“My credit card weighs seven pounds.”
“I’m earning this Tecate!”
“Let’s do meal prep for the next three years!”
“There’s a secret level above Amazon Prime . . . you get voter priority . . . you get to marry Alexa!”
These are the final words of a civilization where the corporations win and everyone else loses. They’re also the hilarious dialogue of Hudson Yards Video Game, a satirical short film by comedian Conner O’Malley.
Set in New York’s $25 billion monument to gentrification, Hudson Yards, the sketch imagines an open-world video game, starring a fleece-vested trader bro who, perhaps on his lunch break, takes a jog at the yard while compulsively saying hello to everyone for “Hello Points.”
Occasionally, he bumps into a NPC (aka a pre-programmed non-playable character, who talks while waving their arms like a lazy animation) who pitches him on a business proposition, or just recounts a favorite episode of The Office. At one point, he ventures too far from the Vessel—the $150 million “stairway to nowhere” designed by Thomas Heatherwick that makes you sign over a piece of your soul to visit. Here, the screen warns he’s entering a “low-income area”—a spin on how video games have a limited “playable area” you need to stay inside, like an invisible fence.
All in all, the short adds up to some sort of augmented, hyperreality nightmare of greed run amok, in which every human interaction is a transaction, and there’s always another Amazon service to unlock. Such is the curse of late-stage capitalism, in which the consumer-oriented world of services and products has tragically, and sometimes even comedically, outpaced our own ability to afford them. Our labor is being cheapened and even automated by the same companies that are squeezing us as customers! It’s unsustainable to say the least.
The most ironic part of this video is that it’s not just a critique of late capitalism, it’s also a product of it. Because of the aggressive terms and conditions of visiting and photographing the Vessel, the film you see here partially belongs to its developers—in perpetuity.