Friday, 27 June 2014

Games and the Internet

The best part of the Internet, I think, is the opportunity to interact with people that violently disagree with oneself without actually being exposed to violence, at least most of the time. I get inspired to rebut stupid ideas that I read, and sometimes in attempting to rebut them I come to the conclusion that I was wrong about something. Other times, in attempting to argue a point, I've gotten insight into what I'm arguing about, and learned more about it because I've had to try to explain it clearly and that's let me see beyond the topic at hand. One doesn't simply learn from making mistakes, one also learns from the mistakes of others. It's certainly earned me a reputation as a disagreeable bastard, but I've come to treasure the hatred of certain people. It feels good to be hated by the right people.

Sometimes, it's useful to be hated by the right people because they are so creative. It's not just a matter of encouraging them to shit themselves in public, which I'm sure is often reciprocated, but rather of insight into conflict. Communication too. People don't seem to come into conflict because they can't communicate, or because there's a barrier to communication; it seems they come into conflict because of what I'll call 'competing interests.'

I'm calling these things 'competing interests' because it puts a bunch of disparate things into the same pot. Maybe they're unlike things, such intentions and intelligence, education or class, culture or clique, in-group or guru. Maybe they're like things, such as I don't know what, two people filled with self-loathing and boredom. They can even be the same person, holding both sides of the conversation with their sock-puppet. It's a surprisingly popular past-time among the cube-set, it seems. There's also the context. Certain interactions are naturally adversarial, created to be by the design of the forum. Others are encouraged by the peanut gallery. There's the usual desire to be part of the in-group, and coming down on the gammas is one way of kissing-up and kicking-down. Mentoring them is another.

Games are about conflict and co-operation. It's one definition at least. According to Oxford, games can be: "An activity that one engages in for amusement." That's an interesting thing about words, that they can mean the same thing and different things, and they can mean anything. But they tend to only mean one thing to people, and then mean something different to others. They signify different interests to different people, interests whose differences can be distorted by this medium. Even worse, they can be revealed, magnified, and repeated. Truth divides us as much as lies, given that so many feel so strongly about how the other significant percentage should be liquidated. It's hard to get along with people that honestly hate you for the right reasons. Which is to say: Their right reasons. That's one of the great revelations about post-modernity, that we all get a truth, until we trip over another one.

But it's not about truth, is it? It's about power, about prestige, resources, randomness, and decisions. Truth is virtually the last thing that's ever at issue. Nobody says: "Arguite me!" They say: "The fuck you lookin' at?" We play the game of our ancestors, except now everyone gets to reproduce (except perhaps the children of some polygamists), and we carry on not despite the advances in communication, education, and science, but because of them. Sales Dictionaries and "Getting to Yes" outsell any wishy-washy philosophy, now considered of the same pedigree as religious snake-oil. What is wisdom compared to making rent? As Whitehead said, power is not in knowing, but in not having to know. People don't need to know how the games they play are supposed to work, but then again if they're critiquing them, designing them, or selling them, maybe they should.

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