Posts Tagged 'Atlantis'

BioShock Infinite

Two years ago, I was all over the hyperreal. While still playing through BioShock Infinite we, as a family, visited Paris. Beyond the discombobulating jolt of climbing Le Tour Eifel, we also travelled to Disneyland where the multilayering of Main Street and Space Mountain (shown here in Disney collaborator Ray Bradbury’s private art collection) effortlessly overlapped with Ken Levine’s Columbia. As Disneyland should be, it was all adventure without risk, but it still struck me as interesting that such a simulation of the ‘real’ world should enthuse cultural theorists, sci-fi writers and game makers alike.

French sociologist Jean Baudrillard thought Disneyland Anaheim was actually more connected to ‘the real’ than the simulated, self-referencing mobius strip called Los Angeles that surrounded it. As part of his working through of Hyperreality, he described how the theme park functions as a hallucinatory distraction from the lack of any cultural foundations, or cognitive purchase points, the individual may have within the post-modern world. Not so weirdly, sci-fi savant Philip K Dick also engaged in defining reality through the medium of Disneyland, but did so in a way that wasn’t confined to the academic ivory tower. That said, many people miss the comparable playfulness shared between the two writers, and the cautionary messages they communicate about the nature of reality. As a salient point of divergence, Dick’s fears were more conspiratorial, considering to what end the, “pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms” might be used. Which, awkwardly, is what the majority of Drozbot is about – a sense of wonder at these sophisticated phantasmagoria designed to entertain and make money for their creators.

We should consider, however, that Disney – while currently holding more than its fair share of geek dreams – is a company built upon a legacy of imagining a better tomorrow. You can argue all you want about whether that goal has been subsumed into a drive for cash, but the legacy remains. When Bradbury was called in by Disney to design Spaceship Earth at Epcot, it was out of a mutual optimism for the future – a sentiment that the company will no doubt be promoting yet again via the film Tomorrowland.

Returning to Philip K Dick, he closes his brief essay on reality with the words, “For years [Disney] had the Lincoln Simulacrum [who], like Lincoln himself, was only a temporary form which matter and energy take and then lose. The same is true of each of us, like it or not.” In comparison, Leonard Nimoy’s final tweet before he died yesterday read, “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” But let’s not be glum about the entropic nature of life. Instead, in parting, let’s enjoy this perfectly apt sci-fi/Disney/Spock crossover.

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