Ryan Reynolds as Guy, wearing his trademark blue shirt and looking confused, in Free Guy.

Many entertainment industries think that because your company produces something cool, you must love to do it. A lot of people who work in high-visibility, high-demand industries like video games, publishing, and filmmaking love their products. That shouldn't mean the companies they work for can exploit them.

Free Guy, directed by Shawn Levy and released in late 2021, was a commercial and critical success, a solid blockbuster action film that stuck to its premise. Ryan Reynolds is the lead in the video game Free City. Jodie Comer plays the role of Molotov Girl in the game, and she is sued by Soonami for stealing her work. Taika Waititi plays Soonami's coin-brained CEO, and Joe Keery plays Walter, his former design partner.

There is a discussion about the state of the video game industry, the labor it expects from its employees, and the struggle that game studios have had in unionization efforts within the film. Employees at the publisher of the Call of Duty franchise voted to unionize earlier this year.

I understand that writing Free Guy is a Marxist text, but I'm going for it. You have been warned.

Passion is a professional weakness

Companies exploit passion for their own gain. When you love something, you will invest yourself in it, but not expectation. Video game companies are rife with delays, allegations, abuses, and labor complaints due to the expectation that passion is enough to get a coder, developer, artist, or programmer to pull weeks of work. Fuck that. You don't owe anyone more than what they pay you for, even if companies don't deserve your labor in the first place.

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The groundwork for Free Guy's argument against companies that exploit the passion of their laborers is already introduced. A guy wakes up and says he has the best life, he lives in Free City, he has a best friend, and he works at the bank. The audience can see that waking up, walking to work, and following these rules is exploited labor for the benefit of the PCs, even though he is not self-awareness at first. The service that Guy offers to Free City and Soonami is under-valued because he loves doing it.

Taika Waititi as Antwan, Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser, and Joe Keery as Keys.

Soonami pushes its employees beyond the bounds of reasonable expectation as Guy bucks the exploitation inherent in the expectation of utilizing his labor for profit in another world. Soonami overworks its staff with the expectation that they are exploitable because they love their job, like many video game companies.

There are many moments in the film that expose the bullshit around the contemporary capitalist labor system.

This scene lays the groundwork for many of the labor conversations that happen in Free Guy. If someone has an expectation of service, it doesn't mean they are entitled to it. A barista is not there to listen to your life story. Come complain to me whenever you want. I will give you free labor all day.

Education will free you

The people in Free City use sunglasses to educate themselves. As they become self-awareness, they become capable of free thought and understanding the world in which they live and work. The code for the NPCs is to enforce their own subjugation.

Deviation from the norm is punished until it becomes profitable because Free City benefits from Guy's compliance. I don't like that the source of this phrase comes from a post about a reindeer, but we live in 2022. Free City has a defense system in place to prevent Guy from deviating from his original code. The barista will freeze when he asks for a cappuccino instead of his usual coffee. Everyone is silent. The cop next to him puts a hand on his weapon, a tank outside the caf, and it shoots at Guy.

There is a moment at the end of the film where Guy is being tried to kill by Antwan. Nobody shows up when they are asked to cross the picket line because they are card-carrying members of the union. Guy tried to tell Buddy that he was trapped because of his ignorantness, like in Eugene Debs' 1908 campaign speech when he was running for President on the Socialist Party ticket. You're satisfied with too little.

Ryan Reynolds as Guy and Lil Rel Howery as Buddy.

As he holds out the glasses, Guy tells Buddy that life doesn't have to be something that just happens to us. Buddy doesn't want to. As Debs said, the average worker with a wage that will keep body and soul together is content, and he is told that he is blessed to be content. The torchbearer of civilization is intelligent discontent.

It makes sense that Guy becomes known as Blue Shirt Guy as he is a blue-collar worker and a sign of the PCs that are constantly struggling to liberate themselves from the labor that Soonami has forced upon them. He becomes a working class hero when he decides to level up in game by being a good guy and not torturing the good citizens of Free City. He's called a good guy, but that's only meant to distract from the fact that Guy is rebelling against the capitalist structures and assumptions that keep Free City free for some.

As Guy moves through Free City, other people will start exploring their own free will. A barista only serves coffee with a spoon, another writes a memoir of sexism in the video game industry. The other NPC's ability to self-educate themselves through the very thing that makes them valuable has been unlocked by Guy. Guy's final plea at the end of the game: the NPC labor revolution, became more receptive as the artificial intelligence of every NPC furthers their understanding of the world.

Soonami’s view into the video game industry is real

By the time we see Soonami in Free Guy, the studio is in the middle of crunch time, and everything is going to shit. The skins aren't backwards compatible, the testing is full of bugs, and the art team is up to their eyeballs. The CEO of Soonami doesn't care. His only interest is money. Keys suggests making an original game instead of trying to make Free City 2. Intellectual property and names make money. There is no guarantee that a new game will make money. It's clear what motivates Soonami and how he drives his corporate plans.

There is a caricature of a man-child in the media. After leaving Burning Man early, he sweeps into his office and immediately calls his workers and fires one on the spot. This kind of backhanded, over-the-top bullshit that seems fake, but is often based on real experiences people have had with their bosses in high-profile industries. It's ironic that Antwan knows that he's undervaluing Keys work. He offers him a job in programming, but Keys doesn't want to work for him.

Jodie Comer as Milly and Joe Keery as Keys.

He is incredibly unpredictable. In his first entrance, he says he loves Blue Shirt Guy, but in his next entrance, he says that Blue Shirt Guy needs to be kicked out of the game permanently because people are interested in Free City. Changing goalposts and only inviting the right kind of attention are critiques of an industry that has unreasonable expectations for the way that people engage their products. Video games are critiqued through play, and if people are engaging with it in the wrong way, it can be damaging to the studio's bottom. Again, the streamer is not being valued, but just hoping to make more money from their streams.

The game will be destroyed by Antwan if he is allowed to have an ounce of control. He starts hacking at the hardware in the server room. The film is not flattering about the video game studios.

Become Ungovernable

The first time Guy tried to stop the daily robbery at his bank, he was beaten up by the PC-robber. Guy doesn't have to take the company anymore, because the people around him begged him to just get on the ground. He has a choice. He is starting to see the cracks in a corporation that takes advantage of his passion. He takes control of the narrative when he exposes the flaws in the corporation that claims to control his life.

The Player yells, "I'm the guy who stays down and takes it." This isn't you! He is still caught in the fallacy of industry, you don't do this! He believes that if he follows the rules laid out in his life, he will one day be able to feel passion, true joy from the exploitation of his labor, as promised by the Free City social experiment. Guy is no longer a part of the machine. Guy isn't playing by the rules anymore, maybe Buddy is unable to break from the constant expectation that he put his body on the line for his labor.

In the final scenes of Free Guy, Guy realized that he and his friends had been forced to work for free for the benefit of Soonami. He gathers the group of people in the town and asks them to work together to save their city and their lives. When the company threatens to destroy them, they have decided that they are no longer slaves to the company.

Ryan Reynolds as Guy.

At the end of the film, the NPCs reject their programming. They have removed themselves from the game because they are no longer governed by the laws of their initial code. A coder at Soonami says that this is like a digital walk out. Through the power of unionization, organization, and a clear labor leader in Guy, as well as the promise of a world that is less scary, kinder, and respects the value of people, the citizens of Free City fight for the world where they are.

At the end of the film, Guy promised to make a revolution happen. They are allowed to live in a world without expectations. They don't have to perform labor for anyone unless they choose to do so, and they can finally fully own the means of production. Digitally speaking.

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