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Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Marketplace of Ideas and Gaming

Recently, there has been some amount of controversy in the gaming industry over a phenomenon known as GamerGate, so called due to a hashtag coined by popular actor Adam Baldwin.  The movement itself appears to have two primary stated goals: the imposition of journalistic ethics on the gaming journalism industry, and the extreme diminution of so-called “Social Justice Warriors” (vocal progressives that advance the positions of minorities, in their own words: primarily feminists) from positions of influence within gaming as a whole.  It is the second that concerns us.

The Social Justice Warriors, self-labelled progressives, disapprove of independent thought.  This is not, in fact, hyperbole.  They desire nothing less than the elimination of all hostile views, the aggressive and unchallenged promotion of their own, the silence of all potential critics of their agenda, and, indeed, such a change in gaming culture that there will not exist anyone who holds contrary beliefs.  (To get a feel for the SJW elite, readers are invited to look up Anita Sarkeesian, Jon McIntosh, Leigh Alexander, and Matthew Binder).  In fact, the progressive side, as is their wont, disapproves in the strongest possible terms of the free market.  According to them, large video game businesses (EA, Activision-Blizzard, Bungie, 343 Industries, Ubisoft, etc.) “cater” to games culture, which is degenerate and utterly unworthy of continued existence.  Don’t believe me: let them tell you themselves.

[Gaming Culture is] Kind of embarrassing… a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences… an infantilized cultural desert of shitty behavior… young white dudes with disposable income who like to Get Stuff… lonely basement kids… [playing] games that sold the promise of high-octane masculinity to kids just like them…  By the turn of the millennium those were games’ only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but gaming. Public conversation was led by a games press whose role was primarily to tell people what to buy, to score products competitively against one another, to gleefully fuel the “team sports” atmosphere around creators and companies… young white teen boys in hypercapitalist America… had an anxiety in common, an amorphous cultural shape that was dark and loud on the outside, hollow on the inside… These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers… There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.  There is what’s past and there is what’s now.

Leigh Alexander, “'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over.”, Gamasutra

In other words, the evil, despicable capitalists have so warped the feeble young minds of men and brainwashed them into being misogynistic are the reason that women are not a particularly large part of the gaming industry.  The remedy to this, to their way of thinking, is quite simple.  The sexist filth that pervades gaming culture must be expurgated by any means, fair or foul.  Women must have just as many jobs as men, if not more.  “Sexist” portrayals of women in video games must not exist (enacting this can be rather confusing, as feminists have a habit of denouncing a thing as sexist with one breath and empowering with the next).  Games must “advance a narrative”: entertainment is no longer to be the primary purpose of games.  Above all, contrary opinions can only arise from institutional sexism, misogyny, regressivism, and bigotry, and thus are intolerable.  At first glance, this is arrant, economically illiterate nonsense; so much so that I actually laughed aloud upon viewing these materials.  When examined deeper, however, this illuminates a deeply disturbing pattern of thought.

First, the economics of the situation.  There is a concept called the Marketplace of Ideas.  Essentially, various sides will offer certain ideologies, and people are free to choose whichever one most closely mirrors their own beliefs.  Freedom of choice is essential for this to work.  So, in the games industry, the multitude of interests will offer different products in different packages, and consumers will purchase whichever ones they most like.  Someone who is looking to turn their brain off and just shoot things will probably buy Call of Duty or Halo and pop in the multiplayer, someone who wants an in-depth story and complex ethical questions will buy a game like Mass Effect, etc.  In this situation, SJWs are not only free to offer their ideas, they do, and frequently.  Their ideas are practically never featured in AAA games for a very simple reason: it will not be profitable.  If someone pitched a game to a major executive, that executive will ask two questions: “Will people buy this, and can we make a sequel?”  (There will also be issues of production, but ideologically, that will pretty much be the criteria.)  Gamers, as a rule, do not like to be preached at when playing games: there is no ingrained misogyny.   Simply witness the massive success of the most recent Tomb Raider reboot.  By all accounts, the new Lara Croft is a very strong female character and not sexualized in the slightest.  The game sold over 1 million copies within 48 hours of release, and has sold over 6.5 million copies since.  Gamers do not have a problem with strong female characters: they have a problem when the game gets preachy about it.

This is intolerable to SJWs.  To them, the righteous must constantly be filled with a zealous fury at that which they find abhorrent.  It must be the air they breathe and their daily bread.  Anyone who is insufficiently ardent is, therefore, a wicked and depraved sinner (to convert that sentence into their parlance, simply replace “sinner” with any “ist” that you may please; racist, sexist, misogynist, ableist, etc.)  Clearly, the free market is decadent and corrupt: after all, how else can one explain that they are not railing against institutional bigotry every hour of the day?  Consumers cannot be trusted to choose that which gives them the most utility: corporations cannot be trusted to advance the cause of progressivism: it falls to the SJW clerisy to cleanse the degenerate industry of its sins.  Following the example of Brendan Eich, anyone who deviates in the slightest from progressive orthodoxy must be hounded from business.

This is a very disturbing way of thinking.  I will not compare it in its present form to communism, because (as yet) they have not yet called for government intervention.  I will, however, compare it to the Inquisition or Mutaween.  The free market cannot be trusted, and thus morality police are necessary to hound out any heterodoxy that may rear its ugly head: video games, as the newest form of medium, are to be monitored for any signs of deviation just as thoroughly as books, even going so far as to burn anything that runs contrary to the grand narrative.  This is not exaggeration.  I could not find the original video, but follow the link and go to about 10:20 or so. 

No part of society is to be considered sacrosanct: everything must adhere to strict progressive orthodoxy.  If followed to its logical conclusion, the end result will be fascism as Mussolini preached: “Everything within the State, nothing without the State.”  In the words of such people as Alexander and Sarkeesian, “Everything within Progressivism, nothing without Progressivism.” 

If progressives wish to compete in the marketplace of ideas and goods, that is their prerogative.  If they are successful, good for them.  If, however, they find themselves unpopular, outpaced by people who simply wish to make an entertaining game, they should gracefully wait until the next round of sales, not attempt to raze their opponents.

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