July 25th, 2012 | Published in News
We continued mapping out the Fukushima scene as a video game today, which proved to be a lot like reading (or constructing) one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s. God I loved those books.
We were trying to create not only a variety of different possible trajectories for the story, but also cover a variety of game genres. In one ending, if Saori’s character opened the window, she would notice that it was raining black rain (radioactive) and that there were people walking towards the house in the rain (radioactive zombies). Eventually these zombies would arrive, knock down the door and eat them.
In an alternative trajectory, the game would veer off into more of a puzzle game (like Tetris — a game used to treat PTSD) — but what the player didn’t know was that the puzzle was unsolvable and would eventually run out of time, leading to Makiko’s character having a nervous breakdown and emergency situation with her pregnancy.
Yet another possible story line required a careful psychological tactic in order to succeed. Many video games now incorporate similar psychological aspects, where the player controls how their avatar responds to other characters or stimuli, and that behavior determines whether or not they are able to accomplish the mission or task successfully.
We mapped out all the storylines like this:
This was a super time-consuming process, even if trying to sketch everything out very roughly. At the next rehearsal we will be able to “test” this game out on some kind volunteer audiences.
Finally, what came up towards the end of rehearsal was concern from one of my actors about the manner in which I was choosing to handle this material. Obviously, the situation in Fukushima was and continues to be dire and harrowing for people who live there or have been evacuated — and what does creating this kind of lens in portraying those events reflect on us as artists? My answer to the actor was that I am trying to push irony to its limit, and this was my attempt to hook the audience in on some level — whether they are horrified and offended or amused at the outright ridiculousness of suggesting that radioactive zombies were attacking people there. The fact is that in the U.S., the news covers events and happenings at such a rate, and our collective memories are limited that we have a difficult time tracking what is going on, all over the world. Since the earthquake of 3-11, news about Fukushima has much faded from the headlines, and people outside of Japan need to really seek out the most updated information on how everything has unfolded. Drawing a parallel to Chernobyl, we’ve also reached a point where we have made video games and horror movies about the event. So when will there be a horror movie about Fukushima? As a Japanese person who hasn’t even been directly affected by the disaster, the idea that the disaster would serve as fodder for sensational entertainment seems appalling to me — and yet, I live in a culture in which that is not only acceptable, but somehow it is necessary for us to be able to process it… Anyway, there’s a lot more to say on this topic — which I will save for another time.