Friday, April 22, 2011

The Glass Box

There's a school of thought surrounding media called Matrixism, which pretty much is exactly what it sounds like. Games and shows arent like real life, they're symbolic representations of it. Sometimes they can be close, but often they're not. What Matrixists claim is that media no longer symbolizes the real world, but only refers to other symbols. When you see a hot chick in an ad, its not trying to represent any kind of normal hot chick, but a kind of symbolic ideal of a hot chick.
That doesnt even remotely resemble a burning chicken!

But Matrixism is kinda silly. Of course it looks like a chicken on fire, or a chicken and a fire. Where do these symbols come from? When I draw a little stick figure, it's not a representation of a human, but a representation of a representation? Then what the hell is a human? Maybe I just suck at drawing! It gets silly, it doesnt really hold water.

Wait, why am I talking about Matrixism? What does this have to do with anything?

Today one of my favorite game writers, Shamus Young, wrote a blog post I pretty much agree with. He rants about how people were conducting a downvote attack on at Portal 2 because it had alternate costume DLC you could buy. If I may describe it in one joke, Shamus yelled at the manchildren for complaining about a broken cookie, while the rest of manchildren's video game meal was a big, brown, goulash shit.

I read a huge, verbose, and well constructed counterargument on the forums that yelled at Shamus for being wrong. The post talked about many aspects and facets of Portal 2, why the DLC was terrible, why the attack was justified, and on and on and on. The guy had a lot of rhetoric, but halfway through it I read one line, and his argument fell to pieces:

"I admit, I didnt play this game myself, but..."

And there, out the window it all goes. He had only heard about all of this through second hand sources, and was forming an argument based on those sources, not on any experience that he had. He talked with great authority on something he had absolutely never experienced. He didnt even say "I heard that it was like this." He recited each and every point like he knew exactly what he was talking about. One of the reasons Shamus was mad. There needs to be some kindve law against this. I decided I wanted to write back and laugh at him, saying that he was silly and I knew better.

Though I hadnt played the game either...

Thats when the curveball came for me.  I've been pretending I'm part of this community, but I've only been watching it from the outside. I havnt experienced game history, I havnt played half the games they've talked about. Sure, mostly because I didnt have the technical capacity to, but I still informed myself on their love and rage. I've been looking in the glass box that is the gaming community, picking sides and defending them based only on secondhand knowledge. Maybe I'll have played a game or two, but that doesnt make me any kind of expert.

How many people do this online? How much of gaming culture, or internet culture, is based around hearing about or reading things online? TV Tropes. Cracked. Escapist. Filled with people who dont know what they're talking about, all clinging to these few authorities they trust, and making thier opinions from that.

In short, Matrixism. A mob rule of Maxtrixism. That's what I'm saying the internet is like. Like those shadows in Plato's cave, and those with skills in rhetoric make shadow puppets.

And I'm one of them.




This post meandered all over the place didnt it?

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