Like, I don’t even know where to start, because this dystopian dealy is so goddamn broad, and its definitive form has been skewed in recent years given the water-down, high-budget bullshit that is currently saturating film and literature. But before all this, there were the classics, and the countless ripoffs of 1984. Brave new world is a pretty tight novel, it’s got a whole bunch of coolness ideas and bitchin’ themin’, and was pretty well received. basically a horror story based on the ‘new’ innovations of mass production that was pretty conflicting for some in the 1930s, featuring a future society developed from this ideology, of control. Control being a staple of dystopian fiction obviously, this novel is still part of the traditional structure for the genre. the 20th century saw so many goddamn dystopian novels, with only a few really becoming iconic. Fahrenheit 451, 1984, brave new world, just to name a few, were the ones that influenced everything to come later, the evolution of dystopian fiction plateaued fast.
Enter the video game Half Life 2, heralded as one of the greatest of the medium, whilst being a direct copy of 1984 in more than a few ways. It is in fact, the most bog standard representation of a dystopian world ever constructed, which is lazy, but seeing how impressive the graphics are for this year, 2004, proper story telling is clearly not important. One could even argue, in their utmost audacity, that this jarring story telling shift is incredibly lazy, and it is a very jarring shift from the previous game, lacking in entirety elements of dystopian dealys, a more traditional, more original science fiction story, the developers seemed to have a phobia of writing, now copypasting the surveillance, oppression world of 1984.
Back to Brave New World, a less 1984 tale. This novel actually has some commonalities with that text though, given that it also had a videogame adaption many years after its release. Bioshock, ‘loosely’ adapted from the book so they don’t have to pay for copyright, is a direct adaption from the novel. Featuring a utopian society away from the rest of savage humanity, controlled by drugs and sex, it’s just so goddamn original and great. It occurs to me that this game has some parallels with Half Life 2, Bioshock being a jarringly different sequel to a more traditional science fiction game: System Shock 2, I think there’s some writers conspiracy going on, create a groundbreaking sci-fi videogame that gains a significant amount of success, and coast along lazily for the sequel, cashing in on already critically acclaimed pieces, to create the most money money sequel you can. Nevertheless, Brave New World and other similar texts will probably continue to be ripped off in the effort to cease creativity.
Brave New World features the specific traditional elements of dystopian texts, but is mostly forgiven, for being written when the genre was first developing, and can actually be considered original, and innovative. This is why the text will be well regarded for many years to come inside of literature. But, and a very unfortunate but it is, Half Life 2 is basically the most highly regarded videogame of all times, so in the gargantuan, disgusting, plebian fanbase, they will continue to look at it with more revere than any of the original texts that were expunged of their original, textual developments. Though videogames will never be considered an artform, the clear winner is the original, at least in true patrician eyes.
Both texts (loosely defined for the children’s game) feature prominent use of the major dystopian elements. While the videogame has more in common with the novel 1984, the significant length of time between the writings of Brave New World and Half Life 2, and the distinct lack of development of the traditional elements, means that it is a ripoff in every shape and form. I mean, god, it’s 2015, it’s time to let go off your outdated conservatism and become more progressive, changing up the tired, old, homophobic traditional dystopian formula.
-A society that is controlled is featured in both
-There are in fact people being oppressed
-A whole lack of human rights
-There’s a depressing atmosphere
-Parallels with real life, as well as contrast
-Elements of satire
-Exaggeration of real life subjects/ideologies/whatnot
-They’re both examples of speculative fiction
-They’re both science fiction
-Destruction of nature
-Religion plays into the text in a way
-Class things, like, marxism or something
-Death is a major motif
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But these aren’t unique you say, ”They’re the elements that make a dystopian text a dystopian text” you plea, ”You can’t call Half Life 2 a lazily written game just because it does everything a dystopian text needs to do” you cry. Well, firstly, yes I can, and secondly, yes it is. It does everything right to in fact exist as a dystopian story, and nothing more. A genre that has been developing steadily for the entirety of the 20th century isn’t just rendered moot when a game needs to be released to it’s grovelling fans, or shouldn’t at least. The growing trend of lazily written dystopian novels being adapted into success movies for the special snowflake teenage crowd, who just want to be a unique individual fighting against the MAN and his oppression, is a concern, but back in 2004, videogames were just approaching the cusp of their demise, their rise in popularity with the masses. They were better back then, and nerds were livid with their cool games made for them. But the immediate, grand success of Half Life 2, 12 million sales as of 2011, with it’s goddamn lazy writing is obviously one of the many reasons why nerd culture exploded around 2007, though the game Portal, released in 2007 by the same developers, was significantly more impactful in the horrific rise of awful popular culture, but that’s a story for another time.
Later it was revealed that the two games shared a universe, so I guess Half Life 2 is at fault after all.
In any case, every single elements to create a very standard dystopian novel, which personally judge on how similar it is to 1984, is present in the games design, like, every single element, even the kinda out of place ones like religion, sits in a very jarring spot inside of Half Life 2s awful, awful story.
I should probably get into
Control -Brave New World has the world state which is controlling the world, with soma and all that, Half Life 2 has the Combine, an evil alien race or something.
Oppression -BNW has people oppressed by the world state, by limiting brain power at birth, conditioning them to follow the world states rule, stopping them from feeling any negative emotion towards anything, which is a pretty in depth concept, and the Combine do oppress people in HL2, by hitting them when they disobey, and giving them free food, and accommodation, and making everyone sterile so the current inhabitants will be the final generation on Earth.
Human Rights -BNW has everyone forced into specific roles and wear a coloured jumpsuit as their only clothing, HL2 has everyone forced into specific roles and wear coloured jumpsuit as their only clothing. Well that’s just copying.
Depressing atmosphere -In BNW people are grown, their rights are taken away, and everyone is perfectly happy, because they are all conditioned from birth to feel this way, in a horrific world of identical clones without freedom. In HL2 the world is literally dreary and grey, and people are beaten for disobeying, found resistance members are even turned into monstrous slaves by the Combine. The world is being siffened of it’s resources and the game takes place in an old, eastern European city, so it’s really subtle about how depressing it is, because eastern European cities are pretty goddamn dreary without a fascist regime, oh wait.
Parallels with real life -A thought provoking, deep response to the growing trend of mass production, in BNW. HL2, nazism, real complex writing guys. The design brief even states that the visual need to be modelled off of the nazi uniforms and logos.
Ok we’re getting into differences a bit, I’ll limit the contrast.
Religion -BNW has a thing about common religion not really being included in that world, because the religion had changed to the divinity of mass production and consumerism. HL2s example feels entirely contrived and even pretentious. The whole point of the previous game was that a regular guy, a scientist, was fighting off aliens that teleported into his lab, after an elaborous turn of events, which is never seen and is off screen, the Combine take over and the player character Gordon Freeman is now the viewed as jesus, the leader of the rebellion against the Combine. It doesn’t really make sense, like, people call him the “one free man” and in the game you single handedly take on the oppression. This goes completely against what the first game meant, which was more how it was entirely luck that saved the player, not his divine skill. It’s just very odd.
Reluctant hero -Bernard seems just blessed with self awareness to the world he lives in, he doesn’t really even seem too into the whole individualism, so that shows his reluctance in the novel. The HL2 dude is like, a scientist man who wouldn’t really be into the whole taking on the world thing, his reluctance stems from the fact that he is majorly ill prepared. But since it’s a videogame the player can transpose whatever motivation they want onto the faceless, mute character (which is pretty goddamn clever if you desire to write lazily, forcing the player to engage with the nothing story).
Downer Ending -John the savage kills himself because he can’t deal with what the world is, all controlled and junk. That’s pretty bad, since it shows how rational people would react to this situation, or something. In Half Life 2 the player defeats the big symbol of Combine oppression, their big headquarters, and it explodes, and the player is abducted by a pan dimensional businessman, it’s hard to explain without context.
In any case, a downer ending.
While at this stage it appears that the two are some overwhelming equivalence, but Brave New World, written in 1931, is many leaps and bounds ahead of Half Life 2, released in 2004, in terms of overall theming and what it accomplishes, like, actually changing the dystopian formula slightly. Aldous Huxley, I believe, had an important topic that he wanted to address, satirising the growing shift into mass production and consumerism, the novel discusses how this could lead to the dehumanisation of people and the loss of art. It’s arguable if his prediction came true, but I’m just a millennial blogger without any awareness towards greater problems above how contrarian I can about a popular game. The videogame doesn’t have the added value of actually commenting on a real issue, which is significantly important for a piece of dystopian fiction to have. Like, what references to real life does The Hungry Games have? apart from Battle Royale, this crude, culturally worthless creation is obviously much more financially successful than Brave New World though, and it could probably exist in the novel, as one of those “feelies” that offer no substance by design, it’s almost as if high art is dead.
The main thing about Brave New World is that the people in this dystopia are conditioned to like it, thus the awareness to their oppression only occurs in a few characters, as well as the audience, making it more affecting or something. This is a pretty innovative idea for the time, since becoming much more common though, and shows how people can be conditioned and manipulated by the changing world. The audience gets to see a world that is completely terrifying, complete with a population of people content with the nightmare, making for a very affecting dystopian setting. The eternally bliss inhabitants, high on mandatory doses of drugs, conditioned from birth to follow the word of the world state, provides a significant contrast to the populace of the average dystopian text. Those miserable and oppressed people, featured in countless examples; Hungry Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, Snowpiercer, The Host, from recent years alone, display very clearly the lack of any innovation in most dystopian writings. The more modern ones are just the most horrid, mass produced for mass consumption pieces of unintellectual dog s̶h̶i̶t̶ great movies, very good just turn your brain off, awesome oscar winning 10/10 films, great cinema, the Citizen Kane of the new millennium.
Religion is a big part of the novel, using it to discuss whether eternal bliss is a good thing or not, considering how it would affect the freedoms on offer for people, as well as the obvious emotional restrictions it would bring to someone. A character describes how he wants sin, he wants god, he wants real danger, because the world state has gotten rid of anything that could create negative thought, the result being that everyone is completely happy, but satisfied on the most superficial level, as actual thought provoking art has been removed, including traditional religion. The replacement of more traditional religion is that of the worship of Ford, as in Henry Ford, because of the mass production innovations that he developed. The people of this world view him as a god, thankful for his teachings, allowing them to fix society, by populating it with mass produced identical clones with identical thought. After the sudden death of a character, John the savage begins to exclaim “Oh god”, after which reflecting on the society that has ridden itself of belief and faith. All around, religion is a large part of the text, feeling natural in it’s inclusion. Half Life 2 has minimal religious aspects that appear to be included simply because of their apparent place in traditional dystopian text structure. And which doesn’t tie into the overall themes to any real extent, so it is a very odd inclusion.
The destruction of nature isn’t really a thing in BNW, unless if you count human nature, but that’s really the point. Half Life 2 keeps itself nice and comfortable as an average dystopian text, following the destruction of nature common element with all the siphoning of resources the aliens are doing to our planet. It trumps the novel, given that that had the utter gall to veer off the specific dystopian course. So yeah, everything’s all old and destroyed because the aliens are all oppressive and that, very good.
The themes of individualism is featured pretty much throughout in the novel, because the book’s all about the dehumanised collective doing things, and how a free thinker would exist and be treated in this place.It’s a part of the world states motto of “community, identity, stability”, but that is a more of a farce if anything, given how everyone only exists as a group. It’s all, damn son, I don’t wanna act like everyone else, I’m gonna go against the system because it’s wrong, which is the typical rebellious attitudes that teenagers have, and why this genre is so popular these days, with all the unwarranted self importance going about. In any case, Brave New World tackles the idea of how mass production could affect the individual, and that’s pretty cool, a pretty cool idea for a novel, a pretty cool idea for a dystopian novel, very innovative indeed. Half Life 2, expresses its concerns over individualism, which isn’t exactly necessary for a dystopian text to in fact be a dystopian text but since the two share the common theming it still needs to be discussed, but not to any great extent or with any grace. The player character is presented as some kind of perfect individual, who has the strength and power of being a game protagonist to win against the oppressive regime. Since Gordon’s the Freeman the subtleties of the writing have no bounds, as well as a very clever and in depth discussion on the individual sitting at the core of it’s narrative. But not really, the game just goes on to talk about dehumanisation, literally, in it’s case, showing evil alien human conversion. The complexities of individualism are stretched thin, limiting the value to be derived from that certain theming.
It’s hard to judge how future eyes will look upon these creations, one would hope it would be the videogame that is more revered throughout the rest of time. I mean, clearly it is very original, and not lazy in the slightest. It doesn’t indeed copy every element of dystopian fiction to a tee without innovating further. It’s totally original.
A direct reference to this
Brave New World is a far better, more engaging piece than Half Life 2, more innovative despite being written over 70 years prior. I may be, and it may come as no surprise, dissatisfied with the way art has become more of a product these days, with less of a focus on innovation and developing interesting stories and more of a focus on money. Or since I’m a horrible millennial I have no problem with this, and hate books, because they are outdated and lame. Maybe I’m a hypocrite.
Brave New World is like, pretty tight shiz, tho.