Archive for the ‘Apocalypse’ Category

The earth dies, the nerd rises

August 8, 2014

Nerds were born in the apocalyptic terror of the rise of nuclear weapons during World War II. They understood the absolute need to create an “alternate reality”, which is what drew them to Tolkien and especially to computers – nerds are the creators of virtual reality. The idea behind nerds is that the world is corrupt, terrifying, and self-destructive, so an alternate world can be created to take over, or subvert, the real world in order ultimately to save the real world. This is why the classic nerd “leaves the real world” – the completely committed nerd lives strictly within the virtual world he’s creating. The typical enemy of the nerd is the jock because jocks represent to nerds the domineering type of person responsible for the destruction of the world.

It’s not true that the nerd is “on the left” – Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich are nerds. It’s important to understand the nerd as apocalyptic – building a gated community to keep out the zombie invasion is a right-wing nerd activity. The surveillance and security state emerging in the 1990s is a right-wing nerd phenomenon.

Nerds and virtual reality have taken over the world *because* of the widespread understanding that the world is dying. This understanding began to become popular in the 1960s soon after Jack Vance wrote The Dying Earth and the first serious work began to be done on climate change, supporting the longtime deep understanding of such people as Goethe, Thoreau, and Rousseau about the horrific damage of the Industrial Revolution. Franz Kafka and Nick Drake are two famous 20th century nerds.

Now, in 2014, nearly everyone understands it. Most of the people who claim not to are just doing so for political and financial gain. Nerds, with their early embrace of the reality of the world and subsequent design of computers and the internet in order to give a new space, a space for hope, a space for the possibility of saving the human race, understood it long ago.

Nerds gave humanity the understanding that we need to give up on the world in order to save it. For that brazen thought they were oppressed for decades, fading only in the late 1980s.

The reason for the draconian neoliberal ideology

May 26, 2014

Many poor people don’t bother to vote, and those ones at least are clear-headed about what’s in their best interest. Poor people are easily exploited in any number of ways, which is frustrating but difficult to blame them for. A lot of middle-class people make the mistake of believing that because they have agency in their own lives, then poor people must have agency in their lives.

It’s relatively easy to understand modern political reality if we examine the expected future reality. By the end of the 21st century the world will only be able to support half a billion people (best case scenario, assuming the existing power structures continue). So something needs to kill 6.5 billion people between now and then. Some of that will happen “naturally”, from poor people being unable to migrate (ala the Congo or New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina) when either military or climate change devastation reaches them. But a lot of it will have to happen in some more direct way.
This is the fundamental reason for the draconian neoliberal ideology. The rulers understand that the only system they are capable of ruling is destroying the world, and that as the world dies it will support fewer and fewer people – therefore the logic is to devalue humanity because they are going to die soon anyway – and to build walls, gated communiities, and surveillance systems to maximize the security and well-being of the people who will be the last to die.
Running concurrently with this is technology as a religion – since technology has the very real possibility (not high possibility though) of allowing the rulers to live even longer, through medical science, genetic modification, and advances in colonization of other planets. It’s very difficult to see this extending the life of the species much beyond a few decades, at least if the ruling structures remain in place.
There’s a phrase to deeply consider the meaning of – “facts on the ground”. In principle this means that if the ruling structures remain in place long enough to make human catastrophe a certainty, then the ideology of the rulers will triumph – it’s difficult for ordinary people to stand against the rulers selecting which people will be left alive if the world simply can’t support additional people. In the Mad Max movies for example it’s “dog eat dog”, not because poor people had suddenly lost their morality but because the world had been made into a place where nothing more is functional.

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.