A war on for your mind…

Yes. Lately I am of the impression that something is going on in the world and there’s a faint connection between the way certain events are playing out politically, socially and culturally.

As the migrant crisis rolled on through the current year, and even as social cohesion is slowly breaking down in Europe, a narrative is being pushed about how this is all still a positive thing that we should be celebrating, and the German government is working to silence any criticism of the country’s immigration policy and the effects that mass immigration is having on their communities. Not to mention, the German government and the European Union have been collaborating with Facebook and Twitter in order to censor what they deem as “hate speech” – which is no doubt going to include expressing a dissenting opinion on the migrant crisis. There have been reports of¬†right-wing groups being banned from Facebook for talking about what they feel is the Islamization of their communities, as well as conservative commentators who would likely have a problem with an establishment that is putting multiculturalism above all else.

In the UK, it has been that police have been tracking tweets on Twitter and it is suspected that they can arrest people simply for offending someone on Twitter. People have actually been arrested for sending the wrong tweet or publishing the wrong video on YouTube in some cases. Not to mention, anti-Islamic tweets are being tracked by Demos and being treated as Islamophobic, and given the actions of the British police it’s not such a wild stretch to suspect that the government might start using a narrative of protecting the “real victims” as a means of justifying widespread surveillance and prosecution of thought-crime.

In America, as the political battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continues and the culture war rages on, Hillary herself has proven herself willing enough to declare Breitbart, one of the largest voices of opposition to her campaign, as a site that has no right to exist. She has outright declared her contempt for a large selection of the electorate by referring to them as “deplorables” and declared war on the so-called “alt-right”, which to her basically means a vast conspiracy of Trump supporters, Nigel Farage and his supporters and InfoWars and their supporters lead by Vladmir fucking Putin! And when the DNC leaks came out, she and her team blamed a Russian conspiracy rather than face up to the fact that they are unscrupulous and corrupt.

The mainstream (read: controlled) media seems to mostly be on the side of Clinton, or at the very least firmly against Trump (but let’s face it, I’m sure for many Americans at this point there is almost no difference). And guess who has ties to the US mainstream media? Recently, chat logs from Crash Override Network have been leaked. Crash Override Network is a group started by Zoe Quinn (yes, that Zoe Quinn) supposedly set to fight online harassment, but in truth are nothing but a bunch of schemers conspiring against the people involved in the consumer revolt known as GamerGate. And it was also revealed that the people in CON claimed to have friends in mainstream media outlets like CNN, PBS, and Wall Street Journal, as well as the Canadian CBC, awaiting reports from those outlets, which suggests that they might actually be in collusion in order to get their side of the story. These people have also been in support of a gaming media that has pushed for gaming culture to be aligned with progressivism and the propping of abstract art over actual gaming, and declared its own audience to be dead for opposing it, and they have been, and still are, prepared to lie in order to push a narrative. And let’s not forget Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn petitioning the United Nations (which is now almost a joke anyways) to push for greater control of the Internet in order to allow social media companies to, quite simply, ban people from telling them that they are liars and that they suck.¬†Facebook and Twitter have already had a reputation of suppressing conservative and sometimes libertarian thinkers for pushing against the status quo, and in Twitter’s case people like Milo Yiannpoulos get banned for something his fans apparently did while ISIS members and pedophiles get off scot-free. All Sarkeesian and Quinn want to do is, like the EU and Germany, expand the power of the state and big social media (as I call it) to censor people.

Not to mention, Barack Obama is basically giving away America’s control of the Internet, allowing foreign powers to control it instead. What this means is essentially that foreign countries, countries that have less respect for freedom of speech than America, can disable websites and censor speech without the protections of US law, which are part of the reason that the Internet has managed to stay free and open.

The Internet is the single biggest liberator of information known to Man. Think about it: before the age of the Internet, it was much easier for the media and whoever was in power to control the information you have access to, meaning it was far easier for people to have some control over what you think. With the rise of the Internet this changed dramatically. You still have media outlets presenting a controlled version of reality, and you still have people believing it, but it is way easier to access a vast diversity of ideas and worldviews today and by simply performing a search on Google or something you can find thousands or millions of results and a lot of them don’t dance to the same tune. Many ideas and ways of thinking that might never have been known to the common public 30 years ago can now be discovered easily on the Internet. People in the government, the media and in large corporations seem to be aware that those who control information can control what people think, and he (or she) who controls the Internet will control the world and the minds of its population. That’s why you have people who are trying to impose greater restrictions on speech and expression on the Internet under the guise of saintly intentions such as “protecting victims” from mostly imagined and/or poorly defined threats.

All of this leads me to wonder: what if InfoWars (and I must stress that I am no fan of InfoWars or Alex Jones) is right and there really is a war on for your mind? Perhaps it likely isn’t what the people at InfoWars think it is, and the Illuminati most likely isn’t going to be involved, but it’s hard for me not to suspect that there’s something much bigger going on. Or, for that matter, that something big might be coming. And you don’t even need to delve into conspiracy theory in order to suspect that this is the case. I think there very well could be a larger agenda of control at work, one playing out right before our eyes no less! We may, within our lifetimes, see Western society become so controlled that the freedoms we hold so dearly in the West will become unrecognizable. And I don’t believe that everyone will take that lightly.

That face you make when you’re breaking the conditioning… ūüėČ

The black sheep of art and entertainment

Throughout the history of the video games industry, there have been many instances where the industry has been unfairly vilified or looked upon with suspicion or disapproval, and where its consumers are also unfairly vilified or looked upon with suspicion or disapproval. The video game industry has been around for well over 40 years, but only relatively recently have video games become more widely accepted.

In the 1980’s, video games were seen as market that only appealed to children. This is just one reason why Nintendo in 1985 had to market their Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES) and its peripherals (like¬†R.O.B.) as toys rather than as games systems. The other reason was the notorious games market crash that happened in 1983, which caused games to be viewed as commercially non-viable and most stores were unwilling to carry games systems until the NES became as successful as it did. The perception that games were played only by children continued to be perpetuated until at least the mid-to-late 1990 when it was clear that the industry was catering to a more mature audience, or an audience that has grown out of the games produced by, say, Nintendo when they were younger.¬†Even before the 1980’s though, when games as a general medium tended to be associated with controversy over violence, there was an arcade game released by Exidy in 1976 called¬†Death Race, which became controversial because the object of the game is to run over “monsters” that flee the vehicle and scream when hit. Then in the 1990’s, games like Night Trap and Mortal Kombat¬†became the centre of hysteria over violent video game content. As the decade drew to a close people began to blame video games¬†for the Columbine Massacre because the media reported that the perpetrators of the massacre played Doom and created death match maps that supposedly resembled Columbine High School, and people have been¬†trying to¬†video games for violent crime ever since – of course, their attempts are in spite of the significant reduction in violent crime that coincided with the rise of people playing video games, along with the general lack of evidence that video games cause violent crime in the first place. Not to mention, the media never got bored of a chance to paint gamers as psychopaths, such as in the controversy that surrounded Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 over the airport level. There was plenty of whipped up hysteria over violence in video games and usually it came from social conservatives.

When video games weren’t accused of making you violent, they were accused of being bad for your health. Back in 2009, the British government released a poster which insinuated that video games were the main cause of obesity¬†and that children who play video games may die early by playing video games. This poster was released as part of the government’s Change4Life campaign which was, surprise surprise, their attempt to tackle obesity.¬†Not only that, but the poster referred to playing video games as basically¬†doing nothing. Apart from the premise just being inaccurate and misleading, what was really egregious¬†this campaign¬†was that this poster was released at a time when the video game industry was responsible for boosting the economy during a time of recession. And in general, this and similar accusations are generally based on the stereotype of gamers as fat nerds who don’t have a life.

And more recently, when games weren’t accused of causing violent crime or being bad for your health, they were accused of being misogynist, and their consumers were accused of being savage, racist, sexist and generally backwards. It’s significant that around this time we started to see the gaming press being infiltrated by feminist ideologues. This combined with the revelation in 2014 that Zoe Quinn, the creator of a text-based choose your own adventure book style game called Depression Quest, had sex with gaming journalists, apparently in order to get her game promoted, led to the online revolt known as Gamergate, and the controversy that ensued. Those who supported¬†Gamergate did so because they were tired¬†of what they saw as corruption, cronyism and a lack of journalistic ethics within the gaming press, along with its collusion with feminists¬†like Anita Sarkeesian who were basically out to convince the press that gamers were sexist and misogynistic in order to advance their own agenda. But the mainstream media – even the gaming press – dismissed Gamergate as a hate mob concerned primarily with harassing women, even though only a few Gamergate supporters were actually guilty of doing so. As a result, there were now¬†those who shunned gamers collectively and denouncing them as backwards individuals, thus effectively siding with the feminists and the mainstream media narrative.

A visual illustration showing exactly how things have changed for gamers.

There’s a certain aspect of this mistrust and ignorance that extends to game designers. Not¬†many people understand game design as a discipline,¬†people still tend to ask “what do you actually do?”. This is illustrated by Scott Rogers in his book Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design:

Let’s talk about¬†making¬†video games. To most people, making a video game is a mystery. The average party conversation goes like this:

“So you program video games? Is it hard to write all that code?”

No. I said I design video games.

“Oh, so you draw the characters? That must be fun.”

No, I don’t draw them. That’s what an artist does.

“I don’t get it. If you don’t code the games or draw the games what do you do?”

Apparently nothing.

At this point in the conversation, I tell the person that games are made by elves. (Sometimes it’s just easier to tell someone a fantasy than explain what I do for a living.)

Р Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design(page 28) by Scott Rogers

Also, when we were having our talk about what to expect of the third year, we were introduced to the third year space and the lecturers had to explain a few things about the space.¬†We were encouraged to put content on the walls such as concept artwork and research, but we were warned about putting up anything¬†that was too violent on the walls because of the possibility that such imagery would be noticed by passersby (some of whom are apparently women in their 50’s) and by the lecturers’ boss, which would mean that the lecturers have to fight for the right to keep that space for us third year game design students. You have no idea how lucky the third year students are to basically have their own¬†space where they¬†can just work on their projects, and apparently there are people who would do anything to take that from the game design course, and any thing that convinces them that games students don’t deserve that space is enough to make them feel that they can take it.

To be honest, regarding my university, I feel like there’s envy coming into play.¬†The game design course I study under is a course where you can potentially learn a wide pool of skills. You need to know not just how to make a nice 3D model, but how to do it efficiently, up to standard and in a way that you can get your computer-generated asset to actually work in the game engine. You need to know how to rig the characters you make for your games. You need to know how to animate them. You need to know how the game engine works so that you can import your assets into the game, or if you’re going to actually manage the content in engine in order to make it work as a cohesive whole. You need to be able to communicate effectively with the rest of a given team, and even how to operate as a team – which also means you’re going to have to balance working with others with your own individuality. You have to figure out how to tell a good story, design good characters, and design levels. You to learn how to organize and plan effectively, because good game design really needs good planning. You might even have to learn skills involving leadership and even entrepreneurship. You learn and grow as a designer and as a person.

This is a course that offers several skills, some of which can be transferable in that you might find a way to use them outside of game design, and our course is apparently home to some of the hardest working students in my university. So if you’re a game designer or game design student and someone asks you “what do you do?”, you may actually have to respond with “what don’t we do?”.¬†Some¬†art and design courses are, by contrast,¬†geared towards more specific areas of work, which may offer less skills.. The animation students, from what I understand, are just learning 3D animation, possibly geared towards the film industry. Then you have photography students who do, well, photography in an artistic context. Fine art students make visual art under a nebulous category that includes painting, sculpture, and everything else. Illustration and graphic design students, to be fair, actually might have a number of profitable jobs going for them, with graphic design students finding work¬†in advertising for major companies and illustration students designing covers and illustrations for books¬†(sometimes children’s books) and magazines. Then you have the glass art people who seem to me like they spend their days making stained glass windows and other stuff that exists mainly for show. I could go on. The way I understand it, other art and design students may have less options open to them because there are quite the few art courses where you’re basically just an art student without much transferable skills. And from what I hear from my course’s program director, there are students from other courses who complain that they don’t have what we game design students have.

In our course, we’re the black sheep of arts courses probably because what we are working on is not purely artistic and passive media, we are very much learning how to make entertainment. Video games are not a purely artistic medium, like a painting, a sculpture or generally anything passive. Video games are a medium of entertainment fundamentally defined by interactivity and whose primary goal is not artistic consumption but simple enjoyment by a player. There is certainly artistic and intellectual merit that can be found in video games, but it’s important realize that¬†fun and entertainment – and functionality I might add – ¬†come first when designing the game. In other words, we’re an art and design course that isn’t purely about making “art”, so we’re looked upon a little differently by people of other art and design courses. Again, at least that’s going from the program director. And I’ll tell you what, I am glad and also¬†pretty¬†lucky to be studying under the tutelage of lecturers at my university¬†who understand video games as they are and¬†clearly appreciate the medium accordingly. Going back to Gamergate, it seems that other academics did not understand this, and wanted video games to serve a role that it might not need to serve by turning it into a more “artistic” or even social medium. It should come as no surprise that these academics were rejected by actual gamers. But for this, they have been vilified by those same¬†academics and their allies in the mainstream media.

To me, it’s telling that games and game design students have had this reputation of being the black sheep in culture, even as video games are¬†already accepted in the mainstream and have been for years now. It’s also telling that video games give people what they might want in a very powerful way, and in turn provide happiness and entertainment to people in a powerful and direct way. It just feels like there are individuals and interests who are very much against such a thing.