36 Comments
Jan 30Liked by Daniel Bessner, American Prestige

Great episode. Alot a very good analysis and thoughts. Another aspect of First Person Shooters: they are inherently individualistic.

My opinion: video games are the new opiate of the masses.

I have trouble with calling video games an art form. Art does a lot of things. Art can be propaganda, a status symbol. A way of adding dignity, significance, and celebration to objects of everyday use. Art can be used to enhance cultural rights of passage and communal celebrations. Fine literature can expand your perspective on the human world and reveal structures and relationships to a reader. Or, at its peak, (Ruskin/William Morris view) art can be taking joy in work.

Video games don't do any of that. They may look pretty, but that does not make them art. Video games to me most resemble a drug and interactive propaganda that you have to pay for. Gamers literally get chemical hits and need their fix, and their brain is influenced, limiting their imagination in all the ways described in this episode.

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Jan 31·edited Jan 31Liked by Daniel Bessner

Loved this episode, there needs to be way more serious analysis of gaming from the left! I’d love to hear more discussion on the topic of video games and alienation. I think I agree with the analysis that games play an alienating role while simultaneously providing people with a path for relief from subjective alienation. The social spaces that have been created by gaming are really fascinating, both online and in person (like arcades and grassroots FGC). I think they traditionally appeal to a section of society that is particularly affected by alienation too. These social spaces have also been identified as a lucrative market by the capitalist class in the last decade with the rise of monetized content creation and corporate esports. I think a class analysis of gamer spaces would be really interesting

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Jan 30Liked by Daniel Bessner

Great conversation. I hope in a future episode you could talk about grand strategy, especially the Paradox map-painting games, since that seems to be a powerful lens through which gamers are encountering whole historical epochs and geopolitics. I need Danny's take on communism in HOI4 or Victoria 3!

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Jan 30Liked by Daniel Bessner

It'd also be really interesting to talk about the labor side of video games. I love RDR2, but the story's attempts at an elegy for a pristine world being ground down by technological advances and alienated labor, felt very strange coming from a product of brutal crunch.

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Jan 30Liked by Daniel Bessner, American Prestige

This might finally be the niche podcast that I can talk to other parents about.

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Jan 31Liked by Daniel Bessner

Excellent episode! Thank you to all involved for indulging a member of the hoi polloi like myself with a stimulating discussion about a beloved and yet toxic pastime that was as academic as was entertaining.

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Jan 30Liked by American Prestige

The plot of Fallout 3 is to ensure a fresh water supply for a post apocalyptic wasteland, and to prevent the fascist remnants of the United States government from monopolizing it for a racialized subset of "pure" humans. It would've been interesting to hear you all discuss that

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Jan 30Liked by American Prestige

Remember that pokemon phone game that got all the gamer kids outside discovering public parks and their hometown geography for the first time? I was hoping that was the future, but they all went back inside.

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I'm a game criticism "wonk" you could say and though the guests did a good job on the broad strokes critique of FPS/Call of Duty, I think they perhaps weren't prepared to discuss the capitalism aspect of it all.

Trevor Strunk, Zoe Bee, Jacob Geller, Renata Price, Patrick Klepek, Rob Zacny, and many other game critics out there have been explicitly looking at games from a leftist perspective. I think one of these people would have been more prepared to give you an overview of video game depictions of utopian class warfare, alienation, labour, consumption, expansion, escapism, environmentalism, etc. in video games. These themes aren't just explored in obscure indies either. One of last year's most successful games is explicitly a Marxist text (Disco Elysium) and won multiple Game of the Year awards!

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and I hope I'm not coming across as saying "you had the wrong guests on". It's just that game criticism and gaming in general has a deep history of grappling with capitalism and there are interesting voices documenting and engaging with this aspect of gaming as their speciality (not to mention the Marxist scholarship around gaming). I encourage anyone reading this to read up on some of the output of the people mentioned earlier!

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Your guests are completely wrong about RDR2 not focusing enough on the Native American experience. The missions are mostly optional, but you help a tribe fight against the military and business. One of the best soundtrack beats hits on one of these missions, so ya to say the game ignored the issue is just completely false. If anything, it’s the only game I can think of that tackled the issue with an honesty to history. https://youtu.be/P1W4grDLPec?si=hVgTIK0tXCrKCm0u

The whole game doesn’t focus on the issue, but it’s sprinkled through the story. Like when you’re taught by the half native gang member (best dude) how to hunt and you learn about buffalo massacres as was carried out as part of expansion plans.

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Interesting you all didn’t greatly talk about Last of Us 2 too much. It on one hand does attempt to “humanize” the countless CPUs you kill (their screams sound human, they reference their relationships with others) while also forcing you to reckon with the question of the morality of your own character. On the other hand it’s a pretty “centrist” allegory for the Israel Palestinian War, although even there it does have redeeming qualities.

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I've never been too interested in video games and this episode gives a number of great example why. I just don't care about getting the power up or the high score and there are a lot better stories elsewhere that don't have me constantly pushing a button.

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This might be on interest, coming from the „anonymous military aged Arab male“ pov. https://media.ccc.de/v/33c3-8419-the_clash_of_digitalizations

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Danny, what do you play on? And, what do you enjoy playing most nowadays?

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