Undesireable Elements – an overInterpretation

Posted on 30/05/2009


Disclaimer. This IS a deliberate overinterpretation.

Their existence itself is a form of pollution. They’re everywhere, they harass the upstanding citizen, kill, steal, plunder. They were strange, color coded uniforms, and give every neighborhood they’re in a bad name. They don’t fit into the image of a clean, nice, orderly cityscape.

Sucker Punch’s recent open world superhero-shtick inFamous features a kind of enemy design that seems to feed on a middle-class person’s view of less desirable elements in metropolitan areas.

The enemies are easily readable as representations of specific types of menacing appearing “others” than us white urban middle classers. Or even worse, country middle classers. It’s common knowledge that we, as a species, perceive the areas we’re not living in as immediately more dangerous than the ones living there. A “bad neighborhood” oftentimes is just “bad” for the people NOT living there.

Within the fantastic reality of the game world of course that is a different scenario. Here the bad neighborhoods ARE bad, and in dire need of a hero to rescue them. The state has failed, the cops are no match for the criminal elements – enter the vigilante.

Closer examined, the firstly encountered “Reapers”, a street gang gone totally nuts, could be interpreted as the violent immigrant youngsters populating so many western cities these days.

A member of the notorious Reaper-Gang

A member of the notorious Reaper-Gang

Seen through the predominantly white, somewhat posh middle class eyes of course. They’re uniformly clothed, and totally de-humanized. One looks like the other, only once you’ve grown accustomed to their appearances you might be able to pick up subtle differences between the individuals.
Not that it matters, since they’re all evil, and hell bent on harassing the good, upstanding people.

Their uniform otherness makes them more menacing. They all look the same to our eyes, their humanity hidden somewhere beneath the cheap hoodie, which provides the darkness to hide their faces in.

Another example are the Dustmen. Dressed in garbage bags, walking hulks of trash and scrap, also apparently an offense to the upstanding citizens’ noses, they seemingly embody another undesirable element often times found in big cities: The poor and homeless.

At first glance they sport a greater individual variation between the character models, but still they all look the same, and just as the Reapers, they appear even less human in nature.

If there’s any moral to this, it’s seemingly that immigrants and homeless people have no place in our civilized western urban centers, since once there is so much as the tiniest breaking down of order, they will immediately come crawling out of the sewers, and take control.
Only that in reality there would be no lightning charged superhero there to save us.

Of course as stated above this is a deliberate overinterpretation. I just found it funny how easily it’s possible reading the game this way, and – given that the developers are situated in a Seattle suburb probably falsely so – reading these things as expressions of some poor rural guy’s fear of big cities.

Posted in: gaming