-Gespenst- (User)

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Gamer / Industry Conservatism and the N4G Libertarian Majority

-Gespenst- | 304d ago
User blog

Disclaimer: This is not an attack on n4g or its moderators. It is a CRITIQUE of CERTAIN elements within its community not with the intent to have a censor brought upon them, but with the intent to generate positive cultural pressure. To appeal to the mods for censorship is pretty much akin to state intervention which isn’t appropriate here. I find it good that they provide a channel for multiple voices to be heard, but it’s up to the community to enter a dialogue and arrive at exactly what the reality and truth of this debate is.

So the majority of N4G users would seem to identify as libertarian, or at least were you to proffer to them the agreed definition of libertarianism as it’s known today (it’s main proponents being people such as Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman), they would nod their heads in assent, unable to discern any problem with it. What they don't seem to realise is that the particular brand of libertarianism they support, as an ideology, was popularised for the furtherance of capitalism. It supports the free market and its already voluminously documented perils, laissez-faire economics and aggressively individualistic notions of free speech. However, the moment something encroaches upon this strange abstraction they call “freedom”, they lose the plot. The concept they call freedom you see, seems to mean “I can do and say whatever the heck I want and not be beholden to any consequences that may result from my actions”. Hmm, a problematic notion of freedom if there ever was one. They might then add the qualifier “so long as it doesn’t hurt another person”, but surely such an eventuality is inevitable and even built into such an aggressive ideology? It’s certainly logical that such a terrible thing might even have a function within this ideology if one wished to fascistically assert their individuality. It might take the form of real censorship, coercion, or even physical violence, none of which accord with the very principle they claim to swear by.

However, this should come as no surprise, as present-day libertarianism is not to be likened to liberalism. A vocal majority within the n4g community by and large are not liberals. Yet they see themselves as progressive people, promoting radical freedom of expression. The kind of freedom they advocate is of course averse to being considerate, being responsible to a community, and being sensitive to others' grievances. It is a capitalist ideology that, in capitalist practices, enables the individual to be unfettered in their aggressive materialistic pursuit of wealth and power over others; to enable the conditions for domination which so few people actually achieve and which so many are dominated BY. It is a personal freedom that very often paradoxically impinges on the freedoms of others - exploits them for gain. This is the ideology they unwittingly or otherwise, subscribe to.

What's really interesting is how this ideology manifests itself in their commentary on videogames. They are staunchly conservative when it comes to videogames, and, for example, positively crucified Final Fantasy XIII, expressing virulent rancour against the risks it took, as well as the Final Fantasy traditions it eschewed. Incidentally, low risk titles are exactly how big videogame companies thrive. The triple-A industry, as it is known, rakes in millions on broad, unsophisticated, but graphically flashy experiences, and people lap this up. They are games that are averse to risk because of the money involved. It is a clear case of money being of higher priority than creativity.

Final Fantasy XIII, although technically a triple-A game, constituted a giant risk on the part of Square-Enix, and it was savagely panned by fans of the series. Now, I know people can counter this by arguing that- and rightly- that not all risks are necessarily productive of quality, and that just because a game is risky or because it goes against stagnant, hackneyed ideas doesn't automatically secure it greatness. However, Final Fantasy XIII isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, and I think risk these days should be at the very least respected, even if the game or whatever it happens to be, isn't very good. However, like I said, XIII isn't a bad game. The music, although surely an acquired taste and perhaps requiring a certain level of musical appreciation, is some of the best I've heard all this generation by far. The visuals, although admittedly a little bit "look don't touch", are absolutely sublime; gorgeous. Not to mention the overall art direction and visual design which was, again, some of the best I've seen in a game- so vibrant, so detailed, and so artful. The linearity, which was so lambasted, in itself then actually serves well a narrative function: The characters are running from an unavoidable fate- they have a singular destiny of which they cannot help but draw inexorably closer and closer to. The linearity then maps this narrative drive onto the very landscape- illustrates how there's nowhere to go but forward for these characters- that there aren't multiple choices, paths and destinies, but a singular one that they cannot escape. That approach to exploration gameplay really serves to enhance the narrative then- to intensify it. The battle system is intense and fun, and it only got better and more strategic in XIII-2. Perhaps where the game fell down was fleshing out its world, and also in the character department, but XIII-2 definitely improved on that with the characters of Noel and Caius, as well as the greater freedom, which also made sense in terms of the narrative given that it was preoccupied with time travel and multiplicitous, ever changing and generating realities. It's nothing like previous Final Fantasy games, but it's still quite a piece of work considering the amount of turbulence that accompanied its development. There's real creative risk behind the game, and it's not just obligatory and arbitrary- it really has quite a coherent artistic vision behind it. I won't say it's my favourite Final Fantasy game, but I certainly appreciate the new ideas it brought to the table as well as its overall quality. Not only this, but many gamers complain about the sequelization of Final Fantasy games, when the past few Final Fantasy games although fantastic, might as well have been sequels based on how similar they played to one another. It's beyond the scope of this article to offer more in depth examples, but there are certainly many. The hatred of Indies and their developers springs to mind.

So anyway, by railing against risky titles, they rail against creativity and innovation in games, and they demand more of the same. This is partly why CoD does so well and why the slightest change to a perk or something makes people go nuts. The industry itself is partly to blame for this- inculcating ideas of what games are about in people's heads through aggressive marketing and advertising, systematically dumbing down audiences with stupid games so inordinate effort is not required in their development (just lots of money for shiny graphics and big name actors). At the end of the day then, their attitude plays right into the fiscal plans of these videogame corporations, and games do not grow as a medium. They cultivate a graphically impressive surface, but nothing more.

So what's the connection here? Could it be said that, given their stance on games, i.e. that game developers should be allowed to make the most offensive, irreverent, insensitive, and mindlessly entertaining stuff ever "because freedom of speech and expression", and that games should not take risks because risks do not equal tradition- could all this not be said to reflect back on their actual political beliefs and the nature of them? Their opinions of games are informed strongly by libertarian assumptions, and their opinions of games are also super-heatedly conservative, so could it be said then that their so called "free" libertarian positions are in fact also conservative? I think so. It's no coincidence that the triple-A industry is a giant corporate monolith operating on capitalist principles. Its conservatism, its juvenility, its broadness- all these things are the antithesis of what liberalism (not libertarianism) is about. Perhaps their attitude isn't unabashedly conservative so much as it's hypocritically conservative. They coerce and denounce aggressively all challenges to their rigid and obstinate beliefs, and abuse those who offer more progressive ideas. That is their "free speech" in action, a kind of vicious conservatism disguised as encouraging of freedom and accepting. They deploy the free speech card to say what they want, and what they want to say is "you're wrong, you're an idiot, I'm right." It's a kind of crypto-fascism.

In this conservative-libertarian ideology, people assert these ostensibly noble and sweeping notions of freedom that seem to, on the surface, champion tolerance and equality, but in reality they espouse this position ONLY so that they can be made exempt from their responsibility to others. The freedom they harp on about only serves to perpetuate old imperial attitudes about everything- it is a freedom particularly engineered to preserve the status quo, a freedom that enables the loudest and most violent voices in history to remain loud and to continue to silence those who were silenced across history. It is not the kind of freedom they dress it up to be- the illusion they cultivate. Freedom of speech could probably exist, but the form it takes in this society is only a tool for the conservation of that very same intolerant society, and is therefore toxic.

And it makes perfect sense. After all, libertarianism is crypto-fascist- it's a capitalist ideology, and needless to say, capitalism is very much the status quo. So thus we may say that their hateful and bitter attitudes towards the sexism debate and the representation debate are just as conservative, and are no means progressive or insightful as they'd so like to believe. They merely belong to an old capitalist order ideologically, the very order that is beginning to have a very serious and negative impact on this world and the people in it.

They want to conserve the status quo because they have no clear idea of what could exist beyond it, so indoctrinated are they. Thus another term that comes to define them is "reactionary". They merely react. They don't think. They merely spew ideas ingrained in their head by the society they've been weaned on. Scared by challenges, they get angry and lash out at anyone, intimidating them because they know no other way. It's not entirely their fault though, because like I said, these are the values and attitudes they've been raised on. The problem is that they haven't developed their critical faculties- they haven't gone out of their way to really consider alternative points of view intellectually.

I say all this in response to claims that people decrying sexism, racism, stereotyping, violence, and general juvenility in videogames are somehow "conservative", when they're, as I've demonstrated, quite the opposite. I for one might be labelled a liberal from without, although personally the appellation is not important to me. The signifier or identifier is not important, and yet so many people use it to make surface judgements, for a label is just that- a surface, a mere name. Yet detractors judge you so completely on the word liberal and the bullet point connotations the term carries. They check things off a list in order to satisfy their blanket-prejudices and cosy definitions without engaging in any kind of nuanced debate or dialogue. It is reactionary behaviour. Only the other day did I realise that so many of the reactionary commenters on n4g didn't even know what objectification was! And yet they argue so furiously against these things. Indeed, they are surely the most conservative of all, arguing in a frenzied manner against things they don't even understand, not even engaging with the actual material they're assaulting, just assuming it's dangerous because it's different and railing against it with great ignorance. Hence they angrily argue for the continuation of sexist depictions of women in videogames and everything else, and yet they clearly have no grasp of the counter arguments. They turn a deaf ear to them; also a highly conservative position- given that the state of female representation in videogames has been the way they wish to keep it, pretty much since their inception. Hence another reason I decided to write this was the recent controversy regarding the character named Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V. It may very well be the case that Kojima has been playing us all along, and that the character and his commentary thereof are in fact part of a wider critique of sexism- it is of course a current debate. This remains to be seen, but for now, this article is a response to those who have immediately leapt to his side to defend his “artistic vision”, which may very well be yet another tired instance of the propensity videogames have for objectifying women. I’m not saying it conclusively is this, but I’m arguing against those who defend it and seek to conserve it IF it is.

Again, this conservatism manifests itself in their denial of any gender inequality in society- of any culture of female disempowerment. They seem invariably to think that no such inequality or asymmetry exists, that it is mythic in character. We already know however, how conservative these people are. So is it not conceivable that this supposed "knowledge" they have of the "truth" of gender inequality is in fact yet another manifestation of their conservatism? Could it be that the fortress of truth they occupy is in fact one based on self-deception? Being so rooted in today's society, and unable or unwilling to conceive beyond it, they consider it the best of all possible worlds, and make-believe that it is perfect, that no such social ills exist, thus conserving a rotting patriarchal order.

(I'll continue in the comments section)

-Gespenst-  +   304d ago
For them, just like there is no problem with the juvenility of videogames, there is no gender inequality in society, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and these opinions are both formed within the matrix of libertarianism, an ideology which, despite being derived from the Latin for freedom, and despite being similar to the word "liberalism" is very much not in the business of promoting freedom, at least not a freedom that is life-affirming and respectful to the freedom of as well as the grievances of others. Indeed, their views issue from a conservative ideology- an ideology that is popular today, and which functions solely to conserve the capitalist order, which as we've seen, manifested as the triple-A industry, is killing videogames. They are the golems of the triple-A industry, as well as of a broader capitalist discourse. What's more, they want to protect this flagrant, inconsiderate, reckless freedom of expression merely so they can perpetuate a society that allows them to do and say whatever the heck they want- irrespective of consequence or the suffering they might cause. The motives are ultimately selfish, and they don't truly care about the developers coming under fire- only their own violent individuality. It’s immediately apparent then that the brand of libertarianism they espouse has been derived from within a capitalist society and the values that are so diffusely institutionalised throughout it. They are values which have required little reflection upon because they are ingrained. They merely recite the terms of their own indoctrination.

You see, money has become so central to people’s lives that they cannot conceive of a world without it, let alone survive without it, and that's just what the terms of capitalism demand from its subjects. A culture has grown from this that over-values, to a vacuous degree, currency, and which has spawned various "culture industries" from Hollywood, to big exploitative record labels, to triple-A game companies. All these industries tout items of culture and creativity, and yet prioritise profit over and above those human creations. It's cynical, vacuous, materialist, and utterly empty, and it's given rise to the culture we see thriving (or festering) on N4G today, as well as myriad other internet communities and sites.
SilentNegotiator  +   303d ago | Well said
Blog-ception.

Thanks for the rant, Al Franken. How else would we know that Libertarianism is ACTUALLY extra-evil conservatism?
Anthotis  +   303d ago
When i saw your name next to a blog entry, i expected it to be some sort of long winded, pseudo intellectual gibberish lamenting the fact that people aren't equal, and that there are differences between races, genders and individuals, but you would be encouraging us to shut up, conform and treat everyone the same anyway...

You didn't disappoint, so i'll give you a funny bubble.
ShaunCameron  +   303d ago
LMAO
#1.2.1 (Edited 303d ago ) | Agree(7) | Disagree(2) | Report
pixelsword  +   302d ago
I don't agree dragging in political philosophies into gaming (as they aren't really compatible), but on the surface Quiet appears to be both a construct and a critique of American sexism as much as being rife with symbolism.

I don't think her name "Quiet" fits as much as "Silenced" would, though; but that remains to be seen.

She is a precursor to the sniper line, but (in a way) a legacy of The End (especially since her name means "crown" and/or "garland" [she might actually be good with headshots]).
#1.3 (Edited 302d ago ) | Agree(0) | Disagree(4) | Report | Reply
-Gespenst-  +   304d ago
One way of looking at this is that if creativity is "industrialised", then money becomes central to all creative endeavours, not the creativity itself. This means that when the money runs out (in say, the music industry) people, because they've been so ingrained with the "value" of money, won't be as inclined to be creative. Creativity has been merged with the notions of profitability and of market performance, and people can't seem to conceive of it outside those things. It's not something that should really be monetised, because monetisation necessarily inhibits it- introduces a level of risk that makes it financially dangerous to actual explore creativity. It becomes about trend, advertisement, competition, and deception, and it's all very cynical. It's the empty, passionless products of such industries (as well as the instantiated values and unsophisticated assumptions therein) that these people I'm ranting about have been nurtured by. What's even more interesting is that there's a direct connection between this "industrial" mentality, and a lack of empathy. Not just in the way money makes people behave, but for deeper reasons too. We already know that libertarianism is an ideological cog in the capitalist machine, and we already know that it preaches a solipsistic level of aggressive individualism - i.e. the individual as the measure of all things - so from this we can easily see how empathy might be seriously inhibited and even discouraged.

What else though? The industrialisation of culture, as we've seen, stifles creativity. And without creativity and risk, we are threatened with the problem of complacency- of remaining stubbornly within our own world views and not having them challenged; of continuing to accord in our behaviour to the narrow internal logic of that world view. With creativity proper, our imaginations are free to explore beyond boundaries set by the capitalist co-option of creativity- a "form" of creativity you might say- a "form" that asserts creativity merely as a means to an end, the end of profit and corporate growth. Those boundaries, positing profit and wealth at their centre foster aggressive individualism and greed in people, which precludes or severely distracts from the issue of empathy and from the fundamental notion of living with other people. Money in the industry has certainly become an end in itself, not a means to an end; not a resource with which to boost and encourage creativity- a resource to be spent on creativity. The ideal scenario should be like a musician who recoups on his or her record and uses those funds to create yet another album. Unlike the endless quest for wealth, creativity and creative productivity has genuine spiritual worth and is enriching to the self. It is not vacuous to fund your creativity endlessly rather than resting on your laurels and your amassed wealth. It is vacuous and meaningless to merely pursue wealth, not to mention harmful to the human spirit and to society.
#2 (Edited 304d ago ) | Agree(3) | Disagree(8) | Report | Reply
-Gespenst-  +   304d ago
As they say, empathy is not something that comes easy, and that’s particularly resonant in the order of society we live in today. "Sociopath", if we accept its definition as prescribed by orthodox psychiatry, rather amusingly, actually describes a lot of people in such a society, to say nothing of those who run it. Empathy requires a greater attention to the Other of which this culture does not have time for. Creativity explodes the little boxes we build around ourselves and allows us to actual attain a genuine empathy, and creativity is not something that is being supported in the videogames industry. For if creativity is subsumed into a capitalist, corporate, consumer narrative or system, it loses its power, and becomes meaningless. It becomes beholden to the market and its whims and values. Its price and its performance on the market comes before its intrinsic creative and political content.

A culture "industry" basically disempowers creativity, while exploiting its varied and attractive surfaces and its appearances for the sake of profit. Thus political art isn't taken seriously in this culture, or at least, the political components beneath the surface of a piece of art (which all pieces of art necessarily have) are not taken seriously. And crucially, this trickles into culture. Art is divorced from politics as we see in the games sexism debate- people can't make the connection- refuse to even. They insist games exist in a bubble, just like they themselves exist in an individualistic libertarian bubble, mistakenly free from social and cultural responsibility.

At the end of the day then, so many things in society and in culture posit that we're all different, that we're all separate and solipsistically isolated, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Biologically and genetically? We're the least diverse species on this planet by what is actually a shockingly wide margin. I'm not advocating some sort of fascist uniformity or homogeneity, individuality still must exist, but it must exist tempered by a strong sense of empathy and community, otherwise it is purely a tendentious distortion of reality. Individuality is more surface based and superficial than we'd care to admit, and it certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum- so much of it is derived from relations with others (the fallacy people make is that such relations must needs be violent to assert individuality). Individuality is, in a kind of Aristotelian sense- accidental. This does not mean it doesn't deserve reverence, but it does mean that it doesn't deserve to be put on a pedestal to the insane way it is these days. What has happened is that we've deceived ourselves into thinking that we're all isolated, monadic minds and bodies- we've been deceived by various opportunistic people throughout history and we've also allowed ourselves to endure that deception. We have to realise that none of us are all that different, and we need to start acting like it too.
-Gespenst-  +   304d ago
Addendum: I’ve noticed a recurring argument that people who argue like myself are somehow as conservative as Victorians or Puritans, but there’s absolutely no analogue there. It’s a total straw man. Firstly, Victorians CENSORED and monitored and policed morality and appearance in the interests of a class system- the conservation of an aristocracy. Not to mention, as has been said, that the people least like the Victorians were the Victorians themselves. In fact, anarchic libertarianism was quite a significant strand of thought around that time. Puritans then were utilitarian and pompous in the interests of a Calvinist conception of God that taught the material world as sinful and as the site of the Fall. Nevertheless, it was the Puritans themselves who were dispersed by the secularisation the wilderness engendered and its potential for the satiation of greedy and piratical impulses, and what was left of the nation of America was a pragmatic materialism- the very germinal point of capitalism as we know it today- and which nonetheless retained the arbitrary and capricious character of Calvinism in order to justify highly paradoxical and violent behaviour- also influenced by dodgy enlightenment thought including notions of racial superiority. A good series of works to read are those of Richard Slotkin (google him). In both cases, it’s the very opposite of what’s going on now. What’s going on now is an attempt to empower those who are marginalised, to return to them their voice which history stole. That’s an open, Other-directed endeavour, not censorship or stuffiness. It’s about shattering ideologically charged and naturalised conceptions of people.

Here are some supplementary things you might consider:

A text file of some stuff I wrote, some of which was actually copy-pasted into this article, and some of which expands on some of the stuff I was talking about, which you can find here: http://www.mediafire.com/do...

The documentary entitled "Race: The Power of an Illusion". Which you can find on youtube in its three parts: "The Difference Between Us", "The Story we Tell", and "The House we live in". It expands on the point I made about our genetic and biological similarity, and is also a good example of undoing a capitalist metanarrative and letting subaltern voices be heard.

This interview with Destructoid’s Jim Sterling in which I think he makes some really great points with clarity and incisiveness, and which should give you an idea of how “free speech” ought to be (which of course is not the same as we know it nowadays): http://www.gamingaswomen.co...

A pretty damning article about the hypocrisy of modern day Libertarianism: http://www.alternet.org/eco...

And finally a lecture delivered by Noam Chomsky recently which discusses one of the big and more grave consequences of capitalism, here: http://www.youtube.com/watc...

I could recommend a lot of other stuff but I'll stop here lest it be misconstrued that I’m propagandizing. PM me if you're interested.
iceman06  +   303d ago
This would be great as the basis of a Masters thesis. Yes, I actually read the entire thing...even the comments. Yes, I was bored when I decided to read it. No, I don't regret it. There is a lot of information hidden within this comment that holds value...whether you agree or not.
Not the best VIDEO GAME post, but surely an excellent commentary on Libertarianism and it's inherent influence on societal norms. +Bubs just for the intelligent effort!
#4.1 (Edited 303d ago ) | Agree(3) | Disagree(6) | Report | Reply
-Gespenst-  +   303d ago
Thank you very much for the kind words and for taking the time to read.

Haha I was a little bit worried this wouldn't get approved when I finished it because of the lack of direct videogame discussion, but I tried my best to link it all back to videogames and particularly the n4g community, the latter of which I think is really what qualified this to be approved.

I just don't know why people feel they need to comment when they didn't read. What are they trying to prove? Seems like they just take the opportunity to make a cheap joke. I'm not asking anyone to agree or even read, but it'd be nice, should they decide not to read it, if they could refrain from commenting. If they did read it all and disagree, fire away, but otherwise it's just pointless and kind of juvenile. Oh well. Thanks again!
iceman06  +   303d ago
Well, as you so eloquently insinuated, that is the nature of N4G. Lot's of disagrees, very little REAL discussion as to why. Maybe they just took your intelligence as a sign of offense!?!? LOL At any rate, keep up the work.
majiebeast   304d ago | Trolling | show | Replies(2)
Nicaragua  +   304d ago
I tried to read this blog, I got as far as "Final Fantasy XIII isn't a bad game" and then got bored.

Coincidentally that's exactly how i felt while playing Final Fantasy XIII, right before i took it back to the shop for being such a tedious blob of chod.
#6 (Edited 304d ago ) | Agree(6) | Disagree(4) | Report | Reply
-Gespenst-  +   303d ago
Did you uh, read WHY I think it isn't a bad game...?
Nicaragua  +   303d ago
uh yeah i did. Some bollocks about the linear nature of the game actually being a good thing... talk about drinking the kool aid.
SilentNegotiator  +   304d ago
Really? So people didn't like the terrible changes with FF13 because they think conservatively and not because they dislike crap?

Tell me more. [insert WillyWonky.jpg]
black0o  +   304d ago
(o_O)
DoctorJones   303d ago | Immature | show
fsfsxii  +   303d ago
This kind of blog is why i love N4G. brb reading.
wishingW3L  +   303d ago
"Final Fantasy XIII isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination" <--- LOL this guy. Just because you have terrible taste for games and gullible too doesn't mean that everybody has to be the same. http://blip.tv/the-spoony-e...

And not to mention the comment about having to be an expert musician to appreciate FF13's music or FF13 being a risky game. Oh Dear... Making a linear game like a straight corridor with no interaction and focusing in story is risky now? 0_O

I have never read a more pathetic blog entry than this. Not even Bloodmask's blogs crying about the PS3 fanboys were this bad.
#11 (Edited 303d ago ) | Agree(7) | Disagree(2) | Report | Reply
Capt-FuzzyPants  +   302d ago
FF13 must be one of the most talked about games ever. I mean just when I thought it passed for the most part people just keep on bringing it up.

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