Rust belt night in the woods Essay

One of the most interesting things about Night in the Woods is its setting – Possum Springs. It is one of the most unique and relatable settings in video game history thanks to its inspiration from the sad reality that is the Rust Belt. The term Rust Belt refers to the heavy-manufacturing region bordering the Great Lakes in which, in the period between 1950s and 2000s, the share of U.S. manufacturing employment fell from more than one half to around one third, and its share of aggregate employment dropped by a similar magnitude (see Simeon Alder et al. 2014:2). The most famous city in Rust Belt is Detroit so for one to picture the image of the region means to think about ruined, abandoned buildings and factories. In the mid-twentieth century this part of America was at its richest, mines and factories were pumping products like cars, construction equipment, machinery, steel and lumber everywhere. And this is reflected in Night in the Woods by arguably one of the most interesting aspects of the game, Possum Springs.

According to a Fandom’s page dedicated to Night in the Woods and its two spin-offs’ lore „Possum Springs is the town where protagonist Mae Borowski was born and raised, and where she returns to live with her parents after dropping out of college. Possum Springs, located in ‘Deep Hollow County’, is built on a flood plain in a valley surrounded by state forest and is prone to sinkholes”. However, what is even more important in creation of the setting is that Possum Springs is a mining town and locals are proud of it, creating murals about their prosperous time along city’s walls and erecting monuments. Their local sport team are the Smelters, named after once prosperous smelting facility of the area and the older citizens refer to the „good ol’ days” frequently. These older citizens mostly would have been from the Baby Boomers Generation, from the time when this area was at its prosperous. They grew up in an ever improving world of high standards of middle-class living only for things to come crumbling down in their adulthood. In their opinion younger generations simply do not understand that things used to be better, because they grew up at its worst.

But why did Possum Springs crumble? That usually depends on political views of those who are asked. Those on the right will often say it is because taxes and regulations got to costly, which causes buissnesses, mines and factories to shut down or relocate to where it is cheaper. Those on the left will say that it is fault of some greedy CEOs, moving out to more prosperous areas where they can make more money. And in reality it is definitely a mixture of the two along with the technological improvement. One miner with a machine can do the same work in a day that ten miners could in a week sixty years ago. Factories, especially at the time, tend to have good wages",supporting a ton of middle-class families just from one person, usually the father, working there. So when these factories leave suddenly these middle-class families are stuck with middle-class bills to pay with lower wages from retail jobs. And that is if there are any of those left.

This aspect is reflected by the game’s protagonist father. Stan Borowski used to work in Possum Springs’ mine himself, but now works in a grocery store and he hates it. Mae’s mother has to work too and even despite their efforts from their dialogs player can deduce that something will happen with their house, that they cannot afford to keep it anymore. Beatrice and her father run a buissness together, but recently had to drastically downscale to a small, worn out apartment because they simply could not afford a nice house. Problems with houses directly impact local parks, schools and buissnesses because if people can barely pay for their small houses and apartments then they do not have leftover money to spend on other buissnesses, so those buissnesses do not make enough money to stay afloat, so they either fail or move out to a more prosperous area, leaving a Rust Belt town even more hopeless and decaying.

In Night in the Woods at some point Mae drives for an hour just to get to a mall, a nicer place to shop and hang out, however even it is a little worn down and empty. This situation reflects today’s state of malls. As Dominic Rushe writes in his article Big, bold… and broken: is the US shopping mall in a fatal decline?: „Once the epicenter of American retail, malls are in crisis. Pictures of dead malls, their hollow shells left like abandoned sets for a George Romero zombie movie, are rapidly replacing pictures of decaying Detroit as the go-to image for dystopia USA”. In the game Beatrice says quite clearly that it is Internet’s fault. Malls just cannot afford competing with Internet prices while still paying mall rent and, while it is hitting the malls hardest, the same thing is happening to outlet stores and small buissnesses in general. The Internet is making them obsolete in many parts of United States, however this process is arguably most visible in Rust Belt area.

How to cite this essay: