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The Ethics of Oppression in “Phantom Beast Palu”: When Virtual Enslavement Mirrors Reality

It is arduous for players to conceive that the inaugural extraordinary triumph within the gaming sphere in 2024 shall manifest as the “paragon suture game”.

Subsequent to the unveiling of “Phantom Parlu,” within a span of fewer than six days, the sales figures of this open-world survival endeavor, fashioned at a cost of less than 50 million, have skyrocketed to 8 million. Currently, the zenith of concurrent online participants in the annals of “Phantom Parlu” has surpassed 2 million, outstripping the historical pinnacle roster of online gamers on Steam by more than double the count of participants in the runner-up, “Counter-Strike 2”.

In tandem with the game’s burgeoning acclaim, swirls the maelstrom of debate encompassing “Phantom Parlu”. Upon inaugurating the interface of “Eidolon Parlu,” players can discern a cartographic expedition apparatus evocative of “The Legend of Zelda,” while glimpsing vestiges of the progenitor of “Pokémon” in the Parlu entities. This opus resembles an amalgamation of myriad classical game intellectual properties, hence garnering the epithet “Stitch Monster” game from select denizens of the online milieu. Whether construed as plagiarism or assemblage, no definitive evidence has yet emerged. To the majority, this issue appears to have receded in significance, supplanted by the emergence of a novel modus operandi—

The contemporary generation of players no longer finds contentment in merely employing the Palu orb to ensnare Palu for the aggregation of pictorial representations or partaking in skirmishes shoulder to shoulder with the Palu. Instead, they have metamorphosed into “malevolent capitalists” – relegating ensnared Palu to toil. Moreover, players are traversing ever deeper along the path of “enslavement” and “exploitation” of Palu.

Currently, a fervid dialogue unfurls across social media platforms and video-sharing websites concerning “Palu”. Among these, the degree of autonomy afforded for interaction between players and Palu emerges as a seminal fount of inspiration for the subsequent iterations of the game. The adage “playing Palu during leisure and being Palu come Monday” has metamorphosed into an auto-deprecatory quip and taunt aimed at laborers who assume the mantle of cyber overlords.

In the vein of myriad survival games, this game transpires upon an insular desert expanse. Upon commencement, players rouse upon an unfamiliar littoral and must devise assorted strategies for survival. Regarding gameplay, “Palu” is akin to open-world titles such as “Ark: Survival Evolved”; the nucleus of “Palu” in truth assumes the guise of a “utensil” within the game—whereby players can amass sundry Palu and dispatch them for duties spanning construction, agriculture, and industry. Palu bearing disparate attributes discharge varying roles; the pyro-inclined Palu proves suitable for kindling fires, the aqueous-imbued Palu for irrigation, and the verdant-girt Palu for deployment in production lines encompassing sowing, apothecary, and manual labor.

Players necessitate solely the provision of adequate sustenance, thereafter arranging for Palu to labor within the factory, thus effectuating automated production until they exhaust their lifespan. It is then that players ascertain that by attenuating their empathy and condoning the “enslavement” of Palu, they can harness them to optimize productivity within the region, begetting a plethora of high-pressure industrial chains commensurate with the exigencies of the era. At this juncture, the dynamic between trainer and Palu in “Pokémon Pallu” ceases to mirror a symbiotic alliance of the “Pokémon” series, instead devolving into a master-slave rapport. Should a Palu succumb to ailment owing to travail, players may opt humanely to administer treatment, or they may elect to “optimize” said Palu on the pretext of incongruent input-output proportions. Moreover, they may ruthlessly disassemble the Palu, utilizing its remnants as sustenance or raw materials for other Palu.

A laborer who dutifully plies their trade within the corporate cubicle by day, yet upon returning home, ignites the game, instantaneously morphing into a malevolent capitalist. “Palu is the linchpin here. Without it, there is an abundance of Palu.” “The current Palu are too juvenile; they grow weary swiftly under heavy workloads.” “I recruited you to resolve other quandaries.” “It’s an issue Lu can’t resolve”… “Phantom Beast Parlu” deftly triggers the lupine gene latent within the DNA of itinerant laborers, serving as a “capitalist simulator”. In actuality, societal operational mechanisms such as 996, bottom-tier elimination, and lupine incentives are transposed into the game, enabling players to experience the allure of capitalist pursuits. As the game concludes and the sun ascends anew, the player reverts to reality, enmeshed once more with Palu.

Is it ethical to perpetrate malfeasance within a game?

As the game’s popularity burgeons, threads such as “How to Handle Superfluous Palu” and “Palu Guidelines” commandeer the zenith of discussion forums, even overshadowing inquiries regarding the alleged plagiarism surrounding the stitching maneuvers of “Eidolon Palu”. Amidst game progression, players encounter Palu of loftier tiers and rarer ilk. Those “low-tier” Palu ensnared in the nascent stages to aid in land reclamation and production transmute into burdensome encumbrances, laying claim to resources. At this juncture, players may elect to forsake these Palu and consign them once more to the Palu orb; alternatively, they may dismember said Palu to exploit them to the fullest extent, harvesting materials and their plaintive cries concomitantly; or repurpose them as raw materials to fortify other Palu.

In the context of reality, such conduct is patently immoral and antithetical to humanity. However, within the confines of a virtual realm, a tacit consensus appears to govern such actions. This engenders two quandaries: Is it ethical to commit malevolence within a virtual milieu? Are Palu within the virtual expanse deserving of reverence? When broaching the notion of moral agency within video games, we mustn’t relegate the game to a mere conduit for philosophical musings but must instead confront the moral crucibles therein.

By perusing discourse within game fora, perusing Q&A threads, and undertaking in-depth interviews with gamers, researchers Guo Wei and Li Min amassed a copious corpus of data to parse players’ sentiments and experiences concerning moral quandaries emergent in role-playing games. They discerned that immersive narratives and virtual moral dilemmas provoke a greater investment in the game world and the characters inhabiting it. Post-rendering a moral verdict, players’ introspection gravitates towards their own moral motivations and comportment.

In contrast to survival games of circumscribed scope such as “My War,” “Phantom Parlu” lacks delineated scenarios that thrust players into moral conundrums. Consequently, it forgoes the opportunity to elicit virtual empathy from players, thus yielding the moral experience somewhat wanting. The former mode directly transposes the moral quandaries of human nature into binary-choice conundrums confronting players: Should they pilfer sustenance and remedies from an elderly couple, or permit their ailing daughter to wither gradually? Players are compelled to confront the tortures of their conscience when presented with A or B, yes or no dilemmas. Conversely, owing to its expansive nature bereft of substantial moral guidance, it proves arduous for players to contemplate the morality of forsaking and dispatching Palu.

In this regard, we are precluded from adjudging the ethicality of malevolence within the game. Yet, as the appellation of the article by the “Game Research Society” evaluating “Phantom Beast Palu” proclaims: “After the frenetic exploitation of ‘social fauna’ in “Phantom Beast Palu,” a sense of disinterest suddenly pervaded” – Subsequent to subjecting Palu to ceaseless and high-intensity toil, certain players attested to a dearth of fulfillment, leaving naught but an abyss. After all, the work is never truly complete. Does the essence of game enjoyment reside in the mimicry of reality?

When engaging in gameplay, “efficiency foremost” must be etched into one’s very essence.

Strictly speaking, “Phantom Parlu” does not align with the paradigm of “either you perish or I endure” apocalyptic survival games akin to “Don’t Starve,” “Fallout,” and “State of Decay.” Its survivalist ethos leans more towards “production.” Put differently, players may elect their preferred production methodologies within the game, barring an existential crisis.

The ingenuity of “Phantom Parlu” lies in its provision of an open-world canvas for players, wherein a broad spectrum between morality and immorality exists. Good and evil are delineated by one’s own dictum.

“It proves more expedient to subject a Palu to incessant labor and vend it for a replacement once spent.” “A Palu harbors no need for a comfortable habitat or nourishment; merely a haystack suffices. Simply dispense a modicum of berries. Should a Palu evince discontent, it is owing to its ignorance of its purpose, hence it is vendible.”… The “Palu Code,” disseminated widely within the gaming community, encapsulates the immutable law of Palu enslavement.

In his tome “Work, Consumerism, and the New Poor,” British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman delineates the modus operandi of the impoverished as follows: “Given the predisposition of the impoverished to contentment with meager provisions, eschewing aspirations for more, wages for the impoverished should remain at subsistence levels. Thus, despite the availability of employment, the impoverished can merely eke out a living, toiling ceaselessly for their sustenance.” This appears analogous to the gameplay of this “capitalist simulator”: within a game world disentangled from reality, individuals are liberated from traditional moral strictures and edicts, thereby able to subjugate and exploit Palu as a labor force ad libitum. Provided that the Palu are afforded the bare minimum for sustenance, they can continue to furnish labor and engage in servile toil. From the capitalist’s vantage point, they are ephemeral, replaceable, and disposable laborers.

Curiously, this open-world milieu lacks a definitive production-related endgame task; yet players instinctively and autonomously internalize “efficiency foremost” as the game’s quintessence. Driven by the doctrine of efficiency, the maximization of production and profit emerges as the zenith players aspire towards. The machinery of capitalism is starkly evident within this game, albeit executed not by capitalists but by laborers typically discontent with exploitation.

The identical attributes of profound freedom and expansive openness also furnish “Eidolon Parlu” with a divergent gameplay experience: players may subject Parlu to indignity and relentless servitude sans respite, or opt for a humane approach, wherein they balance work and recreation. One player shared an alternative approach: she fashioned a comfortable habitat for her Palu and discovered that not only did the Palu remain hale and hearty, but they approached their duties with alacrity each day.

The charm of the game world lies in its selective fidelity to reality. Amidst a milieu often inhospitable to NPCs and permeated by 996 and wolf culture, reality suffices. Whipping Palu into labor and erecting sweatshops may indeed yield higher productivity, yet interacting with Palu within the game, fighting in concert, and cohabiting may constitute the crux of the game’s allure.

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