How far will a person relinquish their moral principles in pursuit of happiness?I aim to explore this question in light of the core principles – or should I say the corruption of those principles – of the American Dream, within the videogame I pitch to you, Aurum Insomnium.The game is designed from a thematic approach based on the key text, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and a related text, Fight Club, written by Chuck Palahniuk.
These two texts grappled with the concept of the destructive nature of the American Dream, which I have taken inspiration of in designing the concept of my video game; though with the consideration of changes in values, context and mediums in the process of adaptation.
The ideals of the American Dream originally arose from the Declaration of Independence; one of its statements being: “All men are created equal… with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”The term itself was coined by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book “Epic of America,” where he stated similar ideas, “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”Essentially, the dream consisted of a genuine belief that in America, anything is possible for anyone, regardless of birth or wealth; if you work hard enough you will achieve anything.
Death of a Salesman
However, Arthur Miller believed that people have been ‘ultimately misguided’ of the dream and his play, Death of a Salesman, is ‘a moving destruction of the whole myth’. He depicts Willy Loman believing in the original dream where friendship and ambition led to success and wealth. Willy sums it up succinctly himself, “Be liked, and you will never want.”However, in reflection of the post-second world war economic prosperity, the dream changed into materialism, and Willy suffers as a result, as he lashes out at his boss, “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away! – a man is not a piece of fruit!”Miller criticises the consumer society and its harsh rules; a cold capitalistic logic which destroys and dehumanises Willy as he finally realises the corruption his American Dream, “There was respect and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear – or personality.”
Ultimately, this led to Willy ‘sacrificing’ his life for the sake of his family, believing they would be ‘better off without him, but with his earnings’. And yet, Miller ends the play with Linda stating, “I made the last payment on the house today… And there’ll be nobody home.” Material success is emptiness in Death of a Salesman, and the corruption of the dream only emphasises its destructive nature.
Similarly, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club dissects the destructive nature of the American Dream through its nameless narrator. Like Willy Loman, the narrator feel alienated in the world around him; uncomfortable in the mass, urban environments of the twentieth century with its emphasis on impersonal, commercial changes. However, a changing societal context is reflected through the adaptation of the idea in the novel. The narrator’s alienation is a symptom of a consumerist driven postmodern culture so impersonal that the narrator isn’t given a name to identify himself with.
Though the world he lives in is a sophisticated, global economy marked by bountiful goods; “There were fourteen different flavors of fat free salad dressing” Palahniuk’s schizoid character relationship is a result of the ‘late capitalism and commodity culture’ Game AnalysisTo briefly overview it, the game is a simulation of an American man’s struggle to balance his family’s well being, his scale of morality and his own desires to adapt to a changing society.Essentially a futile search for happiness in the contemporary.
First, they share a sense of personal emasculation, which takes a variety of forms including the inability to act decisively or connect personally with others. One of the advantages of reading Gatsby alongside Fight Club is that the latter novel points to the significance of the motif of masculinity for the characters in both novels. Fight Club makes it clear that masculinity can be understood as an index of individualism, and that in such a context, hyper- masculinity can be understood as a form of purposeful, self-determining ac- tion, a way of rebelling “against a seeming impersonal and feminized dominant culture” (Ta 265).
And second, both narrators experience a split or fractured identity based on their encounters with the logic of commodity culture. This fractured sense of identity is represented through an array of psychological symptoms – lost time, forgetfulness, alienation, and most importantly, a split sense of self – that serve as the outward signs of their inability to articulate an integrated, productive, meaningful, and coherent sense of self amid the flux and flow of modern life.