The Voiceless Victim of a "Dastardly" Achievement

While no stranger to controversy, Rockstar Games (the developers of the popular Grand Theft Auto series) have once again found themselves in the cross-hairs.  Their latest release “Red Dead Redemption” is a truly beautiful and highly faceted open-world of wild west tropes which outshines its predecessor in every possible way. It is a thrilling period piece that owes as much to Sergio Leone’s thinly veiled Italian countryside as it does to the Houser brother’s thinly veiled Big Apple. It also features the following achievement:

Dastardly: Place a hogtied woman on the train tracks, and witness her death by train. (5G)

As you can imagine, this achievement has been heavily scrutinized as an example of misogyny.  As a feminist I share in these concerns and believe it is about time that we as gamers take an honest look at how the trend of polarized moral choices and reward systems do not so much as open the possibilities of immersion as they direct them through narrow corridors of dangerous subjectivity.

With my Stetson® thrown into that heavily populated ring I shall now move on to addressing the voiceless victim of this achievement: the train.

Since their invention in 1784 no single piece of technology has endured the palpable fear/hatred of mankind more than the locomotive.  African American folk-heroes took them on for pride, environmentally conscious modes of transportation took them on for profit, and small children risked millions of lives taking them on for thin pennies.  It is easy to trivialize these brazen outbursts of violence as nothing more than symptoms for the general sense of technophobia that human beings feel when facing an iron titan they cannot begin to understand or control. Sure. Take the easy way out, but I’m going to keep on writing anyway.

It is a hatred instilled in us when we are young. Have you ever wondered why so many children’s programs have focused on the rail system? Shining Time Station, Mr. Rogers, School House Rock, and Don Cornelius’s Soul Train all prominently feature trains. Such shows are propaganda in its most egregious form and are devised to begin a three part process: first conspiring curiosity in these vehicles through autopomorphized grins, ritualistically educating audiences on techniques to down the enemy through the redundant plots of “things” being left on the tracks and the “death box” that is the switchyard, and finally using catchy music videos aimed at impressionable young people to build an association between locomotives and loathsome grammar rules. It is a 1-2-3 punch and it is working.

How else can you explain the fact that such an obsolete piece of machinery, irrelevant for nearly a century at this point, should continue to make as many appearances as it does in the clearly biased anti-train media? When did you last hear a positive news story about the Transcontinental Railroad or a feel-good-piece about the convenience of the overpriced sandwiches in the Café Car? Ask yourself that. Then consider the last-time you were passed a meme link to a YouTube video of a car being hit by a train, read coverage of the casualties that resulted from a massive derailing of a British line, or heard someone at your job use an anti-Amtraktic slur like “son of a conductor” or “rail-monkey?”

In 1863 American playwright and known hat-wearer Augustin Daly, taking a lead from Charles Bolton’s earlier work, began production of the play “Under the Gaslight.” In this heavily politicized farce of steam-powered paranoia Daly envisioned a world where man had been pushed to his limits by these (and I quote) “iron faced cog-suckers.” He then illustrated a means by which a man could theoretically sacrifice his own life, or that of another in case he was presently using his own, in hopes of derailing a locomotive with their own bodies once securely fashioned to the tracks, or as he repeatedly put it “blood stained whore stockings of Satan.” The mass hysteria of his prophecy rang true with many and inspired the short story “Captain Tom’s Fright,” a half dozen plays in London which ran concurrently, the 1914 film serial “ The Perils of Pauline,” and countless other appearances across all forms of media.

Constantly berated with such acts of slander and literary terrorism it is no wonder why these gentle behemoths of the industrial revolution have gone into hiding in recent years.  Oh, you’ll still see them from time to time, I suppose. Running loudly through the spaces in the tree-line or passive aggressively making you wait for twenty-five minutes at a railroad crossing on your way to work. But can you blame them?

I imagine over the next decade we shall see them less and less until the invention of hover-freights and teleportation pods send them whistling into the distant recesses of the lost wood where so many of our once modern marvels have found themselves.  They’ll be happy there, perhaps befriending a flock of Betamax players or seeking alliance with the dial-toneless remains of a once great nation of those old-timey phones with the earpiece on the string that you had to nail to the wall.

It sooths my heart to think of such a future. And it is to that wistful future that I must look as I stand in the world that is and long for a day when no trains will die.

Also, Dirk Dastardly was in Wacky Races. SNIDELY WHIPLASH was the Dudley Do-Right character that tied girls to the railroad tracks, assholes

Trainicide throughout history: 


HKOverdrive_01: My Journey Began

With an open mind and a heart as cold as a wampa’s teat, our valiant hero set out to explore the vast Frankelian world of Hello Kitty Online. The promises of Badtz-Maru boss raids and gold drop Tier 8 head-bows have enticed many to fall under the spell of this free to play MMO. Will our hero share their fate or will he bore of this experiment and do something worthwhile with his goddamn life? Only time will tell.  
Let me begin by assuring you that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a pedophile. (With possible exception of the time I hid under the bleachers to stare up Elizabeth RESERVED’s skirt in the third grade—though I too was underage and I’m pretty sure that isn’t permissible in a court of law. Shit! I have to look that up. What was I saying? Oh, yeah.) I’M PLAYING HELLO KITTY ONLINE NOW!

Are you aware that the download to install this game is 3 GIGS! That isn’t a typo, folks. Before I could begin this journey into the Rainbow Road inspired underbelly of Sanrio Town I was first required to download three gigabytes of Pochacco shirt textures and bubble fonts. To put that into a perspective we can all understand, that is the equivalent of 750 Chrono Triggers. I hate the future.

I then registered my character, AgentDeathKnife, and set out on the SanrioLand01-Wonderful server (in case anyone wants to guild up). After a brief tutorial I washed ashore in Sanrio Harbor and the fun really started. Well, perhaps fun isn’t the correct term. What do you call it when a bunch of anthropomorphic animidgets send you on countless fetch quests and trading missions for a similarly endless list of stupid incidental items? Sure, one could apply that same criticism for any MMO ( Warcraft included) but at least those items are reasonable trophies for a victory: a scale, a feather, a tooth. I spent twenty minutes this morning gathering “boxpig appetites.” Really, Japan?

When you aren’t fighting with the fact that your “attack” command seems susceptible to distance, direction, and pure chance before you can properly defend yourself against the tiringly cute “beasts” which roam the land you’ll spend your time slowly backtracking across large territories to harvest ridiculously designed plants and return their spoils to the simplest cell-shaded NPCs you’ll ever grow to tolerate.

Really, Japan? Three gigs? At this point I am so enraged by the bandwidth I have squandered that I would feel guilty if I didn’t give this game a “fair and balanced” review. In the meantime I am going to satiate my rage-on with walking around the South Dream Forest emoting large “sigh” animations over my head until this bottle of Nyquil kicks in.

Oh, and I’m a level six now. Check out my cool sunglasses (+2 all stats) and come back for more of whatever the hell this thing was. Logging out. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1.