Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Game On

...to a time when games were contests. How many decks is the blackjack dealer using? How many spare hours does the prince have to train with his foil?

People once played Tetris. Now, you can play Tetris on Facebook, but only be remotely competitive by buying--with money from the real world--special abilities unavailable through skill alone. In Everquest, Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, et cetera, the rules of the game are all subject to change by formally bribing the gamemasters.

Long before that, it had begun. You could play table-top or collectible card games, but only be remotely competitive by paying real-world money to purchase items that would give you an advantage over other players. No more Go or Risk or Stratego beginning with two evenly-matched players, determined only by skill. Instead, the rich are able to buy success ahead of time in even fantastical environments. By making your blocks swivel faster, your lines clear 0.4 of a second more swiftly, or your Lvl. 1 Warrior equipped with the Sword of Godly Destruction, you can win with lesser, or no, skill.

Even the stupidest of freebie games have been turned into vindications of the illusory economies that created them. The rich no longer have to fear losing at hopscotch.

Why not? George W. Bush, who can barely read English, bought a Yale Bachelor's degree and a Harvard Master's. Michael Bay makes movies. Nicholas Cage acts in them. Why shouldn't you be able to buy anything?

The rich can buy liposuction. They can buy smooth faces and muscular biceps. They can buy longer lives. There's a certain horror in the acquisition of an end result without having gained the knowledge that created it.

The ends justify the means. The result proves that the process was the best it could've been.

Not far away, they will buy new bodies. New computers to load onto. In time, there will be no one left alive here who remembers what it was to earn anything. Nothing but a spreadsheet of "Highest Score!" initials will mark their passage.


  1. I already don't remember what it is to earn something. And I am just a regular middle class asshole with a comfortable office jobs.

  2. Even those few of us who still create something do not understand it: work has been subdivided, automated, and simplified to such an extent that the creators are not creators at all - they are just implements moved around by algorithms and machines.

  3. I don't agree; there's creativity all over the place. It's just that it gets obscured by that which is more successfully sold as creativity but is really just so much hype and copy-catting.

    I enjoy ersatz creativity; I make a game of spotting the best examples. Lady Gaga is one: a great voice, sexy in the extreme, outlandish stage and media performances, but whose contributions say less than nothing. Really, where would she be without the hype?

    At present, creativity needs to be looked for, due to the omnipresence of hype. But it's still there.

  4. You can only be creative if your actions can have an impact on your environment. Save for thoroughly dedicated artists, this opportunity is denied to virtually everybody.

    1. I disagree again. It only seems that the opportunity is denied to virtually everybody.

      The seeming inability to affect our communities is precisely what the power structure wants us to believe, and there's a whole media superstructure, a.k.a. a propaganda apparatus, to keep that seeming reality an element of widespread social belief.

      Practical experience shows us otherwise: actual conversations create a much greater impression than do, for example, advertisements, music videos, or even "responsible" political propaganda disseminated on NPR.

      Propaganda disguised as art and creativity appears stronger only because it's bigger, flashier, and more widely accessible. Its depth, however, is measured in terms of microns.

      Its lack of depth is where its vulnerability lies, and is precisely the point where it should be attacked.