Gaming's Political Future
Posted on Monday, May 26 2008 @ 20:24:10 Eastern
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root," --Henry David Thoreau
When I first started paying attention to the political pressure being ratcheted in gamers' direction, I was reminded of a maxim about men that holds true here as elsewhere; a man will either run the table or fold, but he's still playing his own hand. I may seem overly caustic and critical, in a certain sense, but know from the start that the point is to get everyone to realize the stakes of the game, what's up for play, and that the deck has been loaded from the start.
1. One reaction I saw from gamers after school shootings, at Gamespy for example, and here are instructive. They suffer from what I call the "rabbit mentality." The rabbit in this case scrambles to throw others in front of the fox to avoid getting eaten. Our friend at Gamespy and the blogger both fail to understand that they're just as much targets and that the discussion is not, and has never been, about what's best for 'society' as such. It is, and has always been, about power. The damned fools (and we do live in a world filled to the brim with damned fools) seem to honestly believe that if they can shift focus away from them long enough, they won't end up a target. When arrested by the blue caps, they'd be just as inclined as the next poor fool to ask "why me?" They implicitly have some understanding of the game, and their foolishness is all the more repugnant for it. They know full well that they are targets of an unjust and wrathful beast, what they don't realize is that 'unjust' is in this case a redundant qualification. They've gone so far as to take sides against liberty to protect their pet habits.
2. It's interesting that the blogger linked above makes the following statement; "Katrina proved more than anything that people shouldn't be able to walk into a K-Mart and get a gun" but does not try to demonstrate why it is so. Last I checked, all those rape and mugging victims at the super dome were disarmed upon entry. However, this does not reach to the root of the problem. The root is that this cretin stipulates that any one person's rights are up for grabs by the herd, and he thinks he's the one to tell the herd how to trample on its individual members.
I'm going to stop here as my thoughts grow tangled. I'm trying to reach back to the inherent metaphysical confusion in their thinking, and it's out front, right where everyone can see it, in that it is totally barren, but I don't have the energy just now.
Resumed 7:26 AM after much needed sleep.
The first error I'd like to highlight in the thinking above is an ontological one; it assumes that the 'group' exists, and that the individual members are either unreal, or only real insofar as they are components of it. They see all of human society as a singular organism. It owes its lineage, in the efficient causal sense, to the philosophical work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx. For both, only weltgeist or "world-soul" was truly real, and human beings, and everything ordinary folks call the real, is merely passing phenomenon.
The second is the lapse in judgment allowing for the arrogant presumption that because they don't like X, they're able to use an institution, the state, which is characterized by its use of main force to achieve its ends and to redirect that power to their own desired ends. Ethically, it's on the same plane as Jim Crow legislation, the public education system, and everything the English did to the Irish.
Now to express the positive point; there is no practical value in what these fools have done, and will continue to do. They grant the fundamental premise that determines they themselves will be eaten and have no objection, and no real reason for fighting. They have already permitted the state its power and their only quibble is when, where and how severely to apply it. This is understandable of course. For many, to think outside the top-down corporatist box we find ourselves in today is impossible. There is only what we want the box to do today, for some. So I encourage everyone to take a step back, and ask that question about the political means ("Is it ever just?") and to not leave it up to one's 'betters' to contemplate such dangerous subject matter. If one does not do this, one is left basically defenseless against what is surely to come. Consider the elections as a single example. All three candidates are utterly dangerous(1) but one of these loonies will end up elected all the same. Anyone who looks at this situation with that classically American cynicism towards all politicians will see the Barnum and Bailey tents called voting booths right away, but that impulse, and the raw force of reason that births, nurtures and sustains it into maturity seems to be gone. People actually take those who want to live on large quantities of tax dollars and exercise a great deal of power over their own lives at their word. Is it even necessary to point out how monumentally foolish this is? I certainly hope not!
(1) - While Obama is the least offensive of the three (he doesn't have a war record to lie about, or past murders to cover up) big candidates, he's still terrible, by my lights. He's a mush-headed socialist with no sense to grasp the essentials of the positions he's arguing.
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Theory of Morality; a response to Sandineyes
Posted on Wednesday, May 21 2008 @ 04:39:56 Eastern
This is a response to Sandineyes' post of May 19, 2008: "Morality in video games"
I felt a blog post was necessary, rather than a comment, as I'll be going to length and depth to which a comment is not amenable.
The whole discussion runs into a snag from the very start when we attempt to "quantify" morality. To do so is to make an ontological and metaphysical error that obliterates any attempt at moral or ethical philosophy. Morality is eminently qualifiable, however, and to completely abjure categories, kinds, qualities and abstract principles for purely quantitative expressions leads us to a universal state of unintelligibility; after all, the human mind automatically thinks in kinds. It is not enough to ask "how much," one must first ask "what," and then "how much of what," and these are fundamentally separate questions. Following on this, any attempt at an ethical system cogitated on pure reason (Kant stated one was possible, but never built one) or one dependent exclusively on the particulars of experience are both doomed to failure. The former may lay out some fixed principles or guidance, the criterion of judgment which is the very essence of what morality provides, but without reference to reality, which experience provides, these are almost certainly worthless principles. A good example is the Attic, especially Platonic/Aristotelian, scorn for labor and commerce. It was founded on ideals not beholden to the reality in which man actually exists. The opposite, the morality of Hume, Bacon, and many of the 20th century philosophers, is a shifting quicksand; lacking any abstract principle (Bacon, for example, abjured reason to maniacal extremes, in all fields, whilst secretly embracing mysticism) there is ultimately no judgment and no essential moral code. It is often in lower fields, especially politics and economics, where such errors are revealed; the empiricists have typically been unopposed to any particular form of government and e.g. Ronald Coase has stated that he is uninterested in rights in the abstract, but only in rights that are "useful." The flaw in the statement provides further considerations; useful to whom? In what way? How do we determine this? There is nothing in Coase's work to provide an answer. The Coase/Chicago school of advocacy for capitalism is based on a criterion of "efficiency" which is at best ill-defined. Bacon's followers were fairly agnostic politically; so long as there was a powerful enough state to fund their endless fact-grubbing, that is.
Moving the discussion back to video games, and GTA IV in particular, the metaphysical framework that underpins an artist influences and guides, and is the ultimate foundation of, artistic works.(1) To say that the world in which we romp about in GTA IV is amoral is entirely false; it has a moral character, brought forth by its creators, but it is a very subtle one, which reflects well on the artistic gifts of its creators. The choices we are given in GTA IV are as strong, and as meaningful, as the key choice in Bioshock. However, they're devoid of immediate gameplay implications. They don't need to have them to be meaningful, however. The value in them is exclusively for the player, as the game itself.(2) Morality, or the lack of it, lay in our own judgment, demonstrated in action. If a person is truly determined(3) in a given circumstance, there is no question of morality, but the truth is that even if a game 'forces' a player to do undeniably despicable things, the player still has at least one choice left; turn the game off.
One last quibble,
"Even regardless of the moral flexibility of players, these games ensure that playing the game only once will result in losing out on a great deal of content, regardless of how thorough one is."
This could be said of any non-linear game that contains large numbers of secrets and ancillary content that one need never access. My quibble is this; why not be optimistic about the implications? That means there's always something more to go back for, when one decides to play again.
I hope I've added more light than heat to this discussion.
(1) - This insight was originated, to the best of my knowledge, by Ayn Rand. Once one grasps it, and its significance, it seems downright silly that no one said it before. It's nearly a tautology.
(2) - I've not played through all of GTA IV, so I can't say it with certainty. I won't go into specifics here, for reason of not wishing to drop spoilers.
(3) - Determined as in the sense of determinism as against free will. Suffice it to say the present author comes down on the side of free will.
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