christians and Catholics, more specifically, towards supporting the scientific consensus of climate change is, in fact, a real thing.
But if you actually read the Encyclical, you’d know it’s not really about the science. Rather, it’s a lamentation. It’s a crying out for stewardship, brotherly love, and true peace on our planet. It is a sense of justice in relation to the good.
In it, Pope Francis suggests we need a cultural revolution in order to throw off the shackles binding us to terrible patterns of consumption and pollution. The problems he addresses condemn and cast shame onto major corporations and individuals alike. In order to fix it, we will need to look into ourselves, but also look at the broader system that perpetuates it. This is of course all well and good, and this document certainly appeals to the heart, but it is short on real solutions as to how we will get there. But the seed is planted anyway.
It reminds me of another group who believed in something not totally dissimilar: AVALANCHE.
The story of Final Fantasy VII is frequently debated in retrospect. Is it bad or is it good? Does it make sense? How would they go about a remake when so much of it was unintelligible?
Personally, I think the story in Final Fantasy VII is very good. And I think it does make sense. But it takes some discerning, just as many good stories do.
What would you say is the general narrative arc of the game? I bet if you asked five people you could get five different answers. Some might say it’s about Cloud Strife and his life. Some might say it’s about true love, related to the infamous love triangle. Some might say it’s about following and fighting Sephiroth. Others might say it’s about fighting Shin-Ra and the story of AVALANCHE. It is about all these things, but I would say it’s about something even bigger.
It’s about the struggle of Life and Death.
Yeah, okay, I know you just rolled your eyes but ultimately it’s true.
Without getting too much into the plot (in case you haven’t played it or it’s been long enough that you’ve forgotten), just remember the story ends in the Lifestream, aided by HOLY, destroying the meteor—a calamity which would destroy the world.
The existence of AVALANCHE arises in the context of a world where a corporation, or major organization, could exploit resources to such a degree where there would be a belief the world is in grave danger. To the point where the Apocalypse is NOW.
Pope Francis laments in a similar fashion in his Encyclical. He suggests that apocalyptic visions, doomsayers, and other sorts of dramatic accounts of reality in relation to the environment cannot be ignored any longer. Rather, instead we need to take seriously the warning of these doomsters and imagine a reality where the civilization we live in could in fact not exist.
The Twisted World of Dylann Storm Roof
The Twisted World of Elliot Rodger, a manifesto penned by the shooter of Isla Vista, told a tale of how a young man could go on a shooting spree over the supposed reason that he hated women and it was an injustice they did not love him they way he saw fit.
It is not a simple link from one point to another where we get a very full picture of a life as we did with Rodger, but with Roof we hear at least why he may have thought it was necessary. He, like many other segregationists and supremacists I have read, believe there is a legitimate difference between the races that extends beyond culture, well into the realm of scientific inquiry. Things like lower IQ’s, higher rates of testosterone, a propensity towards violence or rape and other things like this—we’ve heard it before.
Whether you agree with it or not isn’t really a big point in the long run. Instead, let me play out a scenario for you and, regardless of what you believe about our differences, tell me if you think it matters we are all in the same boat.
Pretend for a moment global climate change is real. That, like the United Nations says, it’s no longer about whether we can stop it, but whether we can survive it.
Scientists say this; the royalty and political officers of all nations say this; and our elite religious leadership says this. Most people around the world agree. This is nearly a consensus.
On one planet in crisis, what matters most of all? My culture and my heritage? Yours?
The answer is our survival.
Interestingly, if we look at any projection for what will happen under the current models suspected for this type of climate change, it will disproportionately affect those who are the poorest and the nations which already are the most unsustainable long term.
What would Dylann want us to do? Already, he is very upset with immigrants and ethnic minorities affection his culture and heritage. But the fact remains that if things continue to sour in the ways scientists and leaders of all kinds suspect, it will only affect nations less affected as well. We will have to be their refuge, to some degree.
It’s hard not to imagine that Dylann, like the poor souls he is judging, have been influenced by a culture of scarcity that pits lower classes of people against each other. They believe there are only so many resources and worse yet, certain people believe certain groups are entitled to resources more than others (for example, whites founded the country therefore whites are entitled the spoils).
This, of course, is untrue. There are plenty of resources on this planet—enough to feed everyone. Anyone who is telling you otherwise is lying to you. The problem is not quantity, it’s production; it’s distribution; it’s ownership.
A group like AVALANCHE existed below and against groups that would seek to exploit the resources of our planet and profit off of the degradation of society benefiting a small minority of people.
They were called terrorists because they acted in such a way that those who controlled the narrative were destabilized by their actions. But, at the same time, what they did was truly terrifying. They destroyed MAKO reactors with well placed bombs; they invaded Shin-Ra HQ; they even attacked their officials, forcing change with violent revolution.
They didn’t see themselves as terrorists, they saw themselves as revolutionaries and renegades. They believed that they had to act in the best interest of society and the broader planet. In their minds they were freedom fighters on the planet’s side; not terrorists. Inarguably, that’s what they were—terrorists. But in this case, you need to ask, are you con los terroristas?
Dylann Storm Roof felt the same way. His manifesto made that patently clear. He thinks he’s acting in the right interest of society and that this type of action or event was warranted to wake people up the bigger problems in society. I get it. Do you?
Facing the Coming Storm with Dialogue
The problem in much of gaming culture was exposed last year in the #GamerGate controversy.
We were called out, and I think rightfully so, for being insular, bigoted, boyish, and arguably misogynistic. There’s little bits of truth in all of the critiques, but it’s greatly exaggerated. What I think is most true about our culture, by and large, is that we have yet to amass a true and discernible identity inclusive of everyone who actually plays videogames.
The identity is up for debate. For most of our history, it’s been pretty obvious—boyish, geeky, and sort of lazy. But it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.
What’s so great about that big controversy is the prospect of redefining ourselves with active categories, not passive ones.
Instead of worrying about what video games are on our Doritos or Mountain Dew, take the identity seriously in your quest to make sure the next Shenmue III is made. It’s about being an activist for your cause in relation to the media you love so much: what, in that old article, I called a Shenmuenista.
Either way, our social category, gamer or non-gamer, has a role to play in the things to come.
These characters, Elliot Rodgers and Dylann Storm Roof, are not isolated and are indicative as well as representative of a much broader pattern and culture.
Don’t get tricked into believing it’s about guns, mental illness, or any variety of categories like racism, sexism, or misogyny alone. It’s a lot bigger than that. And it’s not only here in America but present worldwide.
There are many, many people just like them all around the internet at any given time that YOU, yes YOU, could have a dialogue with at any moment. Don’t be shy.
One common core principle of these types is the belief that other human beings are inferior and are therefore relative to property. Women, who refuse sex, are inferior and deserve to be deemed as property for assault or repossession; non-whites, who refuse to act within white culture, are essentially ape-like and are therefore no better than animals—also judged similarly to property. These ideas are not uncommon or a-historic. In fact we see them all around the world still today.
It is precisely why we need to use games to tell stories that are better than this and allow our culture to grow and flourish in a way to be not only more inclusive but more realistic.
Worldwide, gamers of all stripes and worldviews should come together and have conversations about what they want to happen in our medium next. Shenmue III proves that can happen. Gamers with a common vision can move products into motion.
Why can’t we do the same for common world problems?
We can, in my opinion, have a say in relation to climate change, justice in the world order, and the problem of human dignity. It will take dialogue and true cooperation, but we can in fact be a part of that conversation.
Events like these wake people up. So don’t fall back asleep.
It won’t be long now.