Part of growing up is trying to navigate social situations. Most people have, at some point or another, affected an persona while trying to figure out what "fits." Part of what made Night School's Oxenfree work was an understanding that these affects are masks, and what can be interesting is exploring the underlying reasons people take on certain affectations. Afterparty however, doesn't seem as interested in digging into its characters, and in fact the world-building feels like it's performed with the same affected irony as its characters. We discuss Afterparty, Google Stadia, Pokemon Sword and Shield, and more on this week's Waypoint Radio. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.
Rob: There is a lot of sarcastic redirection. There's a lot of self referential humor. There's a lot of really "tryhard" irony. And it works in Oxenfree because I think two things. One: Oxenfree is about teenagers hanging out, and teenagers do that shit all the time. Like, basically adolescence is performance. And Oxenfree's tone tended to work well with that. And the other thing that Oxenfree did very well is, even from the earliest, it made clear that there was some real shit underneath the surface of all those interactions.
Austin: Yeah, the affect was there almost as a sort of translation mechanism. It was like, "Okay, all of these people are affecting a certain personality because being in that affective mode is protective, but also because it's like a shared language." What's underneath that affect is something that they don't want to discuss necessarily, they are not comfortable or they don't have the sort of social tool set as teenagers to approach [each other] directly. That basically worked for me. I think I'm cooler on on Oxenfree than you are but I think that read is 100% where I'm at with that game.
Rob: And I think it worked out okay in the Mr. Robot game because your primary interlocutor in that game is the sister. In the first season, before things get extremely real in Mr. Robot, some of the hacker crew have a similar sort of have a hacker affect, very ironic, very detached, and affecting a sort of a cool detachment, and again that played well with the way Night School tends to write.
Afterparty is non-stop that affect, but never gets around to the real shit. It never gets around to implying there's anything beyond this affect. It's very much like a script that was written by someone whose only encounter with like script writing was reading the screenplay for Juno.
Austin: Yeah, which is already part of my beef with Oxenfree. And I'm someone who when Juno dropped, I was still young enough that all of that appealed to me.
Patrick: Oh that twee music was just like "yeah ok, lets go."
Austin: Yeah that's a great soundtrack! The reason that I can like say "oh yeah there's something underneath" is I was absolutely that adolescent. Like deep affect, constantly in that mode, either hyper solemn and depressed and serious or very twee and like you know trying to be charming by dropping references or by you know doing basically word games with people constantly, you know what I mean?
Patrick: What was the Zach Braff one?
Rob: Oh, Garden State.
Austin: Garden State, of course.
Patrick: Love that soundtrack! That movie did not age [well]. Loved that movie in the moment and then I grew up, looked at it again, went like "Whew, let's just hold onto the soundtrack and get rid of the movie."
Austin: I know these sins because these sins are mine. The other big question for me is that it feels like the stakes in this game are different? Hell exists in this world. It should shake the affect, the world shouldn't carry the tone of the characters with it if the game understands that the characters are putting on a persona, if that makes sense.
Rob: Yeah, very much so, but this game's version of hell, the cosmology of this game is like someone read the plot synopsis of His Dark Materials, and then put on a really intense vocal fry. And like those are the stakes like *lowers voice, adds vocal fry* oh no, we're in hell. I guess that sucks.
Austin: You're saying that the version of hell in this game is version that the characters of this game would have come up with?
Discussed: My Hero One's Justice 2 6:26, One Punch Man: Hero Nobody Knows 8:02, Google Stadia 12:46, Afterparty 57:38, Spoilers for Afterparty 1:12:08, Pokemon Sword and Shield 1:25:24, Waypoints - 2:03:25
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