Paradise Cove is a touch-screen controlled video game about colonialism. At the start of the game, the player arrives on the shores of an apparently unpopulated island, huge in total span and covered in thick rain forrest. Over the course of the game, the player is encouraged to build houses and shops and to “expand” gradually into neighboring plots of land, cutting down trees as they go and making room for their growing colony. No official national or religious affiliation is every stated, but the ship the player arrives on is called “St. Christopher” and its passengers have names like “Maria” and “Jacob.” Every single one of the characters is white, which is especially surprising given what happens in the later stages of expansion. As the player’s colony grows, they begin to encounter abandoned archaeological sites, the likeness of which evokes the imagery of South American Mayan and Aztec temples, but which is not specific enough to actually reference any particular culture or people; instead the ruins belong to a vague conglomerate people of the past, not unlike Gerald Vizenor’s “representations of invented Indians” in his book Mannifest Manners. At each site, a new, always White, character is introduced, someone who is evidently been there a long time. Where are the indigenous people? Who were they and how long have they been gone? None of these questions are answered over the course of Paradise Cove, which is good thing for the white characters (and potentially white players), whose subjectivity might be threatened by coeval existence with any of the original native people of the game’s vast landscape.
Native peoples are thoroughly absent from what is present and contemporary in the narrative; they are consistently denied access to a trajectory of futurity where they progress, evolve, and change. American Indians’ very existence threatens white occupation of American land, as well as the subjectivity of white scholars who attempt to preserve that occupation through objectification and allochronistic temporal manipulation. Crucial to all of these materials, is the assembly of a cohesive historical narrative, where native history dissolves into white history, where White America expands through time, as well as land, claiming historical narrative as their own. There are no native people in Paradise Cove because it is their history and their narrative being discovered at those ethnically vague, pixilated archaeological sites. If they were there to greet the white characters, or if Native people in the modern day United States were permitted to claim their burials, then the obligatory acknowledgement of coeval experience would threaten white subjectivity and occupation profoundly. The intentional and violent production of arbitrary, synthetic antiquity is thus deeply tied to the construction of even modern-day American identity.