Archive for August, 2013

Old School Road Trip of the American West

August 31, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mq8QzPog6E

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In consideration of Warren Spector’s call for a Roger Ebert for video games

August 21, 2013

Look, there are a lot of issues here in play which stand against what Mr. Spector wants. One is that many gamers don’t want games as art, they want them as toys, drugs, or martial art. So how about asking the question of how many gamers want games as art at all, and then the follow up question of how many of those gamers want games primarily as art instead of primarily as one of the other functions. Gamers ultimately decide what games will be produced.

Another key issue – as we are all becoming painfully aware, the world is not in good shape. In fact, it’s dying. One outcome of this is that culture becomes un-important, which means art becomes un-important. It’s no accident that the popularization of knowledge of the upcoming apocalypse coincided with the rise of un-artistic mediums such as comic books and video games, part of the “fall of high culture” which really means knowledge of the end of the world.

Personally, I believe that as long as humans are alive and have time to spend beyond fulfilling basic needs that art should be produced, but that’s merely my personal belief and many other people, including many post-cultural gamers don’t share it.

I agree with you about the *possibility* of reviewers focusing on games as art in their reviews – I’m merely telling you why I don’t think that’s going to happen in a serious way.

One thing that could happen is reviewers starting a review with the basic intent of the game. What’s the game’s basic function? If the basic function is art then the reviewer could analyze the game in that context which would be a scenario that Warren favors.

What Warren really wants is a deep games journalism, not game reviewing. How many game reviewers are capable of deep artistic analysis of games? Some have mentioned Tom Chick and I agree, he could do so.

But because games are such a personal medium it really takes a fan of the game to do great analysis, and no game journalist or reviewer is a fan of all games. This is why fan sites for a game have always been the best place to go for great analysis of the game, not to “Roger Eberts”.

The quality of Roger Ebert’s reviews varies, partially depending on how deeply he understands the movie he watches, and it seems to me that games require an even greater level of understanding.

One more issue of yours to address – it’s difficult to know who is responsible for what in a game – fans of Deus Ex for example have to spend time interviewing Deus Ex developers to gain specific knowledge of what individuals did what within the game, and even then as developers know game development is a very collaborative and integrative process. Films have very defined artistic roles – director, cinematographer, writer, actor while games usually lack much of any clarity, often even within the development team itself.

And isn’t this a good thing? What’s wrong with a collaborative medium where a team produces a work of art, where it’s difficult to extract individual contribution? Video games are the first collaborative artistic medium in human history and now we have to cater to Mr. Spector’s personal whims which puts this collaboration in jeopardy?

Games are not films and in the final analysis might not even be much in the way of art. Why don’t we let games dance? Why don’t we let games find their own way? Films are a modern, cultural artform while games are a post-modern, post-cultural artform. Isn’t this ok?

Video games are unlike anything else. They have a beauty unlike anything else and a place in human history more intimate to we humans living today than any other artform. Often I worry that our actions as doting parents may well do more harm than good.

One more thing here – 80% of mainstream games feature killing as the primary mode of gameplay, and the reason gamers like to kill in games is spiritual cleansing – deriving from puritanical culture. This is why “monsters”, which can be defined as creatures which should be exterminated in order to preserve the purity of the master race, err the “civilized people”, play such a prominent role in gaming.

Perhaps this was more the influence of Harvey Smith, but one of the really exciting things about Deus Ex was that there were no monsters, and although some in the game were villainized noone was demonized. This changed the psychological underpinning of the game for the gamer, from cleansing to doing what’s right and building a better world.

I agree with you that not enough on this was said when the game came out – a few years later I talked a fair amount about the artistic aspects of Deus Ex and didn’t get any support from the discussion board called Quarter to Three at the time – I was made fun of for “taking the game too seriously”.

It’s this cleansing that gaming needs to get away from, since it’s psychologically identical to, let’s say, the ethnic/religious cleansing of the Palestinians by the Israeli state or of course the classic example of the cleansing of the disabled/gypsies/Jews by the Nazi state. In other words, cleansing, which 80% of mainstream games primarily feature, is fascist.

Also, as far as I know I’m the only person talking about video games as cleansing, and have been doing so for years. Most people write video game killing off as “fun” without any deeper analysis of why killing is so much fun, with any deeper analysis being written off as “too serious”.

Apocalypse and the neoliberal global economy

August 15, 2013
Prior to the understanding of the upcoming death of the world, the liberal idea of expanding the middle class in order for there to be more buyers for capitalist production worked, and was embraced by many capitalists. But once there was no longer a long-term future for the world, there’s no long-term buyers. So the logic shifted to hoarding, wealth accumulation and control, the siege mentality of the gated-community set amid the global surveillance high-tech security state.
It’s shameful that the apocalyptic social and psychological reality is not being dealt with by the intelligentsia, supporting my theory that the intelligentsia are the least intelligent people while “regular people” in the world actually know what’s going on.
Progressive commentators, far more influential than anyone who knows what’s going on, continue to talk about the neoliberal global economy as if it’s just a phase of capitalism, it’s just backlash against the New Deal, so it’s a “return to the pre-Great Depression” times. The word apocalypse never gets mentioned, except perhaps as a possible outcome of such terrible economic policy, not a CAUSE of it.
In progressive circles “apocalypse” is reserved for what happens if global warming is not dealt with, which is entirely correct as scientists understand.
This is nothing new, unfortunately. The Age of Anxiety began with the advent of nuclear weapons and the perpetual possibility of imminent human annihilation. But instead of talking about reality, humans who ideologically ally themselves with those who benefit in the global power arrangement from having nuclear weapons decide that their psychological troubles are entirely personal in nature and are a matter for soul-searching and lots of pharmaceuticals to deal with. Because they don’t address the real issues, those in power expand their power and create even more anxiety for people to neglect in favor of phantom ideas.
The dragon gets fatter and fatter and more and more brazen if noone wants to stop him. The dragon flays the skin from the human bones while the human is busy saying the dragon doesn’t exist. The human then looks down at the scarred remains of his body, blames himself, and proudly calls it taking personal responsibility.

The Meaning of Gaming – the Exploding Plastic Inevitable

August 10, 2013

The exploding plastic inevitable is the thematic title of a series of events organized by Andy Warhol in 1966 and 1967, several years after the first video game was created.
Besides being one of the leading philosophers of his time, Warhol was a cynical manipulator who strategically controlled the people around him as a strategy gamer controls his units. He named his base of operations “The Factory”.

The most famous pupil of Warhol is David Bowie, whose plastic philosophy defines his perpetually shifting musical career and persona.

As Bowie shifted phases from one cultural element to the next, game developers were presenting gamers with one after another alternate reality to explore, each with its own rule set and cultural meaning with a purpose promoted by Timothy Leary by way of Marshall McLuhan: “Turn on, tune in, drop out”.

Game developers, regularly calling themselves “wizards”, realized the utter malleability and control they had over this reprogrammable artistic medium, and the special historical time period in which their new medium was emerging – one of despair and apocalypse. Early games were largely about “fun”, distracting people from the reality of the world, in line with the pot-head ideal of “be cool, man”. Another design philosophy was that of saving the world, lead by Richard Garriott with his attempt to improve human morality by establishing it within the game world.

Andy Warhol turned out to be precisely correct, as the first and maybe only plastic artistic medium has in fact exploded. Humans, despairing and dreaming of the apocalypse, have put their faith into this merger of technology and art, this synthetic construct of magical wizards creating dragons for the terrified humans of the world to slay.

Revolution and Games

August 8, 2013

One major flaw in many peoples’ thought is that they don’t recognize that a chain around the neck of a slave is also tied to the master. The master is chained as well. The master is enslaved. Masters are usually viewed as evil, but this “evil” is merely a form of terrible misery, the misery of someone who feels helpless while he degrades his own soul.

The basic result of slavery is degradation of the body and mind of the slave and degradation of the soul of the master. This is why masters, such as 1st world people, worship their bodies. It’s in order to distract themselves from the terror of their own souls.

The democratic movements such as Occupy Wall Street don’t just help the 99%, they help everyone. Breaking the chains of bondage frees both the masters and the slaves from the system of domination that enslaves us all.

There’s a tendency to demonize the masters, for corrupt 1st world servants aware of their own corruption to focus their hate on the “1%”, but they are as helpless as the rest of us to change the system. More so in fact, since souls are more powerful than bodies and they merely have the latter in working order.

The ideology of video games is pernicious and suits the interests of the masters – it’s usually a single mega-powered individual doing something ridiculously awesome – the message is that we should seek to become super-powered individualists ala Ayn Randian philosophy. This leads many people toward MMOGs and raiding, where although mega-powered at least one can get 24 other people together to kill a big boss. Note that MMOGs have become more corrupt over time, with raid sizes dropping and the “glory of epic loot” raising in importance.

Although the vast majority of successful revolutionary activity in history is non-violent, 80% of mainstream video games feature killing as the primary form of gameplay. It’s fair to say that the ideology of video games is not revolutionary in nature, given that they have more in common with George Zimmermann (within the game he was playing, Trayvon Martin was a monster, so perhaps Zimmermann dinged to Level 2 with the kill) than with Gandhi. Slight aberrations are sometimes interesting, such as Richard Garriott’s methodology of teaching morality within a framework of individualized monster-slaying.

The method of achieving revolution within a video game is to not act in the manner proscribed by the masters (the game developer and publisher) but to “steal the game”, to corrupt the game and re-shape it to benefit the slaves. So for example, the most revolutionary forces within World of Warcraft were the Chinese gold farmers, who profited from the game at Blizzard’s expense until Blizzard adjusted with their “authenticator”, selling protection from thieves who would otherwise steal from players within their own game. Take careful note of the vast anger of relatively wealthy Western World of Warcraft players against the gold farmers, who were largely poor and merely trying to slightly raise their material well being.

Note that these World of Warcraft revolutionaries were non-violent, while the “violent” PvP masters and high-end PvE slay-masters accomplished nothing at all revolutionary, since they were happy slaves to the system that Blizzard established, feeding at the trough of epic loot.

Despite all the “epic loot”, Blizzard is the one rolling in the real loot, while the Chinese gold farmers became slightly less poor than they previously were. The happy slaves got what they wanted too – a feeling of glory and power minus any reality of either.

The Doll

August 7, 2013

The doll sat there, porcelain and unaddressed, eyes full of pain reflecting in the glass. She rose stiff, careful to not interact with the world. Her glued hair, so carefully arranged to resemble beauty, marred by the uncaring wind. Her condemnation of us and our monstrosity could  only lead us to demonize her. So we humans threw her in a corner, unused and uncared for and called it justice.

The dragons’ ambition and the future of terror

August 2, 2013
The global surveillance state isn’t being constructed because the super-rich are bored and want a new channel for their televisions, it’s because with every new crime a criminal needs extra security to protect against retaliation. They need to commit additional crimes not just due to the expansive nature of capitalism but due to the dying world which renders everyone who relies on that world desperate. They hardly want to fail at being dragons living our their final days on earth, so they increase control over the world so that even while flailing in misery and death the humans fail in their efforts to save each other.
A school bully does little more than act tough and beat up some people. He needs no special protection other than a mean spirit precisely because he does little damage.
A mafia don needs bodyguards, a bulletproof vest, a bulletproof car, and a whole lot of paranoia precisely because he does a lot more damage.
Now what, logically, do dragons need? What does someone need who is taking a leading role in destroying life on earth? The compassionate answer is: a soul. But noone’s figured out how to give them that and they certainly aren’t in the business of looking for one. What the dragons themselves believe they need is ultimate protection for the ultimate crime. Ultimate protection is global control sufficient to prevent them from being stopped. As their control increases, their crimes become more severe.
A dying world can be managed so that death rises from the bottom upwards. The poor people, those living in countries already being ravaged by global warming, die first. Then the poor people in rich countries fight against the middle people in poor countries to see who dies next. Only at the very end of this orgy of terror does the rising water cover even the dragons’ faces.
The dragons don’t expect to live through this. They just want to be the last one standing. Whether or not they succeed in their ambition is determined by whether or not the humans of the world unite with each other. Given the criminalization of blacks in the United States and the deportation of 400,000 hispanics a year, humanity has a very long way to go toward unification. If we don’t get there, we’re all dead.
That’s a problem of the future – how to hold out one hand to another human being while flailing with the other to avoid drowning. How to simultaneously be terrified and compassionate. We need a new model for terror, one which doesn’t allow us to give in to it and become terrorists ourselves. We need a new strength, one which no human in past history has ever had to have.
The only alternative to this is insanity, getting a bunch of people together who decide that this isn’t happening because they don’t want to have to deal with it. With heads buried in the sand, they decide their happiness will not be prevented by reality. Because they have each other for support, noone ever gains the power to successfully tell them they’re wrong, and they simply demonize, marginalize, and ostracize anyone who out of love for them tries to. When they’re successful in their demonization, they applaud each other for their good work and their happiness, that is to say their insanity, continues.