Sunday, November 10, 2013

So I wrote a thing for Unwinnable...

So I wrote a thing for Unwinnable. You can check it out here. It's a personal reflection on one of my favorite games of all time, Ion Storm's 2000 PC masterwork Deus Ex. The article doesn't really critique the game itself. It has more to do with coming to terms with how the game may or may not have informed my political identity and susceptibility to real-world conspiracy theories—namely those surrounding 9/11.

It was published last Tuesday to coincide with election day, but in reality I finished the article in early September—and I'd been trying to write it since early May.

The piece was partly inspired by a previous Unwinnable article written by Owen R. Smith—an old friend and coworker at my former newspaper job—in which he talks about how the ending of Metal Gear Solid 2 made him reconsider his former adulation for the ending of Deus Ex. I had already been toying with the idea of trying to write for Unwinnable for a number of months, so I decided to see if I could respond in my own way to the game that had occupied a similar space in my own mind for so many years. I submitted a pitch to the site and then promptly failed to get my idea off the ground for months.

To be perfectly honest, I'm still not entirely satisfied with how the article turned out. Did I communicate what I had wanted to communicate? Sort of. But I only had a very nebulous idea of what I thought I had to say in the first place.

One of the things I found so interesting was how the choices I made while playing Deus Ex in the year 2000 felt more meaningful and predictive of my political identity than my actual voting choices that same year. Granted, I think that's more of a testament to the sad state of our present democracy than anything else. I really don't think the makers of Deus Ex were trying to make any kind of overt political statement—and my article basically suggests as much. It's more interesting to see how the choices of Deus Ex serve as a sort of personality test for the player, which—again—is not necessarily profound in and of itself. Nevertheless, I wonder if video games like Deus Ex—through their very emphasis on player freedom—lend themselves to a sort of libertarianism. Even when I listen to the rationale that Tracer Tong gives for destroying Area 51 at the end of Deus Ex, it's not a far cry from the rationale that someone like Ron Paul would offer for dismantling large segments of the Federal Government.

For better or for worse, I think there also seems to be a correlation between libertarianism and the conspiratorial outlook. In other words, people with a predisposition toward one have a tendency toward the other.

Obviously, a lot of people would consider this a negative trait. My feelings are a bit more ambivalent. I came to the conclusion long ago that I know very little about what actually goes on in the world—beyond what I can see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears, that is. There is a lot that I can choose to believe based on empirical evidence, popular opinion, and authoritative assurances. But I think it's probably just as unhealthy to subscribe to any old conspiracy theory as it is to write them all off just because they might be labeled such.

At the end of the day, my writerly feelings toward my own material notwithstanding, I did work very hard on the piece and I did manage to make a number of significant content revisions that made it stronger in the end.

As a matter of fact, it's a pleasure to be able to announce the article here at the two-year anniversary for this blog (see here and here). I feel very privileged to be able to share my writing with a larger audience, especially on a site that I truly admire and that has such a respect for the work of the writer to begin with. There's a good possibility that a second article of mine might be going up there in the near future, too. So … stay tuned?