Happening Now -- The Order: 1886 - Announce Trailer for PS4-- An Artifact of the Cross Narrative Urban Bleed
E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) 2013 is the showcase event for the videogame industry. I situate videogame within the sphere of the comic narrative, indeed I have long defined comic broadly, writing and thinking about comics and related media as a way to acknowledge the cultural fusion inherent to our contemporary experience.
Since 2011, I have used two phrases to try to identify and clarify the process linked to comics. My assertion is that comic books are an urban topic, thus I see comics narratives as spaces where actual events and imagine circumstances linked to urban life come together in a fictive, yet evolving narrative. This cross narrative urban bleed draws from multiple socioeconomic and culture sources to create a kaleidoscopic point -- a space to process and reprocess societal ideas about urban life. Intrinsic to kaleidoscopic point is the assumption of the malleability in the modern urban experience. This idea of constant change is both comforting--we will have better things in the future and distressing--the things I know and cherish are threaten by the city constant shifting dangers.
For all the fantastic elements in comics or videogames, they rely on a nuance interplay with history and culture to be effective. Sometimes those connections are actually presented in the narrative, other times they reference in a way that allows the reader (or player) to fill in the gaps based on broad cultural knowledge. Because these narratives are constructed, they are always presence and they indicate how established historical and cultural ideas are being used in frame contemporary circumstances, which in turn help to shape our vision of the future. By looking at these artifacts, we can see the how establish ideas contend with changing circumstances.
The trailer for the The Order: 1886 is an example. The use of Whitechapel as the setting for the trailer is interesting. Of course, Jack the Ripper is forever connected to this area due to his killing spree in 1888. Between August and November five women were brutally murdered (four were prostitutes) and the crimes were never solved. The case has fascinated the public ever since. In using Whitechapel the game producers borrow from the narrative of urban disorder enshrined in our collective memory. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell famously combined the lore around Jack the Ripper to great effect in the page of From Hell, a comic narrative collected in 1999. Thus creators have a history of using the strange and violent things connected to Whitechapel for their purposes, even as the area's contemporary existence is radically different.
Whitechapel's dark past inform the The Order: 1886, yet this year the mayor of the London Tower Hamlets (of which Whitechapel is a part) announced "Whitechapel Vision." Inspired by the opening of a new railway station in 2018, Whitechapel Vision intends leverage the area's "colourful history" in conjunction with improved accessibility to spark development. With plans by BDP, an international interdisciplinary design firm driving the vision, Whitechapel is hoping to stimulate investment. Ironically, I think The Order: 1886 is an indication of the opportunity and challenge they face. While Whitechapel has a cultural identity that is easy to identify, that vision is defined by late nineteenth century urban violence. The future they hope to pursue is a modern cosmopolitanism. The challenge is to re-define the space while holding on to the marker of place that give it cultural traction.
What you see is only part of what you get.