The X-Files #221: First Person Shooter

"The blood thirst is unquenchable."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: People start dying for real in a virtual reality game.

REVIEW: William Gibson's second script for the show is just the stupidest thing. The X-Files doesn't do "computers" very well, but you'd think Gibson would be the man to succeed. Nope. The idea that a digital avatar could physically affect and kill video gamers, or that those gamers could "disappear" into the video game (or virtual reality, since this is kind of an amped up paintball set-up) is ludicrous indeed. If they were dying of heart attacks, maybe, but full-on decapitation? Dumb. They don't even attempt an explanation, because there can't be one. There's no real resolution either, the game just sort of ends. So cue terrible "cyberpunk" costumes and repetitive violent action - this game amounts to standing still and shooting mostly unmoving targets, which makes sense given that, like, two people work at this place. The kill command doesn't sound like reasonable failsafe either, and what, this game company doesn't have any back-ups? Don't invest in this company, folks!

But then the characters and their motivations are just as dumb. They have the Lone Gunmen "sell out" in the hopes of making big bucks, and dragging their favorite FBI agents out to California to investigate an impossible death they'd rather have covered up. That doesn't sound like them at all. Mulder is compromised too, acting like a little kid who knows all the big gamers out there... Have we ever seen a console at his apartment?! There's a lot of bad dialog, especially when it comes to the amoral video game mogul who thinks only of his sales, though perhaps the most offensive scene is the one where Scully parrots censorsome parents associations/5 o'clock news teams who warn us of the dangers of video games, with Mulder taking the other side as if this were a debate X-Files viewers would be having. And don't get me started on the row of adolescent cops who apparently have never brought in a sexpot hooker before...

Or rather do, because the sexism in First Person Shooter is nigh unbearable. It's MEANT to be about female empowerment, I guess, but the female game designer created the killer avatar to be the perfect woman, a man hater that feeds on "male aggression" (that's as much explanation as the episode gives us for what's happening). And yet, the designer's "goddess", this female empowerment figure, looks like the worst "boys club-ism" video games have produced. She's either in a thong, or wearing a sexy cowgirl costume, a fate ultimately reserved for a new avatar showing up in the coda, with Scully's head on the dominatrix body! After all her whinging about violent games, Scully becomes a video game badass, only to be turned into a sex object for the distasteful mogul to exploit. At every turn, there's a moment that makes you cringe. A Basic Instinct cross-the-legs shot. Scully telling someone it's not fair to pick on a girl. Was it all supposed to be a comedy? Mulder's final voice-over sure sounds like a parody of his usual poetics. But it's not funny. Just crass.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - An episode that doesn't understand the world it tries to deliver, compromises its every character, and is offensive to boot. Bad SF unless you want to say it predicted the culture that produced GamerGate.


Andrew said...

Death in an unreal world leaves it's mark in reality in the form of your corpse? If I didn't know better, I'd be tempted to think they were trying to homage Nightmare on Elm Street. Which still doesn't make it a good episode--saw it just the one time when it aired, and it's badness still haunts.

Okay, not really, but on those rare occasions when I have to think "bad X-Files episode," this is one of the ones I go to.


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