After viewing and playing many sequences from game developer Quantic Dreams’ Heavy Rain, 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 I wanted to deal with in the artefact was 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, 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 goods.
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 objective. 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. 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 placed upon 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)
In terms of where the artefact sits in the media world, the concept is very similar to that of the 1998 film The Truman Show which also deals with constructed reality in a satirical social science movie. Following this, the 1999 film The Matrix also dealt with similar issues of control and theories surrounding ‘the spectacle’, which shows that audiences are interested in concepts surrounding these themes.
The intended audience of this piece is probably between the teenage and mid to late 20s demographic, who are the regular consumers of video games and would understand the application of the gameplay style as shown in the artefact. In terms of the underlying messages and themes, however, these could be picked up on by any age of audience as the idea of consumerist culture is universal in some aspect or other.
Baudrillard, J. (1983) Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e) Inc.
The Matrix. 1999. [film] United States: The Wachowski Brothers.
The Truman Show. 1998. [film] United States: Peter Weir.
Unknown. n.d. ‘The Truman Show wallpaper’. [image online] available from: http://marinablue.m.a.pic.centerblog.net/o/15671af9.jpg [26 Nov 2013].