RND/ In which European bus simulator videogame OMSI 2 appears to symbolize the abstract virtual poverty (emptiness, barely adequate structural existence, barren aridity etc.) of the everyday mundane world.) Some PC screenshot (virtual photography) art, via Steam Community:

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One has to ask – if one were so inclined – what exactly is being simulated in OMSI 2? Perhaps it is merely to continue the dark fantasy of (the apparent normality of) daily existence in the virtual videogame realm. At all costs; all other priorities rescinded. In an age when the mighty Videogame Industry has penetrated almost every facet of existence, it’s only and perfectly synthetically natural for The Big Lie of daily existence under global Ludocapitalism to continue without pause or interruption. The symbolic flow of capital must be seamless; any sufficient pauses or gaps constitute an organic threat of reality and must be countered with every more terminally boring simulated Digital Content.

By constantly smothering players with endless DLC, The Industry allows no space to think. There is only The Game. It’s now long been possible to wake up and go to work in your game. Log off and play another simulation. Layers and layers of utterly flat, two dimensional nothingness; it’s OMSI 2 all the way down.

Players don’t care in the least that the passengers they constantly land ferry about the endless virtual city are soulless, dead behind the eyes Non Playable Characters, or that their characterless, aesthetically native low poly models arrive direct from some Z-list Uncanny Valley Extras Hell to haunt us for our karmic sins. This is because the very idea that one apparently knows ‘its just one big, pleasant dream’ is baked in ideologically from the moment the game boots up. This assumption is in fact baked into the game’s matrix code. If it’s all just a matter of Innocent Fun In The Virtual Sun, surely then it doesn’t matter one digital jot if the ‘people’ one meets (and works for) on one’s virtual journey to nowhere are as lifelessly plastic as the digital wrapping The Game arrived in. What counts is merely that one is successfully plugged in and that one stays there, perfectly content with.. not very fucking much at all.

And yet, despite all this apparent and endless synthetic hyper corporate happiness infused in every Bit of The Game, ‘why (as the song asks) does my soul feel so bad’? Why (and where) is there this unacknowledged, underlying feeling of dis-ease, quietly creeping unease, of hollow hauntedness of a glaring ontological void in every step one takes within this bizarrely alienated virtual city and its deliriously geeky insufficiency?

If only. If only OMSI 2 was not primarily based around the (often hugely janky) feeling of ‘driving a bus’ but rather an artistic and philosophical exploration of the weirdness of daily existence for a common or garden bus driver, ie. a worker under Capitalism. One has only to stare hard to what’s happening on screen. There’s a human being, forced to work as a driver of a bus. Does nobody who plays these fucking games to death even once wonder about the potential awfulness or strangeness of such a state of being? About what it might actually mean to be a bus driver? Not only the long hours, the abuse, the waiting in traffic, the effect on one’s physical and mental health the general, stressful bullshit one has to put up with. But the plain existential absurdity of Bus Driving per se.

Look through the bus driver’s tired eyes, as a bus driver. The constant noise of the traffic. The sweaty heat of a summer’s day spent sitting in a bus with some drunk asshole busy munching a disgusting smelling kebab immediately behind you. The stink of left behind nappies on the seats. The vomit on the floor, the rattle of empty cola cans rolling up and down the isle, hour after hour. Not only just all this however but the endless rows of houses which literally look the same. Why, they almost appear to be roughly painted, two dimensional plywood models on some giant movie set, entirely hollow inside and propped up with planks. Heck, even the windows appear to be glued on posters featuring artificial reflections.

Some guy in a red jacket pulls the stop chord and you stop the bus. He gets off and you wonder what exactly he’s doing with his life, where he’s going and ultimately ie. from the very outset What It All Means. If only you could follow him back to his little 2D house. You bet yourself anything he wouldn’t even try to unlock the door but merely disappear right through it. Or perhaps he’s only pretending to get off the bus after a long hard day at the Videogame Simulation Factory and in fact is perfectly content to walk ten miles to the next bus stop, where he’ll wait for several desiccated hours in the virtual darkness for your little vehicle to come pick him up. Around and around we go in the night from one nowhere to the next and nobody seems to give much of a shit; isn’t that fucking strange? Isn’t that worth talking about? (Hello? Can we form some kind of advanced scientific committee to look into this phenomena?)

No. Again, nobody thinks like this, or about This Kind Of Stuff. Being already fully on board (ideologically speaking) concerning the inherent artificially of The Game, ie. “Why so tense, Bro? It’s just a game”, they imagine they’ve no problem about the synthetic nature of what’s they’re playing / what’s playing them for easily pleased fools. If it’s ‘just a game’ then there’s no problem, no deep or shallow existential angst to be had, nothing to write virtual home about. Just do your job; just ‘shut up and keep playing’ and Everything Will Work Out Fine (/for the evil hyper corporations overseeing every moment of your virtually lived existence.)

Having said that, OMSI 2 desperately needs a Zombie Survival mode. You go into work, sign in at the depot, say hi to The Guys, ‘talk sport’ for a while or whatever the fuck it is bus drivers do, and then go about your hyper regular, perfectly restricted and contained, culturally normalized work routine day. Twilight comes however, and you immediately start getting the serious Heebie Jeebies. There’s also something seriously wrong with the bus engine because your top speed has suddenly reduced to five miles per hour. The last passenger to get off deep in the suburbs is about to step off the bus when he slowly turns to you and says in a horrible, half strangled voice “Drive and don’t stop. They are coming..”

An hour later and your totally lost. The GPS on your dash is now no longer updating the map. You realize that if you stop the bus to ask for directions the engine will die for good and you’ll be stuck wherever the virtual hell This is. Passengers start to shuffle up to the bus and beat on the sides with their fists, even their heads. There’s now a distinct grey blue tint to their skin, and they don’t blink, merely stare in your general direction, without feeling. You are quietly freaking the fuck out and are desperate to log right out of this particular hyperreality but you realize you cannot. Eventually The Virtual Undead will storm the bus, and inexorable lava wave of rottenness and your bloody idiot flesh will be ripped from your bones.

Running over them and popping their disgusting moaning skulls seems to help, although you are paranoid about getting too many living corpses jammed under the wheel arches and thereby dragging the bus to a terrifying halt.

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In case it wasn’t entirely fucking obvious, OMSI 2 is entirely devoid of meaningful meaning or true substance. At the time of writing however, the current total DLC offered by videogame publishers Aerosoft GmbH comes to £973.84, which is some serious bullshit right here. Imagine driving around every goddamn combined inch of those empty maps for months on end, trying every conceivable route in a desperate search for potential.. whatever. ‘Fun’. Man, that sounds like some anal, anorak wearing nerd’s Mundane Paradise. (A paradise, precisely because it’s so humdrum and unimaginatively banal; pedestrian.) It’s not a place real imagination can enter. Only stupid and repetitive Playbor can take place ‘there’. No social boundaries that can be truly broken it’s only a (corporate) safe sandbox for willfully naive children to explore. Such non places are only safe and ‘relaxing’ in the sense of being drunk on superficiality, of videogame addled stupefaction. You are now an Infinitely Playable (manipulable) Character on a stage perfectly fit for fools only. All aboard!

// how to play big science