Interview for The Winnipeg Review: “Canada is a Nightmare”

I took a half-silly, half serious approach to The Winnipeg Review‘s questions on Canada (not?) having a post-national literature.

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2 thoughts on “Interview for The Winnipeg Review: “Canada is a Nightmare”

  1. This interview got me wondering about what the Canadian video game would consist of. (A game, after all, is just electronic literature, so would the same apply?)

    It was within the cultures of the United States which gave rise to the form of the first-person viewpoint in games, as compared with Japan’s focus on third-person oriented viewpoints. Even in that vast generalization, there is also the feeling that certain countries seem to prefer certain genres of game over others, like South Korea with their MMO and RTS games, Japan with the visual novel format, and the States with the first person shooter.

    At the same time I wondered if there would be a Canadian context for video games, and genuine context that wouldn’t be at the employ of foreign company like Capcom, Nintendo, Microsoft, Konami or Ubisoft. It then hit me that there might only be a small handful of games which we can say are “Canadian” in any particular development way: Silicon Knight’s “Eternal Darkness”, Derek Yu and Alec Holokwa’s “Aquaria”, and Phil Fish’s “Fez”.

    It still too small of a selection to draw a national style out of, but I can still see a few connections between them. These games have a vast focus on exploration over a large world, with the setting of the story in most cases being the main antagonizing force. These games are very lonely, with player character often alone in their actions and other non-enemy characters being very few and very far inbetween — the moments spent with them the most precious of all resource. I think this combined with the oppressive setting matches some of the earlier things in Canadian literature which reflects something I somewhat recall Atwood saying, where nature is a wildly “indifferent force” for human affairs in Canadian fiction. (Even if I’m not remembering that quotation right, the annual cold hell we endure does have a humbling action upon it.)

    The only video game I’ve ever seen that had support from a Canadian Arts Council was a small HTML5 game called “Make No Wonder.” In the game, victory was only temporary condition of having built a few select objects from basic materials. For the majority of play, all you could do was wander this sort of vast, empty wilderness, for no other nihilistic purpose than to starve at the indifferent hands of nature and the bitter cold. The world is beautiful, but it hates you, and from the very moment you wake up you will do nothing but suffer in your mad rush for what little sustenance you can only hope you’ll find. Is this a branch of that same “Nightmare” you think Canada is?

    … Though even this is still second hand. Make No Wonder reeks of Swedish Minecraft, and for Aquaria and Fez, it was still Japan that made Metroid, even if they soon forgot about it.

  2. I would argue that games bear no relation to literature. Not for the expected neoconservative reasons, but because you are equating narrative with literature, on top of the differences in their tactile mediums and levels of language engagement. When I say that Canada is a “nightmare” I mean more that the nation serves as a fantasy-screen.

    In any case, I like your ideas here. A Canadian game, eh? I suspect it would be like the broken cartridge of Dragon Warrior my friend used to have for his NES. Once you walked into a certain dungeon, that you had to enter to win the game, the system crashed and deleted your saved game.

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