RE: ON ‘THE GAMER’

Thanks Harry for taking the time to write a comment. I will try to address it in bits.


I think that the view of gamers being a cast-aside subset of society who have failed to reach the lofty heights of “success” is one held by many, and one that frustrates me. For better or worse, I do think this is slowly starting to shift as those of us that grew up around videogames age and infiltrate the ranks of “elders” en masse.

I agree – I think perhaps I mean something like ‘extremely committed gamers’, or ‘those who define themselves by videogames’ (which neither of us would want to define ourselves as probably). Basically: a distinct subset of reactionaries who consume to the exclusion of all else. Whether or not this represents the average “gamer” is not exactly the point I’m trying to make — and though I agree that referring to ‘the gamer’ is possibly misleading, I do not mean to refer to ‘all those who play videogames’. I’m also keen to point out that I don’t view them as unsuccessful in the absolute, only that they (gamers of the compulsive and reactionary subset) are “unsuccessful”, and that the kind of success we all aspire to under late capitalism is hard to come by. In other words, the kind of gamer that can healthily manage their hobby, is not the gamer that I am referring to (for they do not define themselves as The Gamer or by videogames — they have other hobbies etc).

“The cult of videogames is less magnetic” is an interesting statement. Speaking as an “ex-gamer” from the “other side”, I feel that my life’s plethora of other activities are somewhat distractions from what I would “rather be doing” which is indulging in gaming. To me, playing video games is exactly that, it is a treat that I indulge in when I’ve completed enough of the more tedious activities that seem to have forced themselves into my life. That is of course ridiculous as I’m fully aware that I opted-in to most of these activities, but nevertheless I can’t help but find myself drawn to games when I want to relax. Why else would I pull out a Switch on the tube?

This is a good point, and I agree! Though it perhaps makes my point for me — videogames are an easy form of the success that is so much harder to achieve elsewhere, which is precisely what makes videogamic systems so tempting to the committed gamer (or extreme gamer).

I don’t think the gamer and the non-gamer are that different. The non-gamer also loses a number of friends from school to university, and from university thereafter. Whilst many more acquaintances are made through this journey, barely any of them could be considered friends. Ironically, the friends that remain are the only ones that share (or shared) in the common pursuit of gaming. Some non-gamers feel just as lonely as the gamers, the only difference being groups of non-friend acquaintances that they are each interacting with.

I also agree with you also on this point. My argument is not that this is not the case for all people, only that it is specifically extra damaging for the committed gamer, whose cultural currency is particularly depreciative (is particularly alienating and unsustainable) — and though I agree that “regular” people are destined to lose friends, similar to the gamer, their stake in society is not through videogames, and it is this personal identity as The Gamer that opens him up to the alienation and damage that results (for he has no extra-videogame safety-net).

The in-game monetisation + false economic systems found within gaming can be described as extensions of the capitalistic “real-world” seeking to extract real-world value out of un-real game worlds. The non-gamer that buys the limited edition adidas tracksuit is a king within certain circles.

Pretty much!

The expenditure of whales on “functionless tat” dumbfounds those that do not see value in the system the whale has bought into. Imagine a virtual world which generates more value through the work done by players in its internal economy than the game generates through monetisation in the real world; a virtual world which lasted for decades rather than until next year’s version is released.

I completely agree again. We are probably slightly talking past each other here. I can understand why the system itself is compelling to the regular consumer — I guess I’m trying to highlight its absurdity. A further problem I have: that the extreme gamer may be coerced by “failure” elsewhere (the system he is the victim of) into seeking his pseudo or performative “gold plated” status. He is impelled into a life of consumption (extreme consumption) and hard labour that gives him only performative status, when similar grinding elsewhere would at least meet his basic social needs (friends, food, health).

Whilst some of these games exist already, they are a couple of exceptions floating in a sea of short-lived money vacuums. Until game worlds that are rich/deep enough to provide people with long lasting meaning and value to their actions become the norm, and the internal work economy of those worlds is significantly stronger than the monetisation of them, the majority will continue to have this disapproving reaction to those that are seen walking around in-game wearing legendary armour. I hope that one day this will happen, and the monetisation of video games will shift towards one of covering the costs of supporting the game in the real world, rather than using them as a tool to generate the “real value” (i.e. the profit in the real world).

This is what I find a little bit difficult to square ethically, provided my arguments elsewhere — the prospect of being able to commit one’s life to a videogamic system that could promise to absorb upwards of 10 years of the gamer’s life is not better but in fact worse. The promise of lasting social status through cosmetics that requires one to commit their time and money (money in exchange to labour for bits of tat, as I put it pejoratively) risks enslaving The Extreme Gamer with the prospect of not just a virtual system, but a virtual life. The argument here seems to be that the scope of the capitalistic system to which the gamer can commit is, in fact, not comprehensive enough. I find this, given everything else I’ve argued, perhaps totally not cool man.

The inclusion of morality systems and “choose your path” facades, could be seen as poorly executed and insufficient provisions for a gamer that is actually seeking true consequence in games. I do believe that gamers seek meaning in their games but there is a failing to provide that at the moment, and so the whole thing descends into a pit of “well then, I will become the most hated villain in all of Albion”.

Yes! I had exactly that in mind!

I think that true consequence will never be felt by a player until 2 things are present. The first is that the outcomes cannot be scripted. If a decision leads down a forked path (of limited outcomes), then inevitably the outcome will always feel false. There is an argument that only simulated worlds where players are interacting with other unpredictable unscripted players or (currently unavailable) super AI, can actions have consequences that feel real. The second thing that needs to be present is for the player to be invested in the game world and the character. Whilst some games have shown glimmers of this, I think this comes back to the previous point that short-lived game worlds with no real work economy do not provide sufficient value to gamers.

Yes and no! Perhaps “more meaning” is difficult in that we are conflating meaning with time. And though I want to agree that things that last longer are more meaningful, that is not always the case (see, parachuting or something — although I guess those memories will also last a long time; but are those memories what make it valuable…?). I sort of already addressed this earlier, in that I’m not sure how I feel about increasing the scope of the capitalistic system (across time). But, if the medium, as you are arguing, can become less vapid (as I put it) then perhaps there can be an inherent value to the videogameic system outside of the currently exploitative one — they can “ascend” to something else (I hesitate at “art”). If this inherent value comes to exist, and the value is not predatory or financially exploitative, then there is hope for the medium (re: the regular gamer) yet (there certainly is). For the Extreme Gamer, though, I have reservations.

I think that this is what makes pouring ever increasing amounts of time into gaming feel hollow – diving into an alternate world to find purpose and value, but instead finding a scripted interactive experience that gives the illusion of control and value. The irony of this all is that videogames would not be enjoyable to me if I didn’t initially believe the illusions of purpose and control going into them. I think it’s this illusion that makes video games more engrossing than other forms of media. When the illusion breaks down is when I start to stop playing and move on.

Yes! I didn’t consider this. Videogames are definitely illusory — for you, when this illusion breaks down, you stop; for the “extreme gamer” however, the illusion is both there and not there, I am arguing.  I think this all depends if we can agree on what increasing the “value” of the experience is — I would be interested to find out what you think further on this point.

The difference perhaps between the gamer and the non-gamer is that the non-gamer also finds the “real-world” hollow. In struggling to find value and purpose in a capitalist world full of smarmy peacocks that the gamer doesn’t relate to, they turn to alternate worlds in their search. When these worlds fail the gamer, they don’t have their value in the “real-world” to turn back to. The non-gamers may seem like they are running towards capitalist success, but I think a more accurate description would be scrambling to find things that give them purpose and then anchoring themselves to them as quickly as possible.

I like this argument. I think we define capitalistic success differently, but we fundamentally agree on this point — and I am perhaps slightly nastily broad; I don’t nail it down entirely. Capitalistic success is extra those things which you describe. I think the things that we derive “purpose” (as you have defined it) from are necessarily enabled by capital, but they are not capitalistic success. That is, we are running towards capital in the hope that it provides for us the things we want, but those things in and of themselves are not capitalistic success — this is an important distinction for it shifts the blame from capitalist to capital and I am certainly not clear enough on this point. Further this, what I mean is that we are beholden to it (capital) and I mean no ill will to anybody who seeks it out — I am angry at capital, not those of us who operate under it, for being the only force through which we can “have a life” so to speak. To keep banging the drum: capitalistic success is not a personal pejorative, but an indictment of the concept of capital, and — how like an object with sufficient mass — it acquires a gravitational field of its own, pulling us all towards it in an amoral, all consuming blob that we are powerless to resist (both the gamer and non gamer). It seems hardly fair that only a few can derive its benefits.

One day I hope that game worlds will be rich and provide purpose to the masses seeking it. Until then, I will continue to hoard things/beings that rely upon me, so that I can (selfishly?) continue to feel some sense of meaning.

Please see above for my clarification. It is not you who is selfish but capital itself! Much like, I hate to bring him up, especially at the end here, Richard Dawkins, whose book is not about the SELFISH gene (a one gene that is selfish), but the selfish GENE (genes are selfish in their attempt to replicate).

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