Review – VA-11 Hall-A

It’s always happy hour in this slice-of-life dystopia

Most games today put you in the shoes of the valiant knightly figure saving the world, or the jaded antihero caught up in global plots, but rarely do you find yourself a bystander to the chaos of the outside, with the interpersonal relationships and struggles that Triple-A behemoths might write off as mundane at the forefront of your experience.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action gives you this experience. Described by developers Sukeban Games as a “booze ‘em up about waifus, technology, and post-dystopia life,” you are Jill Stingray, serving customers you receive from the unforgiving ultra-corporate dystopia of Glitch City, Hong Kong in a series of drink-mixing minigames.

If it weren’t fantastic as is, there’s even a dog in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses

One More Drink

Through interactions with these patrons and news updates from the Augmented Eye news corporation, you begin to form an image of the world outside, and can even influence it with the drinks that you make (slipping a little extra booze in the Augmented Eye CEO’s beer, for example.)

But this isn’t what makes VA-11 Hall-A so special. What truly solidifies the game as a worthwhile experience is the time it takes to explore the relationships between Jill, the player, and the other characters that you meet along the way. You form close friendships, you dabble in romance, and you work through past trauma for better or for worse. VA-11 Hall-A makes you feel like a regular citizen in a world full of cyborg assassins and android K-pop stars, and it’s a feeling that you won’t be able to get enough of.

Is Gillian from VA-11 Hall-A a Revolutionary Comrade?

Is Gillian more than a laid-back bartender with a mysterious past? Is he… revolutionary?

Cyberpunk bartending waifu simulator VA-11 Hall-A doesn’t shy away from having a progressive message, with a gay main character swooning over her boss, android sex workers with loveable personalities, and thematic critique of the dangers of a free market. But there’s perhaps more, hidden in one of the game’s almost-comic relief characters; Gillian.

Your co-worker in the VA-11 Hall-A bar is an elusive figure, working under the name of a deceased prior bartender, Robert, after appearing at the door of the establishment in a “disheveled and emotional state.” We know a few things, and I’m going to use them to support my theory that Gillian is a revolutionary comrade, of sorts.

 

He Work(ed) for the KGB

Let’s get the obvious out of the way; Gillian used to work for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s state security agency, in ways akin to the United States’ CIA or the UK’s MI6. We’re unaware as to the details of his involvement with the agency, but this involvement alone is enough to assume aspects of his political leanings.

What’s especially interesting to note is that, while the body text of his wiki page states that he was involved “sometime in the past,” the entry in his occupation list doesn’t specify it as a former job. In the timeline of VA-11 Hall-A, did the KGB perhaps survive, in secret? Does Gillian still work for them? We can only theorise.

 

He Defected from the Hong Kong Anti-riot Forces

Gillian used to be a member of the Hong Kong anti-riot forces; we know this because of a few dialogue encounters, including with CEO of The Augmented Eye, Donovan D. Dawson, who saw him at the infamous Hong Kong riots where he was assigned.

He defected, however, and stole supplies from the side he once fought on. Perhaps he developed a sympathy for the rioters and their cause? To fight against the corruption and the exploitation of the Hong Kong 1%? If we take into account his likely leanings assumed from his KGB role, it isn’t out of the question.

 

He Mysteriously Disappears for a Few Days

Otherwise reliable, Gillian will disappear for a few days from time to time, seemingly for unknown reasons. He always returns safe, and he seems to be able to take care of himself pretty well. Given all of the information we have, I think it isn’t out of the realms of possibility that, if we are to believe the KGB is still operating in-secret, that Gillian is a heavily-undercover agent.

What are the KGB’s goals? What is Gillian’s mission? We can’t know for sure. What we do know is, that if we combine what we know about his past with what we know about his personality, the resulting individual is a really likeable, laid-back guy, and a pretty probable comrade if I’ve ever seen one.

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

Does MCM Comic Con Think Communism Will Win?

I went to MCM Comic Con in London last weekend, and decided to ask those visiting the convention one important question; will Communism win? What happens next will shock you!

 

Music by Grandayy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=876tE…

 

Camera Crew:

Jane Aerith Magnet: https://twitter.com/maniacjaneiac

Wesley Jon Nux Elkins: https://twitter.com/fretting_lemon

The Technical Artists Balancing Polycounts and Visual Quality

I spoke to Jodie Azhar from Creative Assembly and Matt Dickinson from Frontier Developments about what it means to be a Technical Artist in the games industry, for GamesIndustry.biz!

Brütal Legend’s Revolution Against the Bourgeoisie

Brütal Legend is a 2009 action-adventure slash real-time strategy game by Double Fine starring Jack Black as a roadie named Eddie Riggs who is transported to a world inspired by the lyrics and album covers of heavy metal bands. Your task in the game is to amass an army of the downtrodden and the slaves of the land to eventually combat the bondage-clad forces of Emperor Doviculus. But not before bringing the fight to General Lionwhyte of the Hair Metal Militia, a denizen of Doviculus and the overseer of the continued slavery of humanity, at his pleasure tower.

That’s Communistic as fuck. Allow me to explain.

The Hair Metal Militia are the Bourgeoisie

The Hair Metal Militia reek of decadence and exploitation. Their base of operations is known as the ‘Pleasure Tower,’ a guarded monument filled with shimmering riches, high-class architecture towering monuments to Lionwhyte. He and his agents live in luxury, with hot baths, plentiful booze, and their ways with some of the Razor Girls who find themselves in forced pleasure employment. They’re comprised of those workers who chose to side with Lionwhyte, valuing the benefits he affords them over the freedom of their compatriots. Truly, the Hair Metal Milita encapsulate all the traits of the Bourgeoisie, also known as the Capitalist Class in Marxist theory.

The Headbangers are the Exploited Workers

One of the first missions we play in Brütal Legend is called “Exploited in the Bowels of Hell.” We must emancipate the Headbangers toiling their lives away in the Crushing Pit, a rock mine. Presumably this rock is used to construct the towering architecture of Lionwhyte’s pleasure tower, and we also know that car parts are  unearthed that Lionwhyte takes the leather and vinyl from to give to Doviculus. It also serves as a means of oppressing the people. They are the working class; subjugated by the Bourgeois Hair Metal Militia to do their bidding (or more specifically Lionwhyte’s) as a means of benefiting only themselves. We even see a very clear reference to Marx’s work, as we the player are given a Battle Cry guitar solo that we play in order to inspire the workers to revolt, and are told to “break the chains,” an abstraction of “workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

The Battle Cry Represents Class Consciousness

A sub-point to the Headbangers; the guitar solo that Eddie plays to liberate the Headbangers of the Crushing Pit could be argued as a representation of class consciousness, as listening to it’s tasty licks is what gives them the realisation that they don’t need to toil their lives away for Lionwhyte. This, by extension, would make Eddie and Ironheade a Revolutionary Vanguard Party, of sorts.

There is Rebellion in the Game’s Lore

Honestly? We don’t even need to look at these representations closely to know of the revolutionary themes in Brütal Legend. Within the history of the world, there’s an outright revolution; the “Black Tear Rebellion.” A band of humans rebelled against their oppressors, the Tainted Coil, and tried to overthrow them and achieve their freedom. It failed when the Rebellion drank from the sea of black tears and lost their minds, but only after the demons gave them such a temptation to begin with, out of fear that they otherwise might lose.

I think there’s some compelling stuff here. Though, I like to think that with every game that I write about. What do you all think? Perhaps I’ve missed some other pieces of evidence? Let me know!

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

The Left Is Fighting A Meme War On The Ideological Battleground Online

I spoke to the artists behind some of Facebook’s most popular Socialist meme pages about what inspires them to do what they do, and their hopes for kickstarting class consciousness.

Check it out here on the Morning Star’s website, or if you’re in the UK, why not pick up a copy of the newspaper!