Deeper In the Pile: Hate Plus I

Christine Love, the author of Hate Plus forwarded on twitter a perspective I found refreshing, that spoilers of a thing shouldn’t ruin it. It’s something that’s been swilling around my head a lot lately, thinking about movies like The Prestige and The Sixth Sense become better when you know about the twist; while it would be ideal to experience that twist tabula rasa, knowing about it does not ruin the whole experience, because the work is more than one twist. Works which are one single twist, one singular reveal, tend to become weaker when their truths are known, while works that aren’t, are made stronger. Some fans are fussy about this perspective, though, and for that I warn that this discussion of Hate Plus is written without regard for spoiler-sensitive information.

Widening Gyre

I’ve had words on the idea of prequels for some time, mostly summarised as ‘Don’t write prequels.’ Prequels at their best should answer the question “How could this have happened?” rather than “How did this happen?” To use a good whipping-boy for this problem, let me point to the Phantom Menace and its brethren. Those movies sought to answer the question How did Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader (omg spoilers). The problem is, that question was not, itself, in any way interesting, because we had no idea who Anakin Skywalker was. The original source material did not tell us anything meaningful about Anakin Skywalker. For all we knew, he was a huge asshole who needed a small push to become a bigger asshole (surprise surprise, this is true). There was a question, but it wasn’t a hard question.

That’s not how things were in Analogue. To have a futuristic society jump back to Neo-Confucianism is genuinely surprising and confusing, because unlike ‘assholes are assholes’ it’s not something we’re used to seeing in a daily basis. It’s political, and politics moves at a slower pace than most people perceive. Politics put in place a policy, and people respond to it. Rarely are those responses fast. The revolution that transformed the Mugunghwa was not a single piece of legislation but rather a set of erosions with clear good intentions, coupled with exploiting another’s movements to consolidate power.

Essentially, Hate Plus is a good prequel because it answers a hard question.

With All Deliberate Speed

I remember learning that desegregation in Alabama was, according to the law enforcing it, to be enacted ‘with all deliberate speed.’ If you’re familiar with the word deliberate, you’ll realise that it actually has implications of doing things slowly and carefully, not swiftly. In order to ensure care is taken, a deliberate action takes its time and double-checks things.

The interesting thing to me is that double-checking is one of the ways AI characters wind up becoming more human. Because their AI requires crossreferencing, you have things like depression and attachment as emergent properties – and hate, as well. This contrast of speed shows in how *Old Mute treats the Peasantry; their reactions to legislation (‘setting things on fire’) directs her attitudes towards them, not any care for their concerns.

Moreso than any other game I’ve played lately, Hate Plus is worth experiencing because it shows someone otherwise disaffected by politics how seemingly-innocuous government policy can create pressures that transform society for the worse. The way slow erosure can transform a society. Think about this next time you hear about nice-sounding things like Marriage Incentives and Protecting The Unborn.

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