The video game series Devil May Cry was once a system seller, but not so much any more. One thing that didn’t help: the 2013 reboot known as DmC: Devil May Cry. Fans and critics debated the merits of the game’s altered combat and its hero Dante’s brooding look, but most of them missed what DmC was really about.
DmC was a reactive video game, sprung from the worldwide economic collapse in 2008 and tackling the situation from the perspective of a familiar demographic—camera-friendly, smirking, liberal-minded 20-somethings. They were saddled with debt. 60-something TV talking heads called them lazy for it. If they protested, they were terrorists. DmC represented their social mutiny.
America at large would despise DmC. It takes to task insidious news networks, lauded pop stars and sugar-peddling soft drink companies, all the while sexually expressing itself in a knowingly vulgar manner. The guns, too—they’re weak. That probably hurts the most.
Dante, once a cartoonish, white-haired anime figurine, is now a flippant flip-you-off avatar for the malcontent Millennial. He goes unseen by slipping into a demonic world—Limbo—where advertised reality twists into truth. Energy drink Virility is not produced on a factory line, but extracted from a demonic succubus. Virility’s colorful packaging and catchy marketing slogans are honey to lure the fattened and stupefied masses, every sip “like a lobotomy.”
Dante’s generation understands this intuitively. They have perspective, and they’re resistant. The internet gave them a view and a voice.
DmC’s satirical Raptor News Network, with its splashy red, white, and blue logos and nonsensical anti-journalism, would appeal to those in their retirement years. Bill O'Reilly stand-in Bob Bargas—“Just doing God’s work”—evokes the worst of Fox News. There are no facts from Raptor, only scare tactics.
At the top of the pyramid is the corporate monolith of Silver Sacks, controlled by Demon King (and Rupert Murdoch analog) Mundus. He’s a god to Raptor viewers, the capitalist who ascended board rooms, who “protects” the people and watches through his city-wide CCTV system.
It’s unclear what Silver Sacks creates other than money, and this confusion is relevant to DmC’s broad symbolism. Likewise, few understand how executives earned millions (billions, even) in a sinking economy while blue collar homeowners drowned under their mortgages.
“War is fought with deception.” This line is DmC at its most perceptive (and least subtle). Dante came from a normal family—a family destroyed by violent demons, a metaphor for failing foster home systems and foreclosures. DmC is a scathing assault on those who swept away the middle class.
But the masses only see the disaster, not the cause, financial or otherwise. A seaside dock is spectacularly ripped apart when a Ferris wheel snaps free from its hinges in the game’s raucous opening, and though Dante watches a demon unlatch the ride—launching into a profit-over-safety boss fight monologue—Raptor reports the incident as terrorism.
The mission isn’t new. Take up arms to rid the universe of evil corporations—it’s the story of countless other video games. Big money is the villain because it’s an easy narrative target. Coming from mega-studios listed on stock exchanges, the effect is mostly just pandering. But not in DmC. In fact, DmC’s openness and gusto is remarkable. The root cause of DmC’s rise of capitalism is not only money, as in lazier games—it’s depression, stress, and trauma. It’s insufficient minimum wage jobs, the effects of an abusive society in an era of social openness, and dwindling educational resources.
DmC battles these broken societal norms and cleaves them in two, its new Dante more affably sarcastic and, to the affected generation, more relevant. Paired with hoodie-cloaked Kat and her history of family abuse, this video game of demons, overlords and underworld gods suddenly turns intellectual and observant. Dante is a loud protester, but with a sword and guns and a potent solution instead of a sign.
Yes, Dante can be obnoxious. His frequent use of middle fingers and expletives is grating. But no one in his position is being heard otherwise. Dante’s ability to be showy—even earning gameplay rewards for being so—sells him as a citizen of YouTube. Most of his actions would be at home in a highlight reel.
So why didn’t anybody see all this? DmC may have arrived at the wrong time, its articulate commentary rendered slightly uncomfortable by its proximity to the issues it satirized. In other words, “too soon.”
But DmC is worth revisiting now. It spawned demons that were reflections on how that financial crisis happened; colorful, playful, offensive, and poignant. When you really look at it, the entire game is an extended fellatio for socialism.
On second thought, that might have had something to do with it too.
Playboy’s Gamers Next Door try ‘Wolfenstein: The Old Blood’
5 Beloved Games that are Actually Kind of Bad