Gamer (2009)

Posted by Aspasia Stephanou on September 23, 2009 in Blog tagged with

“Once you know it’s a video game, it gets much harder to play along”
(Sadie Plant, “Coming Across the Future”).

Virtual reality gaming penetrates the screens of simulation producing pseudo-heroes of a dystopian world. A violent virtual reality game, the “Slayers” uses real humans controlled by the players through self-replicating nanites placed in their brains. In a similar way, what seems superficially to be a peaceful online game, “Society” uses the same technology to enable players to control real humans in their perverse exchanges, in an attempt to reveal the inability of humanity to enjoy real life.  As William Burroughs says, “you can lay Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Isis, Madame Pompadour, or Aphrodite. You can get fucked by Pan, Jesus Christ, Apollo or the Devil himself. Anything you like likes you when you press the buttons” (The Adding Machine, 86).  But this is not without consequences.  Between domination and submission, the actors are mere slaves of an other’s desire- momentary, useless, nihilistic.
     All action in the film takes place inside the two different online games, mixing the perverse pleasures of killing and sexual, s&m practices in an inhuman farrago of commercialized desires. While in “Society” the controlled humans choose to enact the fantasies of the players that control them, in “Slayers” the humans are prisoners that have to kill in order to gain their freedom. The protagonist Kable (Gerard Butler) is a “real” avatar of flesh and blood in the online game “Slayers” that has been transformed by the media into a pornographic spectacle of extreme violence. The game, staged in such a way, reminding the strategies of media control and cheap entertainment, will end with only one winner fixing the eyes of the global viewers on the bloody show. However, this is an illusion, as Ken Kastle the designer of the game has other plans: no one will ever make it through the game. “Game Over” will only herald real and virtual death.
     However Gamer’s attempts to discuss and bring to the fore such themes as violence, online gaming and dissolution of boundaries between real life and online reality, it fails to offer an in depth and serious elaboration of such issues relating to virtual worlds and subjectivities. The frightening reality of existence in reality and virtual worlds presented in the film does not manage to leap beyond the cinematic horror images of consumption. Sacrificed by the need to deliver fast, bloody, gory, ready-made formulae of science fiction/horror cinema, the film crashes the potential to offer a critique of the evolving, frightening reality of a society that subsists and feeds on the replicating images of its future death.



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