A city tour demonstrating the architecture of New York usually doesn’t need to specify that it’s “pacifist.” But when it takes place in Tom Clancy’s: The Division, avoiding violence is difficult. The digital tourists in Total Refusal’s film Operation Jane Walk carry rifles and tactical gear, whether they want to use them or not. As they move towards Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive to discuss the work of urban planner Robert Moses and theorist Jane Jacobs, they have to avoid and ignore incoming fire. Next, they pause to watch an NPC endlessly beat something that looks suspiciously like a human corpse.
“If we don’t disturb him, he’ll continue his performance forever,” says the tour guide.
Operation Jane Walk is one of Total Refusal’s earliest productions. The collective is a group of academics and creatives making thought-provoking art by exploring the seams of AAA video games. Jane Walk captures the twin themes that underlie much of their work. Firstly, it explores how games so often reproduce an uncritical, capitalist, imperialist political perspective. And secondly, it reveals that they’re actually completely absurd.