[review] Little Blue Men and HRS

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Adam Cadre

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Nov 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/17/98
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DAS KAPITAL
Human Resources Stories by Harry Hardjono
Little Blue Men by Michael Gentry

"The idea of this project comes from several sources," writes Harry
Hardjono in the readme file for Human Resources Stories, and on that
list is "Example of 'Real-Life' IF, as opposed to the prevalent
fantasy IF." Real life? Indeed it is, asserts Hardjono; in one of
the easter egg text dumps that comprise the majority of the program,
he claims that HRS "is too realistic. The questions and answers are
real enough. In fact, they are too real. While the game can stand some
more fine tuning, it is accurate enough to be in the ball park.
Unfortunately, real life is inherently unfair." He goes on. "IF
writers have their heads in the clouds. Real life gets ignored, and
yet, real life stories, even as fictional accounts, can be very
interesting." Is this one of those stories? No, Hardjono admits:
"The game is boring," he writes. "Come on! How much fun can looking
for work be? I can't think of anything more boring than looking for
work, except for working."

This is the stance of Human Resources Stories, manifested in the
form of a bizarre multiple-choice "interview" of sorts. You pick
your answer, and either you eventually get to a salary, or else "the
phone never ring." Meanwhile, in Little Blue Men, you poison your
officemates and crush them under vending machines, eventually
offing your boss by splashing water on him, and end up in a world
of naked fat men with balloons.

Little Blue Men, I maintain, is the more realistic of the two games.

Fiction has been described as "lies that tell the truth": the stories
themselves are false, made up -- the words on the page say that
something happened, when really it didn't -- but these falsehoods
convey some greater truth about the human condition. These games
both revolve around work. So let's talk about work.

Consider the famous shoemaker. The shoemaker cuts out the pieces
that comprise the top part of the shoe. He punches holes for the
laces. He assembles the pieces and attaches them to the sole.
Eventually he has made a shoe. And he can take pride in his
accomplishment. He has taken a pile of raw materials, applied his
own effort and craftsmanship, and created something. This is one
variety of work.

But it's not very efficient. Efficiency demands the division of
labor. You'd be hard pressed to find a shoemaker these days.
Instead, head over to Indonesia and look in a Nike factory. One
person's job is to cut out a specific piece of leather over and over
and over again for sixteen hours straight. Another's is to attach
the leather to the sole in a specific place over and over and over
again for sixteen hours straight. There's no variety here, no
craft. Variety and craft are wasteful. The division of labor
allows many more shoes to be produced. The only cost is that of
human dignity.

"I can't think of anything more boring than looking for work, except
for working." This is only true when the worker is alienated from
the fruits of her labor. Writing an IF game is hard work. It
takes effort, time, persistence, skill, and the ability to overcome
frustration. The pay is minimal, often nonexistent. But people do
it anyway. Why? Because it's rewarding. At the end of that final
compile, you've *made* something. But when workers aren't permitted
to apply any sort of craftsmanship, when they're just cogs in a
machine, stamping useless forms, debugging code for useless software
packages they don't care about, when all their effort goes to support
a capitalist class who pays them back by providing them with just
enough sustenance so they can continue to work to support that
capitalist class, their work is no longer rewarding. It becomes
drudgery unfit for human beings. And when undertaking such work is
the only way for someone to be able to survive, the result is rage.

Little Blue Men is wonderfully dark, hilarious, and well-written, but
its real triumph is in capturing this rage. Is it realistic to crush
one's co-workers with a vending machine? I'll admit it doesn't
happen often. But it should. Okay, maybe that isn't the precise
manifestation of that rage that one might hope for, but on the other
hand, it's no worse than letting the rage eat you alive, swallow your
soul. People's lives are being destroyed, eight hours at a time.
That isn't going to change until they start wrecking things. Or
maybe not even necessarily wrecking things, but simply not going
along with it. But it'd have to be everyone. If everyone refuses
to work under degrading conditions, alienated from the fruits of
their labor; if people only take jobs they find intrinsically
rewarding in some way, worth doing without regard to pay; if no one
lets desperation overcome them and prompt them to fill the void,
supporting the capitalist class in the original workers' stead; then
things would change. With automation and organization, we could meet
everyone's needs, and spend a lot less time working to meet them;
the price would be less luxury for the few who presently can coerce
the many to support them, but it's a price worth paying. Life is
*not* "inherently unfair" -- it's only unfair because we let it be so.

Little Blue Men is a prompt to fight the system; if you surrender
to it, by stamping your forms like a good little drone, you lose.
Human Resources Stories is a game about what happens after you
surrender to the system. If you accept its premises, you have
already lost.

My scores:
Little Blue Men 8.7 (1st place)
Human Resources Stories 1.4 (last place)

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA
http://www.retina.net/~grignr

Ben

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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In article
<Pine.SOL.3.91.981117...@godzilla2.acpub.duke.edu>, Adam
Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote:

> DAS KAPITAL
> Human Resources Stories by Harry Hardjono
> Little Blue Men by Michael Gentry

- uh, snip? -

>SUPERBRIEF

ADAM CADRE is now in its "superbrief" mode, which always gives short
descriptions of locations (even if you haven't been there before).

>READ REVIEW

..

-Ben

--
bhi...@san.rr.com
http://members.tripod.com/~tunnels/

Sam Carmean

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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Yeah, Adam. I thought I was going to be reading a game review, and you
made me wade through a bunch of thought-provoking observations about the
real world. If I wanted my mimesis broken like that, I could have kept
reading books after I dropped out of school, thank you very much.

--A Disgruntled Republican I-F Fan

Ben <bhi...@san.rr.com> writes:
: In article

: > DAS KAPITAL


: > Human Resources Stories by Harry Hardjono
: > Little Blue Men by Michael Gentry

: - uh, snip? -

: >SUPERBRIEF

: ADAM CADRE is now in its "superbrief" mode, which always gives short
: descriptions of locations (even if you haven't been there before).

: >READ REVIEW

: ..

: -Ben

: --
: bhi...@san.rr.com
: http://members.tripod.com/~tunnels/

--
sa...@primenet.com

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