Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 16, 2015

The Ballad of the Uninteresting

After reading Starcunning’s ‘open letter‘ (as if it could be anything else if not placed on the Internet) to Mike Morhaime, I came to many realizations.

First off, that nature of entertainment is to be interesting. Another way to describe ‘interesting’ is to ‘not be boring’. TV shows and movies are about interesting events and people such as the potential blowing up of the world, murders, time travel, and all those good things. The people are always ‘tingle making’ because those people are more interesting than ugly boring people who sit in cubicles all day. Rambo is more interesting than office guy. Pretty thin girls are more interesting to the audience than ugly fat girls. If this wasn’t the case, then TV shows and movies would be full of ugly people who do boring things.

Diversity used to mean something very different than it once did. Star Trek is a good example of ‘diversity’ in entertainment. The crew of the Enterprise is ‘diverse’ meaning they are made up of different races (Spock as alien Vulcan) and even Human races (Sulu is Asian). Uhura is female. The idea of ‘diversity’ meant more of Chekhov since he was a Russian at the height of the Cold War. The idea of diversity used to mean including those folk from the south with their ‘southern accent’ (it was very predictable that Tucker became the ‘most interesting person’ on Enterprise because this was honestly the first time a southern dude was placed on a starship hahahaha. Kirk may say he is from Iowa, but he doesn’t talk like any farmer I’ve met. It amazes me the producers’ hostility to the character Tucker becoming so popular that they killed him off at the last episode). The point of it, like in business, is to make more money because having different types of cultures or people on the show means ‘more interesting things’ than just having everyone be samey. Every sitcom is ‘diverse’ in its personalities because having everyone with the same personality would be boring.

Diversity meant all nationalities. Now that gaming is global and in nearly any language, it is ridiculous to say it is not ‘diverse’. Starcraft would not have become a social phenomenon in South Korea if it was not ‘diverse’.

Likewise, it makes sense for the circus to not offend (all games are circuses). It is a bad idea for entertainment to go anti-religion because not only would audience members who are religious be pissed off, the purpose of entertainment is to entertain. It has often been a bad idea for entertainment to go political too because half of the people would disagree with those politics (Michael Jordan wouldn’t reveal his political leanings because, as he said, “Republicans buy shoes too”).

It made sense for Nintendo to remove the cross from Link’s shield (or crosses in general) and to remove the Muslim chants from Ocarina of Time. Nintendo just wants to make games that entertain all. The intention is to entertain.

The business runner, like Mike Morhaime, is likely believing that Identity Politics is good for business. Identity politics, for those who are not aware, is when a politician acts like a ‘type’ in order to get that group’s support. An example would be John Kerry making a public show about getting a hunting license. Another example would be W. Bush and  his ranch (which he immediately sold once leaving the presidency. Why sell it if you ‘like it’? It is because he never liked it in the first place.)

The idea of Identity Politics is simple. If Fat Women are placed in video games, then Fat Women will feel identity to such characters and become consumers. From a business person’s point of view, he or she knows that Fat Women are Most of All Women in Westernized nations (where the money is at). There is much logic going on from here by applying Identity Politics.

But does entertainment work through Identity Politics? I’d argue that not even politics works through Identity Politics. Still, though, Bill Clinton would dye his hair a different color depending on his audience.

I’d argue entertainment works in an anti-identity way since entertainment is an escape. People do not like the truth in escapism. It is why it is escapism.

Examples of anti-identity associations in entertainment:

Romance movies (chick flicks) have a guy ‘win’ the heart of a girl. If a guy acts like this in real life, the girl will be disgusted and be seen as weak. It is because the girls identify with the guy in the movie, not the girl. Shakespeare learned this half a millenum ago when he could dress male characters up as women or vice versa.

Male movies like Die Hard or Rambo have the men associating with the male hero. Rambo is the opposite of most men in reality. Most men are wimps who work in an office setting and are fat and ugly. Not Rambo. Not Macguyver. Not the Texas Ranger. These guys are confident and kick ass.

Most people are not rich and famous. Yet, people revolve around the celebrity gossip.

Rob Pardo’s response to the diversity question has been, what ever game maker’s answer has been, is that ‘we are just making a video game. Video games revolve around game mechanics and gameplay, not social narratives and the like.’ I’m sure Morhaime, who probably hangs out with the wealthy in California, may be coming under pressure from his social circle. But as a businessman, everything must go through the business filter. What I bet is going on is that he is thinking identity politics. In other words, if fat people are put in the game, then that means fat people will like buy they game and be more passionate about it. This is not what is going to happen though.

Despite every politician doing ‘identity politics’, they are all very boring. A politician is one of the most boring entities around. Where is this blockbuster entertainment that has such ‘diversity’? I do not see it. The reason why it doesn’t exist is not because of conspiracies but because entertainment revolves around interesting things, not boring things.

What I see for the future of Blizzard games is not an invasion of fat women and transexuals per se, but an absolute lock-down on gamer communities. If you have noticed, you cannot chat with your opponents in Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Lately, they even placed a ‘mute all’ for your allies. I wonder if a tyranny of ‘thought police’ will be coming to WoW. An example of the game doing something dumb, a person might exclaim, “Lame!” This is quite a common expression. But does it offend the ‘lame’? That word, ‘lame’, is also often replaced with ‘gay’. “How gay!” When players interact with each other, that phrase comes out in the heat of gaming. Societies tend to police themselves. If gamers hated it so much, then multiplayer gaming would not be as popular as it is. What I see for the future of gaming is a clap-down on open speech.

Online gaming can get ugly. However, most of society can get ugly too. You have to have a thick skin in order to get through getting called ‘lame, gay, dumb, noob’ or whatever when you mess up in the game. This is true in real life sports. It is true in the military. Just look up how Patton used to talk to his troops!

Having a thick skin is what an adult human being is. Only children get offended when you call them names. It is just a name after all. I always get a kick after being called ‘da loser’ online by some anonymous gamer. I also get a kick from my hate mail of this site. Words, words, words as Hamlet said. But, you see reader, not everyone has a thick skin. Not everyone is an emotional adult human being.

When you read the letter of Starcunning, you become struck that this is not an emotional adult. There are people whose lives are so void-like that they literally revolve around entertainment. These people tend to live for the tingles, for the feelies, and use entertainment like a type of drug. While not all role-players are such people, all such people are role-players. These emotionally immature gamers, who I call the ‘hardcore’, follow the god of sentimentality.

When people are asking for more ‘diversity’, they aren’t really political ideologues so much as they are under the iron rule of sentimentality. Sentimentality must trump all. But are there any limits to sentimentality?

It is not fair for some people to be able to beat the game and see content others can’t. Therefore, sentimentality.

I think the Generation 7 distaste against ‘casuals’ was really a distaste against sentimentality. “This game is too hard. Therefore, let us dumb it down for ‘everyone’.” Well, one game cannot be for all people. Some people like hard games. Some people like easy games. The marketplace provides for all.

But the marketplace does not provide for the boring. Individuals like starcunning sound like terribly boring people. He or she revealed that the guild kicked him/her out because of ‘incompatible personalities’. How can you have an incompatible personality in a video game? The video game is about killing raid bosses and doing quests.

“It is not fair that entertainment be about interesting people. I demand diversity! I demand boring people be put in too!” But would the entertainment function with boring elements put in? Entertainment does not hate ugly people. It just hates boring and common things.

I am reminded with the demise of Star Trek. When they put on shows just to have a woman as Captain or a black guy as Captain, it became ‘boring’ because they began breaking the rules of entertainment. Voyager, itself, was full of moral screeches for episodes and became terribly boring… so boring that I use Voyager episodes to cure my insomnia. Seven of Nine was interesting. The Doctor was interesting. The rest of the cast of characters, as ‘diverse’ as they were, are complete bores. It is so bad the writers even abandoned writing stories for them. They crossed the line into parody. See Chakotay (sp?) who kept blinking aimlessly at the viewscreen for seven years. “Oh moocha mala…. we are far from the bones of our ancestors…” and his various animal spirit guide crap. In The Next Generation, the characters were more interesting because they overcame. Geordi Laforge is a blind man, but his identity is not as a blind man but an engineer. Data is a robot, but his identity is more of trying to be human. The end goal of entertainment isn’t diversity. The end goal of entertainment is to be interesting. Diversity can be a path to being more interesting, but it can also be a path to being more boring.

One of the reasons why people cannot retire is because they learned ‘diversity’ instead of financial education. ‘Diversify! Diversify! Diversify!’ It does not make any financial sense. What is supposed to be meant is ‘not put all your eggs in one basket’. But the financial rules still apply and supersede all diversity.

The entertainment world is the same. Diversity is supposed to mean ‘don’t be boring’. The rules of entertainment still apply and supersede all diversity.

Morhaime used to have a poster of The Next Generation in his office. He should ask himself, “This was an entertainment phenomenon that spanned forty years. And then it was all gone. Even with the reboots, why is there such a hostility to The Next Generation?” Star Trek got boring. Star Trek also placed moral messages and diversity above entertainment. Now Star Trek is gone.

As he stands above his Blizzard empire wondering how it can expand further, he should realize that it, too, can also disappear very rapidly. Note the very hostile audience reaction to the content direction (i.e. story) to Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2. Just imagine putting in ‘diversity’ and it would be like a powder keg going off. I’d love to see it.

This is why I love being entertained by video game business. I’m either entertained by the video games, or I’m entertained by a company’s collapse (and they collapse all the time in the Gaming Industry. The bigger they are, the more spectacular the fall).


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