RND/ To consider identifying what exactly feels so irksome about this allegedly pure, true (e)sports-man moment of videogame Skill, AKA ‘winning’ – specifically, the moment when virtual projectile meets idiot skull.
In which there still exists a strong cultural assumption about videogames secretly ‘being fun’ – where ideologically this means ‘playing to win’, and nothing else. No Win = No Fun. The Capitalist creed writ large in garish pixels – if you can’t stand the heat, junior, simply (in the immortal memetic mantra of the Alt Right gaming internet) ‘GitGud’. This game’s only for the big white fuckbois.
Check out how famous LOLtube Corporate-Videogame Streamer Dr. ‘5G Covid Ban’ Disrespect harks on about ‘chubby cheeked little gamers’, which ‘desperately’ try to peak into his private-made-public world of “Violence, Speed, Momentum” and (therefore) get thoroughly headshotted – utterly disrespected. “Get him outta here!” shouts Doc to his congregation after each fresh kill. (Apparently being headshotted by someone with Ultimate Videogaming Skillz is what Maximum Fun™ is all about – which is also pretty Cyberpunk, if you think about it.)
Napoleon: I don’t even have any good skills.
Pedro: What do you mean?
Napoleon: You know, like.. nunchaku skills, bow hunting skills.. computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!
For those in the global state of mind of the United States Of Void, ‘winning’ directly maps onto ‘freedom’. Aggressive self interest – in which videogame terms means ‘l33t skillz’ – directly ties into ‘liberty’. One is free, precisely because one has ‘won’ over others (who apparently did not deserve their freedom and squandered it away on being ‘n00bz’, or ‘scrubs’.) In battle royale games, only The Winners get to ride away with the winnings, the lion’s share, get to bone the rose bowl queen and have oversized statues erected in their name.
Apparently they’ve earned their All Amerikan Freedom by dominating others less worthy of a nice chopper ride into the artificial sunset (just like character Dutch in the classic un-rewound VHS b-movie flick Predator.) To be a winner is to be a fighter, the all powerful Alpha Male (myth) – to be perfectly skilled in the deadly art of ‘Pwnage’. Better call in that airstrike little Johnny, otherwise Pluto-Kleptocratic ‘Capitalist Democracy’ will die – cooperation is for filthy Marxist casuals trying to take our apolitically loaded games away!
Yet, even if you’re actually there in the arena of death to do nothing but compete, to state (as your fetish demands) “There can be only FUN” (that’s an oblique Highlander movie reference for nutless peach fuzz born after 1986) there’s something about the moment of Winning itself which seems absurd, even deliberately so.
Some pull off ‘flawless victory’ headshots after headshots, their aim all but perfect. Yet hidden in this painful consistency, this spartan attention to total flick-shot domination seems a kind of pathetic sadness. They say it’s lonely at the top – but that may be just because you might represent the the stale cherry on top of the whole mirthless eSports dung cake, Johnny san.
It’s not even really a matter of smugness. Sure, there appear many smug assholes in the world of sports – highly punchable faces, confident dunces with perfect corporate advertising friendly smiles, hollow skulls dying to be filled with the latest in demographic marketing opportunities. It’s more about [..]
Sheeet. You gave up trying to write this. As usual you didn’t really know what to say or how to say it. It’s been a crappy week. (“Hey, perhaps you shoulda stuck at it, pal – only loosers quit!”) You were also waiting for a chicken and leek pie to cook in the oven, and you couldn’t be bothered expending effort thinking about a bunch of tossers, wriggling with infinite contentment inside their skins, like worms. Skilled, sure whatever – but why is everyone forced to care? While you can easily understand why some streamers personally think it’s swell to be ‘No. 1’ and ‘on top of the mountain’, what the digital hell is this pathologically bizarre success-by-proxy BS that takes place inside the legions of smoke-up-ass blowing Stans?
The “I watch digital videogaming heroes, therefore I’m one too” mentality – how does that work? Why does it work at all? Simply by passively watching ultra-privileged rich whities busy enjoying their own hairstyles, does anyone miraculously transform into Another Rich And Famous Asshole? Watching these multi-millionaire streamers strut their digital stuff in their luxury houses, laughing and joking and headshotting at will as the donations pour in – it’s enough to make one politely grind one’s teeth to powder and shoot crack into eyeballs with a filthy used corpse needle. (Incidentally, that might make a cool name for an Ambient Death Metal band.)
Yet, at some point early on you (partially) realize you enjoy your resentment. It actually makes you watch even more of their loveable, hyper-skilled antics, not less. You need to hate them, because – well, there’s so little else to do right now (and actually helping fellow human beings rather than merely watching them on a screen seems like a lot of effort) and, er [..]
Time to get that pie out of the oven. (Five mins later.) Urgh. Sickening – greasy, too much black pepper. At least you make this short, mildly satirical video, starring one of the internet’s most beloved corporate stream gaming workhorses. What a nice guy, so humble-apparently. Regularly chats with his stream, a good interac-tor. As friendly as the sun and the day is long. Not only that, it’s said he’s even got a Big Dick (goodness, are there no end to these guy’s innate, digital-god given talents?) In other words, it’s all a ‘Toxic Meritocracy’.
Video: “Winning Munts” (NSFW)
Yeah, and WHAT A FLOCKING DRAG it must be to find oneself playing in the same videogame space as some inwardly smirking shitheel who – almost like an out of control machine on automatic, without soul – repeatedly and consistently ‘pwning’ every unlucky garbage ‘filthy casual’ n00b mother within range. To sit on the other side of the screen and imagine them Yucking It Up with themselves and their other rich virtual pals as they have a grand old time. And then there’s you, watching your body ragdoll to the floor for the Nth time. Rinse-repeat. (Better luck next spawn / round, right?)
Pleased with yourself, little man?
– Roy Batty, Blade Runner (1982, Dir. Ridley Scott)
Incidentally, the correct answer to that desperately obsequious “Haters gonna hate” line is “Impregnate yourself with a telephone pole” (or, “I am your new god.”) Wonder to what degree such a climate of ‘pure’ skill and ultra-specialized awesomeness breeds little but widespread secret animosity – like, “*sigh* Why the hell am I repeatedly putting myself through this shit?” Perhaps it’s time to go read a book that makes you think.
What an honor (press X to salute) it must be to act as temporary, utterly anonymous cannon fodder for the rich and famous of the undead gaming internet. To have had the holy chance to be oh-so casually shot in the face and t_bagged by one of the all time greats, before logging off. (Almost as if, compared to these grrrreats, you were always only ever an NPC.) “If only there was just some way to..”
See, that’s just what these people need and desire – your artificial Love and your synthetic Hate, your Up and Down votes; the worst crime you can commit against their Culture is to utterly ignore what they have to offer. To (shock-horror) ‘not engage with the platform’. To design non-competitive digital Play Spaces actively working against the very notion of Capitalist ‘competition’. (Game of Noby Noby Boy, anyone?) Yet it isn’t even really a competition, is it? Not when fragrant piss weasels have The Game all but sewn up from the very outset; pink skin, good schools, safe neighborhoods, supportive parents, a high refresh monitor, fast internet access, white even teeth, a luxury oversized mouse pad, official sponsorship, the adoration of millions of easily pleased and willfully uncritical schmucks (who such streamers and the megacorporate companies they represent don’t give two flying shits about), super fast twitch reflexes (ie. the blinding speed which which they can fully Capitalise on their status as Rich White Males).. no wonder their holes smile so damn much. They were ‘skilled’ in gaming The System Of Gaming then, as well as now. Nothing changed; you never really stood a chance.
Gaming is work – and the best at it are the bosses’ sons. Munts.
Received several emails, whining along the lines of “But Bob, It’s all about the taking part, isn’t it? About being a ‘good sport’? About loosing with style and good grace?” That might be remotely true – if there wasn’t something inherently hateful about ultra sweaty, self high-fiving tryhards. This (if anything) seems the central point of this conceptual R&D scenario.
Example Reference Links
- Wikipedia: Refusal Of Work
- Metafilter: Guess what? Unskillful gaming is authentic
- RPS: An End To “GIT GUD” – You Don’t Need To Be “Good” At Games To Enjoy Them
- Reddit: What is your Opinion on Competitive gaming? Do they make online games more or less fun?
- Taylor Hidalgo is mostly buying on credit at this point.
- Know Your Meme: Sweaty Gamer
- Virtual Photography Exhibit: Global Videogame Capitalism And Its Existential Threat
- First Person Scholar: Book Review: The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games
- Amanda Phillips: Shooting to Kill: Headshots, Twitch Reflexes, and the Mechropolitics of Video Games
// how to play big science