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The Dishwasher: A satire on modern society?
I started The Dishwasher series with Vampire Smiles and then played Dead Samurai. Out of sequence, sure, but the minute I started this series it was love at first sight! Being a fan of Jhonen Vasquez, the art style of the game immediately clicked with me as it reminded me of his unique illustrations. The gameplay on the other hand was completely new to me. To this day I have yet to play a game that offers that same kind of combat. If asked what to play on the Xbox 360, this game is first to come to mind. I could go on and on about how beautiful and awesome the game is but instead I’m going to take a look into the depth of the game. I want to start out by saying that everything, unless stated otherwise, is MY interpretation.
James Silva, creator of The Dishwasher series, has stated that his influence in these games creation was his own work as a dishwasher which, he felt, did not garner as much respect as the work deserved. He has also pointed out that the legendary Bruce Lee was a dishwasher once as well. From there the idea was formed. That’s pretty much all of the influences I could find. While playing the game though I couldn’t help but notice a few mirrors to our own society.
In the world of The Dishwasher, humans are being converted into cyborgs; half human, half machine. Players learn that in the Dishwasher’s past, after the death of their parents, he and his sister went their separate ways. She embraced the Cyborg Movement’s promise of enlightenment and happiness. The Dishwasher became weary of the Movement and chose to forgo processing. As time goes on, he chooses to submit and be converted. Now ultimately, what we have here is a corporation trying to take control of the populace. Sound familiar? The fundamental rule of our society is “He, who owns the gold, makes the rules”. One day that saying will be changed to reflect what it really means; if you’ve got all of the money, you rule the world. The Cyborgs are replacing humanity under the false pretense that their lives will be better but in fact it’s just a means of control. The computer, Synthesis AI, commands all of the cyborgs at the Fallen Engineer’s behest. Consumers spend unfathomable amounts of money on things they both need and do not need. Fashion changes year from year and god help you if you’re caught in last year’s clothes! Even some stores are supposedly better than others and, once more, you’re going to be looked at funny if you shop at the lesser store. People in our society live in fear of everything and being judged by our neighbor is quite high on that list. Who dictates these unseen rules though? The big corporations that sell these products of course, that’s who! With every commercial, every well placed product in a movie, we get an idea as to what’s “in” and what’s not. It may not be the same level of control that the cyborgs exhibit in the game but it may even be worse; it’s mainly subconscious, but it is control none the less. This means the more we buy, the more money we give them, and the more money they get, the more control they have over us.
The Dishwasher is saved from the Cyborg Movement by his boss, The Chef. The Dishwasher recalls that they took his heart and believes they were ultimately after his soul. Even though his heart has been removed, he is alive. The Chef reveals that he’s not exactly human and has given the Dishwasher some of his blood to help revive him. This allows the Dishwasher to share Chef’s remarkable power and take up arms against the sinister cyborgs. Not only do we have a youth lashing out against the “normal society” by being “different” we also have the beginning of a revolution. Chef is the mentor that instills these ideas that differ from the norm and fills the void that was the Dishwasher’s heart with a new burning passion to “fight the machine”. Because he lost his heart you see, because he sold out and gave in to peer pressure. Once he begins his fight against the Cyborg Movement that’s it, the revolution is in full swing and the rest is history so to say.
One last observation I want to make is the idea behind the Fallen Engineer himself. In Dead Samurai, the Engineer is an actual being with form and substance. In the sequel however, he is more of an idea resurrected. The Judge, the last person on Yuki’s revenge list, dons a mask right before their fight revealing he is actually the Fallen Engineer. According to my parallels, the Fallen Engineer would be like the top executive or head honcho of a company that practiced the aforementioned methods. The sequel, Vampire Smiles, lets us know that even though the form is gone, the idea can survive. The Engineer survives in the form of the Judge, an ultimate symbol of decision, the one who decides what is right and what is wrong. What this tells us is that even though corporations can fall and revolutions can succeed, control, power, money, GREED, will survive because it is more of an idea, a very human idea.
That’s just what I saw behind the game. Normally I’m the type of person that takes things at face value; not mention that it irks me when people find a deeper meaning in something that obviously has no deeper meaning. I love these games and after playing both of them now, it’s hard not to see these mirror images. I don’t know if James Silva saw our society and crafted his world to mirror ours but you have to admit, there are some similarities. And if this was not the case does that not add to the beauty of the game? To think a message so insightful can be hidden in a game. Books and movies have done it so why not a game?