After viewing and playing many sequences from game developer Quantic Dreams’ Heavy Rain in order to become immersed in the style and application of the controls, I wanted the spectacle artefact to be as close in design as possible to the gameplay, yet still retain the core theories put forth by Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard in terms of ‘society of the spectacle’ and Simulacra.
The main ‘spectacle’ that is dealt with in the artefact is consumerist culture and a completely mediated world surrounded by advertising, marketing and branding. All of these themes culminate into a resounding sense of control and manipulation as we live in our constructed fantasy world. This theme of control is highlighted in a number of ways within the artefact.
Firstly, you have the control of the various shops and branding giants who market their products in such a way that it draws vast crowds of individuals to exchange money to purchase those goods. Clothing stores always prove popular with the general consumer and so that is why one was filmed to show the extensive flow of people into the building and the control that the establishment has.
Secondly, the literal controlling of the video game character with the Playstation controller. In this spectacle of a video game, the player takes control of a character and explores a fantasy world and environment to achieve a certain end. The character is moved by the player and is told which decisions to make, just like the player himself in the grand scheme of the spectacle. Although the player is given multiple choices to advance the game in a different way, these decisions are worded in such a way that they would ultimately lead to the same destination anyway, thus following everyone else to the same fate around him. The only decision that is different is ‘Back’ or ‘Walk Away’ which would enable the player to break convention and dismiss the spectacle, which he fails to do so. It is only at the end of the artefact that the player reflects longer over the multiple choice decision which serves as a fitting conclusion to the piece. Does he choose to ‘Believe in more’ or ‘Accept reality’? This creates the sense that the player throughout the course of the game and the repetition of witnessing these branding giants and the same marketing techniques has had an effect on him and is perhaps making him question the world around him more. However, whichever decision he ultimately makes is left to the audience’s interpretation; reflecting on our own conscious decisions to choose to follow or remain distant from the ‘spectacle.’
Lastly, the control of the actual player. Although it may appear that this individual is isolated from the overwhelming sense of the spectacle due to the fact he is playing a video game, he is still part of it in his life and the very action of playing the game. Although it is not shown, it is implied that at some point the player would have been in the same decision as the video game character himself. He would have had to have made the conscious decision to enter the shopping environment, walk into a store and exchange money to purchase the game. This therefore once again shows the spectacle of the high street and branding in general and that “…it is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real.” (Baudrillard, 1983: 41)
Both the video game and ‘real life’ has become synonymous with one another. They are each carefully constructed and mediated entities that are all programmed in order to keep the ‘player’ on a set path. Although as individuals we are given the notion that we have freewill and autonomy, the ‘spectacle’ ultimately shapes our very being and our every decision. We all become fictional characters being controlled around a fantasy world to achieve our own constructed objectives.
Baudrillard, J. (1983) Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e) Inc.