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The Last Night is a post-cyberpunk cinematic platformer

When I wrote about The Last Night, an entrant to the cyberpunk game jam in 2014, I said that “I badly want a whole game set in this universe.” Well, here it is. The Last Night [official site] was revealed via a trailer during last night’s Microsoft E3 conference, and the other things I said about the jam game are true, too: it still looks like pixle art Flashback crossed with Blade Runner.

The trailer doesn’t give a great sense of how it’ll play, but we can make guesses based on what’s shown and based on that original free game. It’ll likely be sidescrolling, it’ll likely involve shooting and taking cover, and it may contain some stealth elements.

Otherwise everything in the trailer is concerned with worldbuilding. I always like rain-slick neon cityscapes, but I like the presence of trees and plants in nearly every shot of the trailer. Even the cityblocks that appear to be built atop enormous futuristic boats seem to have plentiful trees.

What else we know comes from the official site, which has this blurb:

Humans first knew the era of survival. Then they knew the era of work. Now they live in the era of leisure. Machines have surpassed human labour not only in strength, but in precision, intellect, and creativity. Stabilised by universal income, people struggle to find their calling or identity, and define themselves by what they consume, rather than what they create.

The Last Night immerses you in the everyday life of Charlie, a second-class citizen living in a city brimming with augmentation and citizens living a gamified existence — none of which Charlie can experience himself due to a childhood accident. Apathetic and disheartened by the seemingly pointless world around him, Charlie is presented with an opportunity to take matters into his own hands. But at what risk?

Which sounds fine in itself, but causes concern when paired with some old tweets by the game’s creative director Tim Soret. Back in 2014, he tweeted some things which were explicitly pro-GamerGate and anti-feminism. You can decide for yourself whether you’re generally able or willing to separate art from artist – and there is never any obligation to do so if you don’t want to – but in light of those tweets, the game’s references to consumer culture and a “second-class citizen” living among a “gamified existence” take on potential new meaning.

Those tweets naturally resurfaced last night, prompting widespread backlash against the game and its creators. That response prompted a statement from The Last Night’s publishers, Raw Fury:

The comments Tim made in 2014 are certainly surprising and don’t fit the person we know, and we hope that everyone reading this who knows us at Raw Fury on a personal and professional level knows that we wouldn’t tolerate working with someone who portrays the caricature of Tim going around the internet right now.

The wording of his statements toward feminism in 2014 was poor, and his buying into GamerGate as a movement on the notion that it represented gamers against journalists was naive, but in the same year he also cheered the rise of women in gaming. In a similar situation as the one happening now, folks on the IdleThumbs forums found questionable tweets and Tim took it upon himself to address them. What came from that was a dialogue where different viewpoints were considered and debated in a purposeful way.

That thread on the Idle Thumbs forum from 2014 includes more examples of similar tweets and a couple of responses from Tim Soret himself:

I am for a better representation of women in video games. I want more female characters, written to be interesting & less cliché, and I also want more female developers in the industry. We are 6 in our team. These talents came to us since more than a year. Among them and the hundred of emails from people that want to work on our game, no women at all. I have no idea why, so yes I want it to change. As many gamers, I absolutely adored playing Ellie in The Last of Us, or Clementine in Walking Dead, or Ripley in Alien Isolation, and The Boss is my favorite character in all the Metal Gear Solid saga. It proves that video games are not as terrible as I’ve been reading lately. However, I deeply agree that we need more characters like that, and I think gamers, contrary to what is told in medias these days, are really happy to play with such fascinating characters.

There’s a lot more in the linked thread, including criticism of Anita Sarkeesian and a more specific description of his issues with feminist critique of games and gaming culture. It does indeed sound naive. Heck, naive at best.

Aside from Raw Fury’s statement, Soret himself tweeted earlier this morning suggesting that he might have changed at least some of his thinking in the years since writing all of the above. He also says that the game’s setting “does challenge techno-social progress as a whole but [is] certainly not trying to promote regressive ideas.” Which is vague enough that the game could contain anything.

We’ll have to wait and see how The Last Night shapes up. For now it’s just an attractively designed trailer, and up to you to decide whether you care about the game in light of the opinions expressed by its maker.

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Graham Smith

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