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'The Outer Worlds' and Having Politics vs. Just Referencing Politics

This is especially problematic when you're trying to analyze a game at a limited preview event put on by the game's publisher!

by Ricardo Contreras
Aug 5 2019, 4:47pm

Image courtesy of Private Division

Given the length of most games, it can sometimes be hard to parse their politics or meaning even from a few hours of play. Endgame twists can paint the entire narrative of a game in a different light, strengthening core themes at best, and undermining them at worst. So it's natural to wonder where a narrative might go even if it's opening hours seem to hammer home a specific point of view. On this episode of Waypoint Radio, we discuss how this feels in The Outer Worlds, as well as making new friends in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and just what is up with...the Clancyverse??. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.

Rob: I mean, I guess the thing that makes me hesitate a little bit. or that I'm curious to know more about is to what degree is, There's a lot of media that likes to style itself anti-corporate, but fundamentally, isn't that, isn't anti-corporate in terms of it has an interest in describing structural problems or attacking underlying structural issues or mindsets that buttress things.

Patrick: You're saying it's aesthetic more than anything else.

Rob: Yeah, exactly. I think there's a lot of there's a lot of trash out there that would have branded itself [that way]. I think of South Park it was often said "oh that's kind of that's kind of edgy and anti-corporate" too but it's really not, right? To what degree does this feel like it is going beyond sort of spray painting "McDonald's is President" on a wall in dayglow?

Patrick: McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds!

Danielle: Haha, yeah, there you go! I mean obviously I have only played a couple hours, but it seemed to me that this game is interested in having real conversations about structure and labor practices. If nothing else like the exchange that happened with my companions made me feel like oh, at the very least this is made by people who actually really do care about these issues from a very base level, very like personal level in terms of they're really suffering and they're willing to talk about it and on a certain level. Whether it's going to take that next step and actually be like about unionizing or overthrowing these corporations or or doing something on a systemic level, obviously it's a comedy video game so I don't know if it's going end in a hundred hours of sitting across the table with the board.

Rob: I don't think it needs to do that though.

Danielle: But it is yet to be seen if it goes all the way in that direction certainly, but I have at least some faith from this experience that I had with it that it it's if politics are are pointing towards the right place, as opposed to just throwing some paint on something. Finger's crossed right?

Patrick: Yeah, it's impossible to know from a preview. You don't know from those quests are gonna finish, you don't know the consequences of those quests are going to be. So I understand Rob's hesitation in which like "wow, what a great way to craft a game that would do really well with like the media and I would get us a lot of attention," and it's like something like that. I'm not trying to suggest that level of deep cynicism to why this is made but it is sort of specifically tailored for, in a world where a lot of media that really don't go to do preview things anymore, this is a type of game that is like catnip for like writing about ahead of its release.


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