Cult of the Company – The Outer Worlds and Edgewater

To begin with, I’m placing this under both my Gaming and Mental Health headers, the first reason is obvious as its a post about The Outer Worlds, the second is because I’m trying to look at the mindset of the people of Edge Water. I’m only a few hours into the game but will do my best to refrain from posting spoilers. For clarity I have the power regulator I need for my ship but I’ve not yet actually installed it on the ship.

Even at this early stage Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds have thrown up some food for though, most notably in the people I have met so far, and most importantly regarding the mental health of the inhabitants of the town of Edgewater. Edgewater is a community that was created by and is owned by a company called Spacers Choice and is set up in order to provide tinned “Saltuna” to colonies throughout space. It’s the first settlement that the player happens across and where you begin to interact with the games inhabitants and whilst there’s a focus on the physical health of the citizens of Edgewater, which is pretty poor due to their diet and working conditions, its the mindset of these people that is definitely where my intrigue lies.

The very first person you can talk to once you have landed in the Emerald Vale sector of Terra 2 introduces you to the motto of Spacers Choice “You’ve tried the best, now try the rest. Spacer’s Choice”, but its not until you reach Edgewater that the mindset of the people begins to show itself. This is most apparent, in my opinion, in the person who runs the Spacer’s Choice Cantina, one Amelia Kim.

Amelia works hard, after all, with how muddy it is outside the doors of her bar, its not easy keeping those floors clean. But there’s more to her than it seems, you see its very easy to get her to start talking. She wanted to be a scientist when she was younger, but it seems at some point she let go of that dream “thats the problem with dreams, you wake up” she says (I may be paraphrasing there). There’s a deadened look on her face, and questions outside of the operation of her bar seem to scare her. This pattern is repeated through the rest of Edgewater, from Silas the gravedigger through to the towns supervisor Reed Tobson, they all do as the corporation tells them and don’t ask questions regardless of the impact this has upon themselves or each other, in the belief that it is for the betterment of Edgewater as a whole.

This means that those who fall ill are quaruntined out of the way, they’re not currently working, and thus dont serve the higher purpose and so aren’t entitled to treatment (even though people work in order to make sure they receive treatment if/when they do fall ill), those who leave Edgewater, for whatever reason, are shunned as deserters, so if you’re not serving Spacer’s Choice by working in the Saltuna Cannery (or one of the more localised jobs like the towns vicar, who himself is treated with suspicion) then you don’t belong within this particular society.

It does feel like a commentary on our own work culture, how many people go in to work unwell or return too early because of the pressure from their boss not to take time off, or the social stigma from their colleagues because they’re “skyving”? Whether its our physical or mental health we return, dutifully, to work, potentially causing others to fall ill and not being able to work to the best of our abilities, all to serve (normally) a company that we’re actually a tiny part of, we prioritise of others over our own health through fear of making things more difficult for others, although its also because time off comes with financial punishment (which for some people also means they may not be able to afford the prescription charge for their medication in order to get better and return to work in a better state in the first place).

The people in Edgewater have become convinced they are a part of something, again this is reflected in the real world. How many of us have worked in jobs where the “benefits” of the job also happen to aid the company you’re working for? I’ll give you an example. I used to work as a cashier in a bank, before I started I was made an appointment with one of their staff members in order to open a current account with said bank with me ultimately switching from one high street bank to the high street bank I was becoming an employer of, my wages were then paid into this account. From talking to other members of staff these was standard practice for this particular chain of banks (though not all of them do this, I believe), and you’re led to believe that your wages have to be paid into the account you’ve now taken out with your employer. This makes you both employer and customer, it enables you to talk to other customers about the benefits of banking with your employer as you have that experience to pass on to the customer (not that they like you referring to customers as customers), but it also helps various elements of that bank beyond those conversations with its customers, it helps the banker, branch and region all meet their targets and also means that that chain of banks also has a customer that other banks may not have (especially if you only use one account or then want to take advantage of the convenience of having your current account, savings account, credit card etc all under one roof).

So, when you’re walking around Edgewater, listening to the likes of Amelia talk, ignoring her dreams and grinding out her menial job for very little benefit to herself, its very hard to ignore the feeling in the back of your mind that this isn’t healthy. Whether thats the developers intention remains to be seen and I think, for those that are also playing The Outer Worlds, you may have already clicked as to what path I took for that first big decision the creators have you make.

 

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