When describing Falling Down, people occasionally include us in the recent surge of post-apocalyptic games that have sprung up across the UK. That’s not that surprising and you’ve probably jokingly heard me describe ‘Falling Down’ as ‘Post-apocalyptic Spiritual Canada’ and, looking back at it now, that is perhaps not wholly accurate.

So why not Post Apocalyptic? I could see Falling Down argued either way but here I’d like to explore a bit why it isn’t.

In the very technical sense the world of Falling Down is ‘post apocalypse’ - the apocalypse has happened, the world before has fallen to the Z’bri. Humanity was enslaved for generations uncounted and much of the knowledge of our world has been utterly lost before finally finding liberation from the Z’bri with the power of the Fatimas.

But what makes a story ‘post apocalyptic’ rather than just post apocalypse? Much of the focus of post apocalyptic fiction is the struggle for survival against the disaster (The walking dead still has Zombies roaming the land, Z for Zachariah has the struggle for sustainable survival against a nuclear wasteland and utter isolation) or against problems directly caused by the disaster. The apocalypse continues to shape the world and shapes the story in such a way to focus it back on the disaster. At heart, many post apocalyptic set-ups are morality tales, reflecting the fears of the time and how humanity’s hubris will be its undoing (over-reliance of technology, an outbreak of disease modern medicine cannot control, the destruction of nuclear power unleashed). The world before is deemed as being fundamentally flawed but full of enough good things that as much as possible should be salvaged and rebuilding from the old template (but better and with the lessons of the past now learnt) is often in the forefront of people’s minds. There’s a lot of looking back in order to move forward.

The lack of this traditional focus on how the world ended and why Humanity fell I think moves Falling Down away from being post apocalyptic. While the Z’bri are the cause of the end of the world, the reasons for their initial appearance aren’t really covered in the source text nor are they really relevant to the ongoing story of Humanity. Instead of trying to reflect on what went wrong and rebuild bigger and better this time, a line has been drawn that says what came before isn’t worth saving and whatever society did exist in the World Before was so fundamentally flawed and the details long lost that everything needs to be built (not re-built) from scratch and a new path forged. Think of stories like ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Dragonlance’ - all set after events that have fundamentally changed the way the world works but the tales being told are not related to that and not what you would consider ‘Post-apocalyptic’ stories.

So what about the Z’bri? They’re horrific, they brought about the end of the world, they’re still *right there* so why is that different to Zombies still roaming the land in the Walking Dead? Partly I think it’s about the length of time that has passed since their first arrival and partly it’s their attitude to humanity now. They’ve had time to completely tear down the world (it’s never stated how long they enslaved humanity but the suggestion is that it went on for many generations and had time for much of the infrastructure of the world to be reclaimed by nature) and since the liberation of humanity was also about 70 - 80 years ago, society has had time to establish itself and the Z’bri are not the imminent threat to tearing that down either, due to the influence of the Fatimas. A post apocalyptic threat is one that stops you establishing a new world and is standing in the way of progress, and while the Z’bri are a malevolent influence over the order that has now been established they are not threatening the Tribal status quo. That does of course lead to the interesting question of why, when they are so numerous and powerful, they’ve not re-enslaved humanity? But that is a question for the game itself.

Beyond that however I think is another key point that sets Falling Down outside of the post-apocalyptic label. Joe has already mentioned in his last post that the Tribals stand with one foot in the River of Dream and that makes them fundamentally differently human than you or me. In a sense they have to look forward because they are no longer able to look back - reclaiming the past isn’t an attainable goal nor should it be. It doesn’t make sense to try and rebuild what came before and so instead they are building a new world upon the basis of the reality of the river of dream being such a big part of their lives.

So what about the Keepers? They are probably the strongest support for a ‘post-apocalyptic’ label on the game but I’d argue that even they don’t quite fit. Although not as firmly rooted in the River of Dream as the Tribals, it’s increasingly clear that they’re not totally divorced from it. Their recovery of technology is not what you’d recognise as science and their ability to work such devices is very much rooted in ‘Technosmithing’ - which lets them power a torch without batteries or replace someone’s arm with a chainsaw. Technosmithing is not science, it’s not just another name for ‘stuff too complex for Tribals to understand’, it’s a way for the Keepers to interact with a world where the River of Dream is a very real thing. They are also not the focus of the campaign - you might have seen a fair number of them at event 1 but they are not the players, they are not the dominant group in the world and they are not the major threat. The game does not encourage scientific discovery or invention as a viable way forward and instead shows that ‘science’ as we would recognise it doesn’t even really make sense any more.

Wherever the world is going, it’s not being led there by the Keepers or by the Z’bri but by the Tribals and the Fallen. Looking forward, not looking back.

So back to my description, ‘Post-apocalyptic Spiritual Canada’ - the spiritual part isn’t quite right either (we changed the title of the facebook group to ‘mysticism’ after event 1) but that’s a blog post for another day.

Canada, however, is entirely accurate.

why_falling_down_is_not_post_apocalyptic.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/02 15:03 by ellie
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