Apart from being your best source of objective, balanced and “friendly” movies reviews, Ruthless is also your source of great practical advice. Here are some more.
A while ago I was dating this chick. Yes, it’s a story, just hang in there and you might learn something. She was way out of my league and I can’t remember how I fooled her into giving my dumb-ass a chance. Anyway, after a few months, the time came for me to meet the family. So, as any dipshit in my situation would have done, I found the best shirt I had, put a sweater over it, got my church hairdo and the plastic bottle with my panic attack pills (which was empty at the time) and went to meet the family.
Now, to make matters worse she is the daughter of some flat-jawed, stiff-lipped retired general. I was seated in the farthest place from the door (as you normally are in these situations) and the dinner was underway. About 10 minutes into it, her brother came in. He was this shaggy, Lennon looking mess and he was wearing a tattered “Dragon Age: Origins” T-shirt. For you older readers I’m not referring to some heavy metal album. This is a very generic Tolkien style fantasy video game and, because it has tits, fucking and gore, it’s also considered to be for mature audiences. In the tense atmosphere, the sight of something that once gave me some pleasure made my face light up. The little bastard smelled this on my breath so he casually asked me if I had played the game.
Now, this was the last circumstance in which I wanted to admit to playing video games. After all, I was a 30 year-old man with a job and everything. I couldn’t lie because my girl knew I spent lots of hours ignoring her and cutting down “darkspawn”. So, against my better judgment, I admitted to playing. The flood gates were open. The little fucker started whaling on me with all these inappropriate questions: “What class did you use?”, “What level did you reach?”, “In what order did you finish the quests?”. I timidly answered all the questions with the fewest possible words I could. This made me feel like those chickenshit suspects you see on bad cop shows that spill the beans when Clint Eastwood slams his fist on the table.
The general and his wife were observing this, both appalled and satisfied at the same time. The bastard started getting into detail asking me about game mechanics, the gore, the fucking and just about every embarrassing thing he could remember about the game. It was about 5 to minutes into the conversation that I realized the creep was just enjoying a talk with a fellow gamer, but all I really wanted to do was to punch his face in screaming: “What the fuck are you doing man?! You’re in your 20’s, you’ve probably been in my situation. Where’s the nerd brotherhood? You were supposed to have my back in this!” I couldn’t say this to him, but I kept repeating it in my head, hoping I would suddenly develop telepathic powers.
No such luck. The conversation dragged on. The general started to awkwardly sip from his wine. I was having other thoughts. I wanted to pull a gun on all of them and just slowly exit the room. But I was sure the general would shoot first, Han Solo style, and kill me from under the table, before I even stood up properly. Then I thought what if I just excused myself, went to the bathroom, clogged the crapper with toilet paper and just drowned my dumb-ass in there. I could see my spirit leaving my body. I could see the forensics guy taking pictures of my fat ass with the news lady behind, putting on her make-up. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, FUCK VIDEO GAMES!!! Here are some reasons for you fellow losers out there to start reconsidering your lives.
1 Your addiction is real. I have spent the last 20 or so years observing the human race from the mothership in Earth’s high orbit and I can tell you something that a normal person with any shred of intellect could have observed on his own. The video game industry did not grow from a couple of nerds working out from their parent’s garage into the Juggernaut we have today just because of the PC revolution of the early 90’s. In fact, it’s safe to assume that it was the other way around.
I invite people today to remember the first Windows. It was about as useful to a normal person as purple strap-on is to a Baptist couple. Also the Internet was in it’s embryonic stage and pornography was available on cable TV. The personal computer was nothing more than an upper-middle class badge. It was considered a fancy appliance that you need to own in order to emasculate your neighbor in vain hope of seducing his wife. However, just like a gigantic lawnmower or a huge CD Player, the PC had one use, it could play video games.
I admit the quality on the first PC games was appalling however, once the entropy began there was no stopping. Soon, computers got faster CPUs, more RAM, bigger HDD, dedicated graphic and sound cards, dedicated software libraries for games etc. You might have thought that all of this was a coincidence however, when Microsoft launched it’s dedicated gaming platform everything was made clear. So it was video game addiction that sold the personal computer to the masses and along with it brought the Internet and lots solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. It might seem shameful at first but, as this planet continued to spin around the sun in an awesome display of mathematical precision, lots of empires would rise and fall under the influence of tobacco addiction, caffeine addiction, opium addiction and so on and so forth.
So how do you know if you’re a video game addict? Well, when we think about addicts most of us go straight for that John Frusciante in mid 90’s look, but in doing so you might miss the point. The Internet is full of websites you can check out if your hobby is to hunt for sensationalist scaremongers or anti-technology church freaks. So let’s put it this way. If you play more than 1 hour a day (whether it’s your PC, smartphone, console or your tablet while taking a shit) you’re pretty much hooked. You can sell that “I’m a casual gamer” bullshit but I ain’t buying it and neither should you. Anything more than that is just shades of decay. Wasting 2-3 hours a day means you’re ignoring your responsibilities as a productive member of society. Spending a whole week-end in your shorts with just 4 hours of sleep, a single meal and with a phone that’s bursting with texts and calls from concerned people is about the same as Leonardo DiCaprio in “Wolf of Wall-Street”. If you’re spending all of you free time in some basement dungeon with carpal tunnel and respiratory problems than your should get into a program or something.
2: The thousand yards stare “Everybody who’s been in the shit long enough has it” – Animal Mother, Full metal jacket. Studies show that video games drastically affect your sex life. I know, it was a cheap shot but it was worth it. Now, we’ve established that some sort of video-game addiction exists in everybody who ever played a game for more than a few hours. The obvious question that arises is if this is dangerous. Most people will counter this by the “who gives a fuck argument”. It’s just something you do for fun. Like golf, playing fetch with your dog or being an asshole on internet forums. Some people will call me fascist dickhead and say that it’s their right to light a cigarette whenever they feel like it. Good for you, smoking makes you look cool, gets you laid, is a huge help when climbing the corporate ladder and it takes just a few minutes, time which you could still use for something meaningful like fixing your kid lunch or reading some documents while your secretary gives you head. It’s also a great way to piss off vegan hipsters. But the reason why smoking is better than video games is that smoking is easily integrated into a normal person’s life. By contrast, when you’re playing a game, you’re just incrementing numbers and a machine plays video and sound to let you know that that something is happening when, in fact, nothing is happening. This amazing achievement takes hours of your precious fleeting moments and gives you the reward of exactly fuck-all. I admit, smoking is repulsive and will fuck up your health but video games will fuck up your mental health until you become even more repulsive.
Keep in mind that the human brain stores and processes information through association. When you play a game for hours on end, the constant exposure to the same images, sounds and mental challenges that the computer program is constantly looping in you dumb face warps your mental network. The elements that make up a video game get tied into your neurons like chewing gum in somebody’s hair. This will seriously hinder your ability to be a normal member of society, because your thought process will be contaminated by imaginary memories and experiences. And frankly, I’m tired of creepy bastards staring at me in the subway with their cold, empty eyes picturing me like I’m some level 25 Ogre.
I can also tell you from experience that video-games turn people into entitled, spoiled pricks. The companies that are making them tend to view the player as a central figure of the whole experience. So the player-protagonist is always the most important thing in that imaginary world both from the story angle and from the gameplay approach. This is very logical and normal and ends up being hilarious when a game has 1.000 players in the same session and is trying to make them all feel like the chosen one. Failing logic aside, most people will swallow the pill and this ends up spilling into the real world. Some actually begin to fall prey to the bullshit that games are constantly telling them and start to find virtue in every aspect of their pedestrian, meaningless lives. Video games thrive where insecurity meets procrastination so if you have a power-fantasy then Steam or GOG will find you an instrument of self-indulgence.
Video games systematically dissolve personal interaction. Humans have always hated each other’s guts. I’m not paranoid enough to say that video games are doing this on purpose, however, the fact that you are interacting with a computer program or you’re interacting with other people using a digital interface, tends to accelerate this isolationist tendency. Despite the images that Microsoft, Apple and Google contaminate us with, technology tends to wipe all humanity from social interactions. Why do you think is far easier to write a text message or an email rather than actually talking with somebody in person? Behind the digital wall of social networks or multiplayer games is far easier for the ego to manifest its fear, weakness and unresolved issues into all out aggression. Technology can instantly connect people and information but it can also help shelter damaged minds and help them grow beyond the constraints of normal social behavior. For every coupe of normal, adjusted people using a program to interact there’s the obligatory fuck-head who’ll ruin your day with his phallic insecurities. This is the reason I viscerally hate social networks and MMO’s, because they degrade entire communities into droves of profiles behind which scared people are trying to reconnect on an emotional level. This whole notion is brilliantly presented in Spike Jones’s Her. So you might think that this is just like playing ping-pong with a friend who was born without any personality; in fact you’re playing ping-pong with the wall. And the wall keeps score of how pathetic you really are.
What I’m trying to say is that, even if they don’t pose an immediate threat, (like heroin addiction or redheaded women) video games tend to erode the very thing that makes you a squishy, organic life-form blessed with consciousness. When this becomes widespread you end up with masses of digitally-empowered zombies.
3: Video games are meant to be addictive. Some of my pale, chubby friends correct me by saying “video games are meant to be fun”. Let’s just crack open and see. If a game is just supposed to be fun why couldn’t game developers just boil down the experience to the very essential fun part and instead they pad out with tons of useless content? These days if a game is just 12 hours long than it’s considered to be a flop. We’re talking about 12 hours. It’s half a day. And, as a carbon-based limited life-form, you need to do other things with your very limited time on this planet. This was not always the case. I can clearly remember the days when video games were insanely fun and you got rather bored with them after 45 minutes. Hell, if Warcraft (the game from 94) had a better user interface, you could finish it in a few hours. However, as the industry evolved and people became more and more cynical and started to realize that video games are shit the developers upped the dose to counter our increasing resistance.
I recently saw an interesting interview with Sid Meier*. Apart from the usual veiled bullshit about his God-given role to bring joy to the masses, the guy made some interesting statements. He openly admitted that the games he made are fully gameplay oriented. He argued that a game is just supposed to be functional and that the art will take you out of it. In my opinion he completely dismisses video games as an artistic medium because well, they’re not. This is that part when the gaming nerds usually foam into mouth so I’ll just have a sip of my tea and let the rage boil over. Ah, sencha fukujyu, great stuff. None of that black crap the brits drink for me, mate. By the way, did you know that, during the Normandy landings, when the Americans were being cut down on Omaha beach, the British that landed on Sword beach (with limited opposition and tank support) were busy looking to make some tea instead of fighting? As it turn out they captured Caen (which was a D-day objective) a month later than it was scheduled. But let’s get back to talking about weak-willed, lazy fuckers… Oh!
Sid Meier is a leading game designer, in fact he’s the one that wrote the book on the subject. His games are well known for their addictive qualities, most people spent literally hundreds of hours playing the damn things and some even go back and restart the older ones. The industry is not blind to this. Major video game developers today are gameplay oriented because they want to get freckled bastards hooked. This is achieved to the detriment of the artistic part because art and gameplay simply cannot work together. Alfred Hitchcock once said that “Drama is just life with the dull bits cut out”. In contrast, a video game is drama with dull bits added in. Sure, Starcraft is probably the best Star Wars rip off to date but the story only happens between stretches of 20 to 45 minute-long levels and is so fucking alien to the game itself that they shouldn’t even bothered with putting it in. I’m not a hypocrite, some video games have amazing art. A game might have a great story but if you shove it down somebody’s throat with 100 hours worth of content it gets diluted. It’s like trying to eat a cheeseburger with 2 tones of bread. A game might have great music, however, it is served to you in a modular fashion to be in tune with the other aspects of the game. So you never get to enjoy it. A game might have great graphics… Neah, fuck that! Videogames still look like shit and that’s the way it should be. Graphical fuck-ups (or bugs as they are called) are a welcome, unintentional ejector seat from the realm of the imaginary. An artistic video game is, at best, just an unedited movie that you decide which chapters play and in which sequence. But it’s usually like your grandma reading you a chapter of a story every time you grind her some coffee. Still don’t believe me? How many of you used cheat codes or walkthroughs to skip the “game” part of a game and enjoy the story and cinematics? You don’t need a good story to make a good game, Nintendo and Sega have been proving that for decades. A game should stick to being fun and leave the art to mediums that encourage you to appreciate it.
After all, it all boils down to making money. Corporations have always used people’s weakness to get them to buy stuff. “You want women to adore you? Use this deodorant!” Video game publishers and developers are no different. The only real problem is that while a deodorant has some objective usefulness, a game is almost completely useless (apart from keeping your mind ocupied for long straches of time). The only viable business model when selling useless things is to make the consumer need it (not want it). Do you think the tobacco industry would have reached a half a trillion in revenues if people could quit smoking whenever they wanted? If a game is addictive it allows game publishers to squeeze the gamers for every penny with all sorts of shady practices like downloadable content or pre-orders. Also, the pale fuckers will salute any company that makes them waste 100 hours of their life hunting dragons, fucking elves or doing whatever power-fantasy they fancy. It’s a match made in heaven.
4: There is no cure. I’m going to read the inevitable reader reply for this article: “Why would I want to? Why would I learn to play tennis when I can put in a DVD, grab my controller and swing around like a moron? Why would I want to learn to play the guitar? It takes a lot of practice before I can even play the most basic songs. I can just put in a DVD, grab the plastic guitar with the colorful buttons and bang away like a sorry sob. Why should I abandon my strategy games? I’m a soft, power-hungry demagogue and anything that humanizes humanity is like cocaine to me. Why should I give up my business simulator? I’m a broke, shy bastard who can only dream about a position of power or building an empire from nothing. Why should I give up my shooters? I used to be bullied and, of course, I didn’t learn that hurting people is bad; I learned that I wanted to be a bully myself. Why should I give up my dragon-slaying RPGs? The crap stories they tell are the most my pathetic brain can comprehend. I mean, I tried to read Hemingway because I wanted to fuck that smart chick but that book about the Spanish civil war was boring. I could only read the first 20 pages. Also the trolls in RPGs remind me of my current girlfriend. Why should I give up my arcade crap? Popping balloons or candy bars is the best thing about my shitty job. Should I funnel all my energy into finding something I enjoy doing? That sounds hard and painful. I’m sure the Universe has a plan for me. After all I am “the Dragonborn” and my grandma gave me 20 bucks when I turned 8 years old.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I do leave my comfy couch or chair? What will I find outside? The sky is turning gray from all the pollution. Natural, pristine landscapes disappear under the steel, glass, asphalt and cement of progress. People are becoming more isolated and cold. The elites are increasing the gap between them and the rest of us to a point of no return. All over the planet, people are stripped of their fundamental rights. The world outside my laptop full of profiles is slowly turning into a technocratic nightmare. Does this have anything to do with the fact that people are ignoring huge social issues that are destroying everything our forefathers have built? Ooooo, this is like a vicious circle or something.”
And my answer will be:
Yes, my lovable chum! And keep in mind that the Universe doesn’t give a fuck about anything. Hell, you don’t NEED to stop, even more so because the real world is boring as fuck compared to elves with huge pixeled tits. It all depends on how you want to live your life. Keep in mind that 1 hour a day ads up to 15 days in a year and 2.7 years in a lifetime. Whatever happened to “der Wille zur macht”? You nerds used to be on existentialism like flies on shit… There is no cure for this because it’s all in your head. And always keep in mind that there are more glamorous ways of expressing self-loathing than video games.
5: There is no escape.
You’re goddamn right! If you don’t believe Locutus just open Imdb and check out the popular titles that Hollywood puked onto the big screen in recent years. They are nothing but glorified video game cut-scenes with video game stories as scripts. When I first saw Avatar I was looking for the gamepad. The gaming community is like the Borg collective. A huge, aggressive horde of zombies that all think in the mental framework that gameplay mechanics force them to. They live inside the cozy world they create for themselves and use self-motivation adapt to anything the outside world might do to shake the fragile balance of their minds. They’ll never stop and they don’t even know the damage they’re doing. How do I know that? I used to be a drone myself just like “Seven of Nine”. I wish I could remember anything about that experience but all the memories I have from that period are not related in any way to video games. I do, however, remember the day I saw my mom playing the color-matching, bubble-bursting video game. I was so happy and relieved. I used to wonder if that was the way Christian missionaries felt when they converted people from their flawed beliefs.
Don’t worry, I’m sure the world of video games can save you from the unforgiving real world. People can join the video game industry and contribute to the snowball effect. Those of you who are too fucking dumb to learn technical stuff can always become a video game critics, video game testers or professional players. This way you’ll never have to grow over the age of 16 and you can creep out your family on the holydays well into your 40’s. So what is there left to do? Should we ban them? Sure, we can also ban bowling, coffee and movies while we’re at it. Should we force developers to limit their content to 15 hours? I guess we could then impose a 5 minute per episode on network TV or a maximum of 5g of sugar for cupcake makers. Then we can all watch with pride as column after column of healthy, disciplined, devoted young people march down the boulevard with their hand raised. I know you people are still naïve enough to wish for a eudemonic existence but you can’t fake that with collections of 0 and 1, petty, meaningless victories and masturbation.
I don’t want to become Captain Planet again, not after that hellish morning with those kids in kindergarten. The only thing we can do is become self-aware. We can wake up one day and realize that video games are just a fun, relaxing pastime that we don’t really need. They shouldn’t be an industry to any greater extent than badminton is an industry. Also 100 hours of content is there just to turn us into fucking mindless zombies. To sum up, there is no special path to escape. Not for the gamers, not for the few others that are left. The only thing people can do about video game addiction is to grow the fuck up.
*Author note: Sid Meier seems like a decent, interesting person.