The Political and Ethical Force of Bastion, or, Gameplay and the Love of Fate
AbstractVideogames often take the form of power fantasies, symptomatizing a societal inclination towards control, calculability and digitality, and a fear of their constitutive opposites. Bastion initially seems to fit this mould: for the majority of the game, the player learns its systems and masters its controls, travelling the post-apocalyptic world to set it aright. At the end, too, the player seems to have the power of choice: they may “Restore” or “Evacuate,” returning to a pre-apocalyptic moment or accepting the end of the world and moving on. Through a gentle but ineluctable feature of the game’s design, however, Bastion imposes Evacuation on the player. It thereby advances an argument about the nature of contemporary society and a claim about the ethical and political disposition that might be equal to this technological epoch, and it does so through its mechanics: Bastion invites the player to experience a choice on Nietzsche’s eternal return.