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2012: The Year of Dreaming Dangerously

"...we witnessed (and participated in) a series of shattering events...it was the year of dreaming dangerously, in both directions: emancipatory dreams mobilizing protestors...and obscure destructive dreams...."

Andrew Lavigne, Blogger

January 7, 2013

6 Min Read

In 2011, we witnessed (and participated in) a series of shattering 

events...it was the year of dreaming dangerously, in both 

directions: emancipatory dreams mobilizing protestors...and 

obscure destructive dreams....

-Slavoj Zizek,  

The Year of Dreaming Dangerously

from http://pensamiento-critico.tumblr.com

2012 was our year of dreaming dangerously. For video games, yes, but also for their players, their journalists, their crafters.

The "emancipatory dreams" arrived from the ability to subvert publisher rules via Kickstarter, thanks to Double Fine Adventure. Increased publicity for Kickstarter from Double Fine-onward means more Indie games by small teams have potential to produce quality work.

Throughout the year, game charities and individuals collaborated to raise untold masses of wealth for sick children and other noble causes.

On Twitter in the month of November, there was a revolt a few surges away from the Internet-connected Egypt protests of 2011 in the form of #1ReasonWhy.

 a selection of 2012 styles that no E3 will show

And we refined/advanced our craft with bold moves and studied glances back at gaming history: Journey brought spirituality to the console, following 2011's El Shaddai by connecting faith to gaming itself; Assassin's Creed 3 and its Vita spin off Liberation critiqued mainstream American history and granted players a chance to game outside of the "straight white male" difficulty level; Guilded Youth matched 80s text games with 90s adventure games to make a Ray Bradbury worthy "short story" of growing up; Mass Effect 3 pushed into McCarthy territory with a sci-fi slanted mediation on the nobleness of dying in the face of apocalypse; Hotline Miami turned violence into a puzzle; The Walking Dead and I Am Alive lent weight to player kills; Resident Evil 6 took its pop art to the next level; Dear Esther and To the Moon took the Japanese visual novel form to its logical conclusion with their talk-and-walk gameplay; and The Last Story finally solved the problem of the JRPG-in-nextgen.

But we had our own "obscure destructive dreams" at E3, where violent presentations thugged aside the actual diversity on display in games (see: above for a small sample) in favor of a violently corporate sheen. Sam Fischer, former poster star of a trilogy of outright moral games, was transformed overnight into a torturer

from John Gaudiosi's blog, forbes.com.

Throughout the year, real life war criminal Oliver North sold/defaced the once-austere Call of Duty series. 

Kickstarter was co-opted by a string of big name developers.

Meanwhile, the exploitation of FOXCONN workers in China continued.

In Novemeber, Geoff Keighley knee-capped his image by sandwiching himself between Doritos and Mountain Dew merch, cementing his descent from laudable writer of Gamespot's Behind the Games to corporate critical mascot that began with his work promotional work for Gamefly.

from Kotaku.

Sexual nightmares plagued the advertising of Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution just as badly as any day of the 90s; as if to remind us that they are not dead, but only buried and disturbing the dirt beneath our feet. 

And the same sexual nightmares were in the Tweets of #1ReasonWhy. The nightmares also thrived in the news of a (female) Capcom employee pushed to suicide due to her harassment, and the suing of Stardock CEO Brad Wardell over corporate bullying.

In the final weeks of the year, the NRA and British media stole the opportunity of the Sandy Hook shooting to paint up strawmen. The death of children did not mean real world problems to them- did not mean much at all beyond deflecting media attacks (for the NRA) with a speech recylced from Columbine and selling papers.

2012 was our year of dreaming dangerously because of these potentials, these movements - all pious pushes forward and momentum-dragging steps backward - exploding all around us

In the destructive dreams, we see our past and the crass commercialism that holds us to it. In the emancipatory dreams, we glimpse our possible future.

What future will they lead us to? What will 2013 (and 2014) bring for games? I do not know, but the struggle is not over. The struggle is here. We must continue to dream dangerously until the dreams are social, cultural, political reality.

Or, as Zizek says: 

The subterranean work of dissatisfaction continues. Rage is building, and a new wave of revolts and disturbances will follow. Why? Because the events of 2011 augur a new...reality. These are limited, distorted—sometimes even perverted—fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present.


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