Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Reverse RPGs and critique of RPGs

April 12, 2015

One could design a reverse RPG, where a character begins at level 99 and gradually becomes disempowered throughout the game. This “progression” could be put into context by the gameworld, such as beginning the game at the “end” of a previous game, the character’s disillusionment as he finds that his sole reason for becoming level 99 in the first place was to “kill the dragon” and save the world, then realizing that killing the dragon isn’t really the point, then he slowly loses his power and his prior motivation while learning about a new version of the gameworld. The game is about a transition in how the main character (and the player) views the gameworld itself. Or better yet, a choice whereby a player can also play the game as a traditional RPG, becoming level 199 in order to kill a Mega Dragon and really, really, for reals, save the world this time.

A problem with heroism and standard RPG design is that the “hero” begins as a “normal person”, level 1 and thus considered useless and pathetic, well, good for growing wheat maybe, and through a magical journey filled with bravery and heroism becomes able to kill a dragon, finally becomes useful, not like those 99.999% of “normal people” with their cowardice, uselessness, and meaty bodies for dragon dinners.

So the “hero” leaves the people behind, transcending their meager lives, and does what they aren’t willing to do, murder thousands of creatures in order to become strong enough to murder a very tough creature. The game assumes this process is completely fine, there’s no challenge to the underlying assumptions.

In an era of Facebook and Twitter, where to some extent billions of people are connected and are finding that they are more similar to each other than they ever previously thought, the role of the “heroic individual” or “small band of heroes” saving the world to benefit the masses is as ludicrous as believing that killing a single creature, regardless of how odious he is, saves the world.

Blowing up the Death Star is useful, and bands of people all over the world take up arms to defend their locality – some of them are quite heroic although almost all of them are faceless to the wider world and are never featured in a heroic RPG. Blowing up the corporate towers (in Fight Club) is not useful, except to provide a fantasy of triumph amid a wreckage of despair.

Real life doesn’t have any Death Stars – no magical places where a single weapon shot, merely with pinpoint accuracy, destroys a super-key military installation. There are no magic bullets in real life and complex systems of power produce and reproduce military installations.

RPGs aren’t about heroism, they are about triumph. They make sure the player triumphs through the reload function and giving him superpowers not available to “monsters”. The only hope that monsters have to avoid death is for the player to become too bored to continue playing the game.

A solution may be not destruction, as RPGs tell us time and again, but re-construction – altering those complex systems of power to produce better results. We’ll have to give up our Fight Club and Star Wars fantasies of destruction and power over life and death to achieve such a thing.

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Virtual Reality in Declining Empires

May 11, 2014

The British Empire, in it’s day the greatest empire in world history, in it’s dying moment as the dominant world power gave rise to JRR Tolkien. Tolkien wrote about the militant (and non-militant) forces of good militarily (and non-militarily) defeating the forces of evil, at the precise moment when the British were no longer (in their eyes) going to be able to continue to do that.

In the United States Tolkien wasn’t popular until the Vietnam War, which began the decline of the American Empire, which followed the British as the dominant global power and eclipsed them, holding half of global wealth at it’s peak. The Society for Creative Anachronism, formed during the horrors of extensively applied chemical destruction in Vietnam, honored pre-industrial society (pointedly, the age before such chemicals could be mass produced) and Tolkien, with Dungeons and Dragons following shortly thereafter.

When Tolkien moved to the virtual, “fantasy” sphere he continued the British military tradition of cleansing the world of evil for the sake of the empire (again, how they saw it).

One can’t for the most part read a book over and over again. Dungeons and Dragons was a step up in technology from books, allowing players to experience the joys of cleansing evil many times over, initiated at the time when such cleansings were thought to no longer be possible in reality.

In neither society did people stop to question whether the cleansings are right to do in the first place. So of course when the cleansings stop being viable in reality they were merely moved to the virtual sphere, and this has continued to the present day with 80% of mainstream games featuring killing as the primary mode of gameplay, usually of either monsters or “the enemy” and often in effectively genocidal manner.

Max Damage and Combo Fiend hope to escape the earth

December 15, 2013
“Open the gates!” wailed some guy outside. The staunch Zangiefy bars would hold out such scum with terrible ease, but Combo Fiend wished to address the principle of the matter. So several tiger uppercuts later, the computerized home ringed out “Fantastic Combo!” and the loser was sent away with salty tears and his last hope for the future of humanity gone forever.
Max Damage was overseeing a more serious task. The only way they would get off this god-forsaken planet was through technology, so furious was he in driving every ounce of improvement possible. It was a race against time and one in which a loss meant they would die alongside the certain deaths of everyone else.
Max Damage sighed and considered. He still produces weapons! Weapons are so 20th century. The purposes of technology now are surveillance, security, control, domestic comfort, and transportation. But weapons need to be there for the serious dissenters.
Oh, this hope. Since the rich and idle have worshiped the sun they have wished to escape the earth, and when they destroyed the earth they ensured that only their hope would save them. So they are the chosen ones and technology is their Samson and their Moses. Collusion for reals, and they hope to not drop the links as they juggle their combo straight up to heaven.

Why We Play

December 12, 2013

As Franz Kafka gazes upon the bleak gray desert of the real and J.R.R. Tolkien constructs his alternate reality, climate scientists inform us that humanity has a matter of decades left before mass destruction unless we can seize political control of the world away from concentrated capital and it’s banking and corporate affiliates. The goal of these latter forces is to hold onto political control long enough for technology to develop to allow them (not us, of course) to escape the earth, and preferably to then maximize the exploitation of their new homeland.

In this context of the real there exists a serious, if usually undeclared, debate between gamers of despair and gamers of hope. Gamers of despair view games as an escape from the desert of the real, as offering the last possibility of lush, green, nubile paradise prior to human extinction. Gamers of hope view games as the only form of art which can save the world, by enabling new human psychologies and interactions which are then “brought back” from virtual into traditional reality.

Opposition to games like Call of Duty is one salvo in this ongoing debate – military shooters offer the fantasy of power over life and death, of waves after waves of murder in order to achieve personal security (to maintain one’s own existence). The question of how one can morally murder thousands in order to preserve a single life is not addressed, in the same sense as it’s not addressed in Invasion U.S.A. or (preferably) not addressed within zionism. That 80% of mainstream games feature killing as a primary mode of gameplay tells us a lot about the ideological position of the game industry.

Gamers of hope can also be described as gamers of ignorance, as there’s nearly no understanding of how exactly games are going to save the world. Gamers of despair are fueled from this weakness.

As gamers of hope view games as having the potential to save the world, we are “addicted” to games, in the same sense that Superman is addicted to helping people. All humans are “addicted” to doing what’s right. Hope is a hell of a drug.

Bodies in video games, part 2

September 7, 2013

The only genre, among the several in gaming, that features a variety of body types for the main character beyond “young, tight, supple”, is survival horror, and even then it’s usually a young adult or at most a young/middle aged fit character as the protagonist. Games which have a great deal of body customization *can* sometimes have skinny, obese, or old main characters, but at the logical expense of this having zero effect on anything in the game beyond the aesthetics of the main character. Fat and old characters aren’t slower, for example, and are responded to the same way by NPCs.

The responses so far in this thread (the two following the first) are rather ridiculous, since there’s as much or more to discuss with respect to the topic raised than the hundreds of responses to “boobs in games” threads, for example. The responses can be translated as “we’d rather not discuss the topic because it makes us uncomfortable”. At this point you should be asking yourself why the subject makes you uncomfortable. Consider this reply I’m making now as a possible additional response to the thread, of which countless potential others could occur if gamers can overcome their fear. We’ll see whether that happens.

The Nazis didn’t have to starve their prisoners prior to killing them – it would have been a lot cheaper to just kill them. The point of starving them was to turn them visually into “monsters”, to contrast them against the well-conditioned, well-fed Nazi soldiers, in order to provide psychic justification for the murders.

This is the precise same psychic justification that video games use with respect to the undead. Gamers see a skeleton – they think, “that’s not right, skeletons are supposed to be dead, not alive”, and then they proceed to make things right by making the skeleton dead and not alive. Just like Nazis looked at the skeletal prisoners in their concentration camps and thought “that’s not right, skeletons are supposed to be dead, not alive”, and then proceeded to make things right by making the skeletons dead and not alive.

Cleansing is fascist, and games which feature global cleansing in order to “save the world” can hardly be distinguished from the Nazi project of – global cleansing in order to save the world.

It seems to me to make no sense to have rightfully disempowered Nazism in the real world only to recreate it’s ideology in virtual form and then to encourage gamers to celebrate themselves for engaging in it.

This is especially dangerous because fascist cleansing is very much ongoing in the real world, as the unfortunate black ex-inhabitants of New Orleans discovered in it’s recent whitewashing, as Palestinians experience on a daily basis, as poor people across the US experience through active urban gentrification, as 400,000 hispanics a year deported from the US find out.

Between each other, some Zionists refer to Palestinians as monsters, and they would refer to them as monsters in the broader world if they could get away with it. These Zionists are saving Israel, aka “saving the world” from monsters by either killing them, rooting them out, or heavily exploiting them. Farming them for XP, in other words.

Since 80% of mainstream games feature killing as the primary form of gameplay, and this killing is based on the ideology of cleansing, and cleansing is fascist, this raises the question of what the value is of having gamers engaging in fascist ideology in virtual space on a regular basis, particularly when that engagement is deemed successful when the fascist project is successful – when the world is cleansed, for all the monsters to be killed.

Why doesn’t the gamer ever ask the question of where the “monsters” came from? What are these “monsters”? What is the significance of their anger? So many questions, but the game just gives the player a sword and tells him to start killing, that his killing is righteous, that he will get more powerful as he kills more “monsters”, that his power-gaining is awesome and he should embrace it, and that at the end of the slaughter when all the “monsters” are dead he will have won the game.

What game is being played here, exactly? Who is being killed? And who’s the murderer?

Bodies in video games

September 7, 2013

We talk quite a lot about breasts, their precise size, how they move and how much of them is shown by the developer. It’s a distraction from the much more important issue of how bodies in general are designed in video games.

People in real life typically look nothing like video game characters. There is a shininess, an artificial fluidity in all video game characters that does not reflect the solidity (even in a skeletal Kate Moss) of actual humans. This is also shown by the computer graphics effects in movies.

The larger issue is the ridiculousness of physique in video games. According to the World Health Organization, 33.9% of American adults are obese, while 8 other countries in the world have an even higher rate of obesity. Globally, 7.4% of people are obese, while 2.7 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day in income and are thus (generally) too poor for obesity to be an option.

Even though video games are heavily inspired by the United States and Europe, obesity has not been much of an inspiration for game developers, if the typical tight, supple, well muscled bodies of especially game protagonists but also to a substantial extent other characters is any indication. It’s also very interesting that game protagonists have a considerably greater physique than other characters in the game, especially their victims, who are often depicted as scrawny or normal (ala the undead fodder such as skeletons and zombies or usually the hapless 3rd world soldiers in military shooters). This is a bit reminiscent of well-fed and conditioned Arian Nazi guards murdering ravaged starving Jews, gypsies, or disableds, who often looked like human skeletons, in other words “monsters”, prior to being cleansed by the Nazi protagonists, a small difference being that the Nazi guards were not sporting enough to give the human skeletons a weapon prior to cutting them down.

The other primary issue is age. The median age of humans in the real world is 26.4. The median age of humans in some of the most influential countries for game developers, lets say the United States, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom, is 36.9, 44.6, 43.7, and 40.5, respectively.

What’s the median age of video game characters? I doubt anyone’s researched it, but my sense is maybe the mid to high 20s, with Japanese developers being noted for using very young characters in their games. In particular game protagonists are quite young – even playing a middle aged one such as in The Walking Dead or The Last of Us is strange for gamers. Playing an elderly one would cause most of us to fall out of our chairs in shock and the rest to congratulate themselves for not doing so.

Let’s look at this a bit deeper. Game engines, as John Carmack understands them, are like race cars – the whole point is to make them fast, sleek, and responsive, or “sexy” as he would put it. Fat isn’t sexy, old isn’t sexy. Young, well-conditioned, supple, tight, 6-packed, surgically crafted, etc. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have an engine built on the philosophy of well-conditioned youth and then populate it with people who don’t fit the bill.

Something even more interesting emerges when we consider the history of video games. For much of gaming’s history, game graphics simply couldn’t render a “tight, young, supple” human physique. The game could still have one, as described in the manual and imagined by the player, but it couldn’t show it. And, strangely enough, THEREFORE IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.

I’m straining to think of a single game, even a single one, which had a Lara Croft, Dante, Bayonetta, or Kratos prior to them being able to be graphically rendered as such. Games with primitive graphics which could still render physique, such as the original arcade version of Gauntlet, did not present even the Warrior as anything like Kratos or Dante – really just a beefy lumberjacky guy – the kind of guy one would expect as a warrior.

Just as the not-so-wise John Carmack engaged the game industry in a race for the sexiest engine, game developers of today are in a race for the sexiest possible renderable game protagonist – so Bayonetta battles Lara Croft while Dante battles Kratos and bi-gender Shepard battles sanity.

And game reviewers and “critics” get up on their soapbox to once again talk about boobs, now in Dragon’s Crown. Boobs and how they are shown and isn’t that so fucking terrible. Some fools just can’t see the forest for the trees.

The dark belief of gamers

September 5, 2013

Our strategy of self-glorifying our good intentions through saving the world in video game after video game, cleansing the world of “monsters” to the vast benefit and gratification of the virtual civilized people, deluding ourselves into all-powerfulness by mowing down wave after wave of “bad guys” in shooters, and then returning to a real world made all the grayer and more decrepit by our absence may not be such a good one.

The dark belief underlying all of this is that imperial nations, led by Japan and the United States, are so corrupt that their people simply can no longer do good in the world, therefore they might as well turn to the virtual worlds. Of course gamers never address this, I’m typically shut down, ignored, or personally attacked whenever I broach the topic, although ironically I’m the good guy – I don’t share the dark belief of gamers and fully believe that even rich, fat, miserable people from imperial nations can do good in the world – in fact I’ve witnessed it many times.

But getting these rich, fat, miserable gamers to believe in themselves – that’s the difficulty.

It’s funny that we honor those who fight against monsters. But I’ve found in my life that I keep having to fight against humans, while monsters do not exist.

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”.

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.

On the computer game Deus Ex

July 21, 2013

JC is a metaphorical acronym for Jesus Christ – JC Denton in the game is a transcendental figure whose character progression inevitably results in creating the “new man” – he’s defining the transhuman reality. Thus the box art where Denton, bathed in light, looks up at the sky (heaven).

Page wanted to dominate Helios – Helios viewed himself as indispensable to the future and thus couldn’t merge with Page. The most heart to heart conversation in the game was between Morpheus (who later rose like the sun to become Helios) and Denton, and it was clear that Morpheus admired Denton.

JC is not himself after the merging – this merging parallels that at the end of Ghost in the Shell – it’s understood that the only moral merging is both entities losing themselves to create something new. Both Helios and Denton are lost and something new is created.

All of the main characters in the game are attempting to be this messiah – Tracer Tong, the Illuminati, Bob Page, Helios. Helios recognizes his limitations as a computer program and is expanding the capabilities of his program by merging with Denton, thus enabling the best possible transhuman reality in his view.

All of the messiah figures, including Denton himself, are dark and sinister (the game takes place entirely at night), and the oppressed enemy in the game is not so much the various messiahs opposed to each other, but regular people, who are killed off and/or weakened by the plague.

Deus Ex depicts a world where regular decent people suffer terribly and die while the power elite fight among each other for global domination.

Helios is the technocratic option, corresponding to the computerized security/surveillance state illustrated clearly by the recent Snowden revelations. The Echelon system in Deus Ex has similarities to the NSA system.

Page and the Illuminati are two types of dictatorships – the iron fist versus the velvet glove.

Tracer Tong is the ironic luddite – using technology to destroy it.

JC Denton, despite being well meaning and declared by the game itself to be a savior, cannot produce a good outcome. He can only choose the lesser evil.

The good possible future, that is to say democracy, is made impossible by a combination of the plague and the global police state. Instead of fighting the powers that be, the people reach out to the same powers that caused the plague to grant them the cure, cynically named Ambrosia, “food of the gods” but actually merely a life-extender for ravaged and dominated humans barely continuing to breathe.

The “aliens” in the game correspond to the “evolved man”, ala Olaf Stapledon’s “second men”, yet keeping with the dark irony of the game are actually just genetic cross-breeds.

Inspirations for Deus Ex include Ghost in the Shell, Metal Gear Solid, System Shock 1 and 2, the Matrix, Neuromancer, and the works of G.K. Chesterton.

Although Deus Ex is the best computer game ever made, it’s fundamentally flawed in it’s optimism – the powers that be in the real world aren’t interested in creating the “second men”, but rather simply maximizing their wealth and well-being in a dying world. Deus Ex believes in a radical shift in the nature of life (from human to transhuman) whereas what’s at stake in the real world is the existence of life itself.

Video Games as a Martial Art

July 6, 2013

It’s commonly understood that video games are art, comparable in principle if not in practice with movies, television, and books. They’ve also been called toys, aptly so. Video games are the fourth Kawaii artform – sports the first, toys the second, and comic books the third.

I’d like to introduce you to what for most of you will be a new understanding of games, as a martial art.

The operation of games is done with input devices, usually either a joystick, controller, or mouse/keyboard. The Oculus Rift is simply another input device.

Games vary in the amount of manual dexterity they require, but even a point-and-click adventure game requires some. Most games require a much larger degree of hand-eye coordination, and one of the primary metrics in high level Starcraft play is Actions Per Minute, the equivalent of a karate master’s number of actions in battle.

Sports are also martial arts, and in all forms of martial arts the concept of Zen applies, which is said by believers to enable the maximization of performance. These believers do not apply Zen to any non-martial artform, they don’t enter a Zen state to watch a movie, for example.

Unlike every other form of martial art, games have mostly done away with the importance of strength. Being muscle-bound is a hindrance in gaming, and we’ll never see a bodybuilder Starcraft 2 champion, not just for the reason that one can’t combine training with weights to training in the game. Having only enough strength to allow for effective basic movement of the wrists, arms, and fingers is important.

Although they are typically called “houses”, Starcraft training centers where the players live could effectively be called “dojos”.

When we consider the importance of gaming in modern culture, never have I seen games as a martial art be considered as a reason for that importance. Yet we can trace the popularity (in the West) of “kung-fu fighting” and the rise of video gaming from the exact same period of time, the fall of the West during the Vietnam War and the realization that the world was going to die. Forgive me for the technical term here, but following World War II the world entered an Age of Anxiety where due to the existence of and possible at-any-time use of nuclear weapons which could cause total global catastrophe people became distraught about the imminent possibility of human annihilation. This anxiety, deepened by the moral destruction of the West by means of engagement in the Vietnam War, caused the celebration of hyper-speed, the idea that through great speed we can still save the world. So 1977’s Star Wars, a movie which featured the fastest sword in existence, the Light Saber, plenty of hyper-speed laser beams, faster-than-light travel, a kung-fu (err, Force) master in Yoda, represented the triumph of hyper-speed within American culture. Shortly thereafter Super Mario Brothers came out, a game requiring such hand-eye coordination that when beaten would cause even Bruce Lee to bow in respect.

I’d like to end this post with the lyrics of one of the funniest and coolest songs ever recorded, by Carl Douglas titled Kung Fu Fighting (they should play this song at Starcraft 2 televised matches):

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

They were funky China men from funky Chinatown
They were chopping them up,  they were chopping them down
It’s an ancient Chinese art and everybody knew their part
From a feint into a slip, and a-kicking from the hip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

There was funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung
He said here comes the big boss, lets get it on
We took a bow and made a stand, started swinging with the hand
The sudden motion made me skip now we’re into a brand new trip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they did it with expert timing

(repeat)..make sure you have expert timing
Kung-fu fighting, had to be fast as lightning

keep on keep on keep on

everybody was kung fu fighting

The Meaning of Gaming

May 16, 2013

Avalon in Arthurian legend is the place where the savior King Arthur recovered after his wounding by Mordred. Avalon is what many modern game designers hope to create – it’s a paradise of abundance, a means of resurrection. This abundance can be literal, as in Farmville with endlessly produced crops. It’s the reason for the classic reload function in gaming, allowing players infinite resurrection from death or poor choices. It’s the basis for the empowerment phenomenon in gaming, where main characters run without tiring, don’t need to eat or sleep or have social interactions and are always gaining more power, through levels, skills, money, and equipment.

The metaphor of Avalon took on increased significance at the dawn of modern gaming, with the fall of grace of the West during the Vietnam War. The West was the fallen Arthur, now needing to recover after it’s ego and sense of self-worth were injured. So it turned to the virtual realm, a brave new world of infinite possibility, and sought to both create and be saved by it’s own Avalon.

The fall of the Soviet Union meant that global capital no longer had to be on it’s best behavior. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and global capital now had absolute power, or so they think. Games reflected this dark reality, classicly with the aptly titled Doom, and the rise of FPSes with their personalized murder.

After the 9/11 attack which challenged the hegemony of global capital in the world (however slightly), both the US military machine and gaming moved to the “military shooter”, murder masquerading as war in poor urban (Middle Eastern) environments.

The purpose of gaming is the same as Avalon’s purpose to King Arthur – to rejuvenate him, heal him, and allow him to save the world. Gamers through their very identity believe themselves to be injured, they believe the world to be in need of saving, and they believe that gaming is helping them help the world. Gaming relies on this ideological construct for it’s existence, and in recent years with the rise in “end of days” mythology gaming has gained in relevance. Gaming is popular now since all wealthy people in the world want to live in Avalon. Poor people want to live on earth.

Because it’s fundamental to gamers to believe themselves to be injured (thus victims) and because they are so stricken with despair over the fate of the world, they lack the willingness to self-examine beyond the merely insecure (and utterly false) consideration that they are “escaping” reality.

Avalon is where Excalibur was forged. According to the ideology of gaming, by exploring the virtual realm one gains the power to transform the real world. Gaming will save the world.

Saving the princess

April 16, 2013

omega 616:
Extreme hyperbole and simplification would be “women are only good for cooking so need saving constantly”.

It’s a common misperception to believe that the reason women are so often “imprisoned” in games is due to their perceived impotence.

After all, in traditional reality (“real life”) men are imprisoned at a far higher rate than women, so according to this logic men are perceived to be far weaker than women.

The primary reason women are usually the ones imprisoned in video games is that the usual gender of the hero main character is male, and there’s a heterosexual factor in the “saving”, as per the original myth of the noble (horny) knight saving the princess locked away in a high tower within a castle. The implication is that upon saving the damsel the damsel’s king father will be so full of gratitude and so impressed by the knight’s bravery and prowess that he encourages or perhaps even forces (heavily coerces) the princess to marry the knight. While an utterly sexist myth, note that the princess’s weakness here is not inherent but rather is caused by the political/social reality. The tower is a phallic symbol, the princess is imprisoned within the penis, and the knight merely moves her from one prison to another, one which he obviously prefers since it’s his own. Also note that the tower is within an enemy castle, so the king doesn’t so much care about his daughter but rather about his own loss of prestige of having his daughter captured by the enemy.

Rather than appreciate any of this and respond to it by boycotting said games, most gamers will happily engage in “save the princess” sexist games while simultaneously claiming to be at the very least friendly to feminism. A hypocrisy which is very rarely called out, so life gets to go on with no real thought, care, concern, or self-criticism given to it.

Farmville Niggas are goin’ insane

March 5, 2013

Just like Cypress Hill who had to maintain, many modern video games, such as Farmville and the lesser known Battle without End, are about endless maintenance. The games run themselves, mostly, with a few button clicks here and there from time and time. These games are mostly about waiting, or doing other things and checking in with the game from time to time, as one would with a sick child. How are you doing today, Farmville farm? Shall I refresh your glass of orange juice?

Reflections on the nature of video games

February 23, 2013

In 1966, during a time of identity crisis for Western Civilization as it’s global empire was slowly crumbling, a group formed at UC Berkeley which shortly thereafter would call itself the Society for Creative Anachronism. They looked back to a more noble time when (some) men were gallant and wars were fought sword against sword, rather than bomb melting flesh.

Because the focus of the protest was the ghastly industrial war machine and the perpetual nuclear specter hovering over the world, the focus of the look back was also on war. So this group picked up lances, swords, and shields, and fought in mock combat (what would later be known as LARPing).

This culture, partly derived from Tolkien who experienced the horrors of two world wars including the terrible disappointment of the second one following the “war to end all wars”, would form the spiritual basis for Dungeons and Dragons, and Richard Garriott, the founder of the computer RPG genre, is a long time member of the Society.

Gaming itself rose to new heights of popularity following World War II, with a perpetual game played between the two great capitalist powers (the ideologies only arguably relevant), the West headed by the United States against the Soviet Union and it’s few allies. Game theory vastly increased in popularity and video games, a combination of game theory, interactive visual media, and art, was born.

The 1960s experienced a large increase in drug use, with the intent of escaping the rotten imperial culture or subverting it, depending on the user’s ambition. Then a mere fledgling art form, the recognition of the dangers of drug use greatly helped the popularity of video games, as they took the place of drugs in helping the users explore an “alternate reality”. Despite it’s inherent countercultural maturity, video games were often viewed as being for children, and most of the serious gamers beginning in the 1980s were children, often unsupervised by their parents. Parents, depressed about the failures of the 1960s and 1970s in creating a better world, pushed these new alternate realities upon their children in the hopes of being saved by them. Therefore games *had* to be safe, with wackos demonizing Dungeons and Dragons not helping the cause of thoughtful game criticism.

In 1989 with the end of the Soviet Union and the rise of George Bush’s “New World Order” and Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”, games took a turn to the political right, heralded by id software’s Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Doom in particular being an ironic and dark take on this brave new world we were entering. The “big fucking gun”, as id software called it, would be a very portentous phrase as countless shooters would fire innumerable bullets resulting in an obscene body count subsequently. The Fire and Forget genre with the main character playing what could only be described as a Marauding Berserker, covering most game genres from Call of Duty games to Neverwinter Nights style RPGs to Starcraft to World of Warcraft, was not so much about murder in the name of something but rather murder because there’s nothing better to do. Murder, because, well, fuck it – though typically translated by gamers into “because it’s fun”.

We should examine the need in gaming to save the world, one corpse at a time. Game after game after game is filled with monsters who are then murdered by someone(s) the game invariably calls a hero in order to cleanse the world and “save” it. Parallels between this and white racists during Hurricane Katrina celebrating the “cleansing” of New Orleans of people they consider to be monsters is uncanny. According to them, New New Orleans with its upscaling and whitewashing is now truly saved. Countless other examples exist, including the roughly one million dead and millions more displaced Iraqis who Condoleezza Rice celebrated as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”. Or the “monstrous and savage” native Americans exterminated by the colonizing Europeans. Or the “inferior” Palestinians suffering slow extermination by the “chosen ones” of the Zionist Israeli state.

The market for video games has always been the West (the West includes Japan). Only in very recent years has that expanded somewhat, as the economies in East Asia and South America have improved. So while the West might keep calling the latest Call of Duty clone “fun”, societies not lost in such a high degree of imperial bloodlust have a different idea of fun and will enable different games.

Less violence in video games, please

January 12, 2013

80% of mass market video games feature killing as the primary mode of gameplay. If 80% of games featured dolphins there would be outrage from gamers, but killing in games is welcomed by most gamers.

If 80% of games featured dolphins the argument gamers would use against that is that dolphins over and over and over again is boring as hell. Too many dolphins, in other words, gamers would say, cut back that 80% number to 10%.

If 80% of movies featured killing as the primary plot device, such as for example Battle Royale, movie-goers would complain that for reasons of increased creativity, innovation, and *making better movies*, that number should be greatly reduced.

Yet gamers, because they believe that they need to remain constantly vigilant against the political machinations of the terrifying and terrified humans who proclaim games evil, welcome violence in games not because violence is fun, but because it’s rebellious against the very people who don’t deserve our rebellion.

By welcoming violence in games, gamers are reducing themselves to the same level as the monsters and fools who rail against games.

By needing to rebel against people undeserving as such, those people become NECESSARY and the Jack Thompsons of the world become useful tools who must be kept around to serve us.

Some gamers want that 80% raised to 90% or even 100%, not for the sake of more fun but to spit in the face of “our enemies”.

This is a plea from me to my fellow gamers to start caring more for the quality of games than the political pain we can inflict on others.

Please grow up.

2011 Killing Rate in Video Games

May 11, 2012

I went to this page on Wikipedia which details the A to AAA video game (console, handheld and computer, but not phone app games) titles released in 2011, and took a random sample of 50 games from the list of 266. The question I ask is “Does this game feature killing (of any apparent living creature) as a key aspect of gameplay?

The results are similar to past results: 39 of 50 feature killing, a 78% rate. Previously the rate was about 80% as well.

Here are links to some of my previous research:

Amateur Games

2006 PC Games

2005 PC Games

2004 PC Games

2006 Hollywood

On Gaming

May 11, 2012

The Vietnam “War”, better described as a stage of psychological and economic domination (enslavement) of East Asia by the West by means of industrial massacre, entered popular American consciousness in the mid 1960s. In 1955 Allen Ginsberg’s angry “Howl” threw unhappiness on an ostensibly happy country. In 1966 began the Society for Creative Anachronism, which rejected the power plays of the 20th century that caused so much devastation in favor of Middle Ages (read, prior to the Nuclear Age and the Industrial Revolution) role playing.

Drugs are to the biological human what Games are to the social human. Ginsberg and Timothy Leary with his “turn on, tune in, drop out” set the stage for video games, where humans drop out from the real world in favor of countless alternate realities.

As the dangers of drugs became more well known, video games stepped in to offer a “safer” alternative. By “safer” we mean of course that games are an utter waste of time and the body wastes away while doing them, but that unlike drugs no direct poison enters the body. However, very much unlike drugs games offer a potentially eternal escape from reality and are therefore far more dangerous.

“Social” gaming like MMOs attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too, by means of obscuring the nature and historical reality of video gaming through offering “alternative socialization” to face-to-face traditional human contact.

The Occupy Movement is more of a threat to gaming than it is to the elite. The elite can always just harass, arrest, injure, and kill enough people to instill enough fear in them to get them to stop being a threat (the movement can still defeat them, however). What the movement really threatens is the “turn on, tune in, drop out” mentality of gamers, by offering a positive space for people to engage with the traditional world.

Of course, gamers are a largely “middle class” bunch by which I mean they are ridiculously wealthy by global standards and often support the elite, so support the elite’s goal of having them waste their lives away in front of a computer screen.

There’s far more to say on this of course, such as how weightlifters escape their own impotence into a fantasy world of the maximization of muscles, how superheroes escape impotence into a fantasy world of the maximization of their moral goodness, righteousness, and power, etc. But just one more thing to sum it up:

As Roland Orzabal, Michael Andrews, and Gary Jules might say, “It’s a Mad World”. In a world out of control where no one (who’s in a position to do anything good about it) has any power we encourage children to murder 3,000 people in a video game in order to bring order to a fake world. We fool ourselves into believing this is empowering.

In the world of video games, noone has the freedom to be a monster. Not even if they have the decency to move away from humans and live in the depths of the earth. There’s a word for this lack of freedom: totalitarianism.

When we look into the undead, haunted, manic, messianic eyes of the Gamer we might find that being a monster is preferable. Anders Breivik thinks so.

Addiction 2.0

November 4, 2011

Crackhead Willie, already high for the day with pipe in hand, went to see his friend Brian.

“Hey Willie, Skyrim is almost here!”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Skyrim! It’s a huge digital world with lush grass, swords and magic and dragons!”

Willie, concerned for his friend’s well-being, peered into his eyes and noted the crazed mania gamers carefully dismiss as “enthusiasm”.

“When is Skyrim going to be here?”

“7 days! It’s just 7 days away!”

Willie realized he was a dinosaur. He looked down at his limp crack pipe, only able to get him high in the present. His friend could get high long before the drug actually entered his system.

“How many people are high on Skyrim right now?”

“Oh Willie, Willie, Willie, Skyrim is completely healthy! Noone gets hurt! It’s not like crack! It’s merely an entirely artificial world that I can get lost in for 200 hours!”

“There are hundreds of thousands of people high on Skyrim right now! Some moderately high, others insanely so.”

“Fuck, man, what the hell am I doing with crack? How long does this high last?”

“A Skyrim high? Are you fucking kidding me? I’ve been high nonstop for the past 6 months. Some people have been high on Skyrim for the past 2 years!”

By this time Willie’s hardened addict-heart had been broken, and with tears gushing from him he hugged his friend in consolation.

“It’s ok, Willie. You can play Skyrim too!”

Game Over?

May 6, 2010

Adam gazed into the eyes of Big Rod, and Big Rod gazed into him. Big Rod is a full 15 inches now, his Flaming Longsword has just overcome the resistance of the Ice Queen to his will. He left her melted and watery and cream-filled and proceeded to his final task, saving the Universe from extinction by inseminating all the ladies in outer space.

Everything can easily become meaningless in the face of global extinction. Once we give up, once we enter the Brave New World of taking whatever action provides us with the most consolation on the way to the world’s death, we contribute to that death. The birth of this Brave New World culture was European expansion, colonization, over five centuries ago, with the inspiration found in the Roman Empire. We have utterly failed to understand this culture of willed extinction and therefore have been forced to perpetuate it. Understanding it, however, is only the first step. Many dragons will need to be slain and a new culture and way of life created. There will be many would-be heroes who become charred corpses before the world either becomes devastated or is saved.

We begin with this choice. Should we save the world? Can we?

Level 30!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 6, 2010

The Dragon roared and breathed pure fire and the village was torn apart. This village had not cowered in fear and terror like the others, had hired soldiers to attempt to slay him. They were no longer worthy of existence.
The Dragon determines who lives and who dies. While there are dragons, the only humans allowed to live are cowards. Would-be heroes are just so many charred corpses, martyrs.
Parents send their young women to The Dragon for his pleasure. Villages send food and gold.
After a while, this is treated as natural, normal, and the people are no longer even aware of their own terror. Tradition demands payment to The Dragon, The Man, anyone who opposes this, far from being a hero, is a traitor, betraying society itself.

The Hero hunched, bowed under the weight of his self-aware inhumanity, ready to use his God-given powers one last time. The immortal “hero”, having acquired so many skills and so much equipment during his journey, after 11 of his own deaths, finally killed The Dragon. The villagers in the Kingdom were overjoyed, at least according to the way God programmed them, while The Hero stood rigid, brittle, a final bitter smile fading away.

Level 29!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 6, 2010

The Man hates sexism in games. He is politically correct and his people know what he wants from them. So in the midst of medieval worlds of violence and insecurity the player’s character, if the player chooses to play a female, has all the privileges of a male. Reviewers never comment on this. It’s what The Man wants and that is obviously unworthy of critique.
The Man wants violence and killing. He wants good and evil, although he pretends otherwise. He wants war, strife, conflict, terror. He gets what he wants, always. Whenever he doesn’t get what he wants developers don’t get his money. With 80% of mainstream games featuring killing as the primary focus of gameplay, a large majority of capital wants the same thing. But at least women can participate equally with men in these genocides, that’s what’s important. Like the push for “racial equality” in the United States. Blacks fought, under the supposedly wise leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., to become integrated into American society. They are integrating themselves into a corrupt imperial society, the worst civilization in human history. So these previous chattel slaves are becoming global dominators, including domination of Africa. Is this good? Are Africans dying of capitalist starvation supposed to be consoled when the CEO of a corporation killing them is black? Isn’t what’s important for those Africans to live free, happy, healthy lives?
The Man tore through the latest meeting report, spewing and steaming at the insufficient profit of one of the sectors. He strode out of the office and hovered over a lackey, demanding accountability for this travesty of insufficient tribute. Err, profit. Singed, the lackey scurried away to do the master’s bidding.

Level 28!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 6, 2010

The Man brought out his ballpoint pen. This is the part he loves, where he bestows on his people his money, in exchange for them producing another world he sells for his own profit. He owns them, and one day, God willing, he will own them all.
The Man loves India and Eastern Europe, where cheap slaves are cheaply educated. Hopefully more of the world aspires to these heights and becomes available to be hired for the sake of him and his brethren.
Guitar Hero is a beautiful game. Drum kits sold separately. Four sequels, one right after another. Microphones, second guitars, the works, all add-ons at tremendous profit margin. Guitar Hero expresses The Man’s dream of convergence, the merger of traditional with digital reality with all of the real benefit going to him.
The Man loves the profit margin of women. So many young beautiful ones so willing to spread their legs for him, while at the same time he maintains the emotional and public relations value of a commitment to his trophy wife. Truly earth is paradise.

Level 27!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 6, 2010

God left his corner office and went out for sushi. Gaming had never been more popular and his services were in high demand. Society told him he was good and valuable and there’s no need to question that. God’s grand dream is for his worlds to become the template for the real world – for digital reality to be translated into traditional reality. He would save the world., but for now he would make some good money and enjoy the good life, which would end all too soon.
Sushi is a work of art – colorful and expensive. It goes down easy, never filling, leaving one hungry for more. God looked at the paradise around him, palm trees lining the streets. The people were all clad in blue jeans, the symbol of hard work, long since passed to hard irony and self-delusion in the decadent pleasure palace which gave God his existence.
California is wonderful. The roads are long and open, the people dazed and empty, vessels to be filled with the wonders of God’s worlds and so many others. U-turns are legal here – it doesn’t matter which direction one goes as long as one doesn’t slow down.
God thought about the movie Paranormal Activity and the obliviousness of the main characters, who had only to separate from each other to eliminate their insecurity and therefore her demon. These people always forged ahead, Pioneers Ho!, never dealing with reality amidst their fantasies of blissful union together.