July 15, 2014 § 1 Comment
“Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. They call themselves industries; and when their directors’ incomes are published, any doubt about the social utility of the ﬁnished products is removed.”
– Horkheimer and Adorno, The Culture Industry, 1947
Complaints about the relationship between the quality of art and the profit-motive are nothing new. In 1947 the sociologists Max Horkheimer and Theo Adorno published ‘the Culture Industry’, an essay which attacked the commercialisation of art as a destruction of its true value. As they saw it, the moment profit becomes the motivating factor behind art it ceases to have value for its own merits, and instead all its value boils down to exchange value.
When this happens artists cease to ask any other questions beyond “What are people prepared to pay for my work?” and what they produce seeks not to challenge people’s opinions (as art should do), but rather to pander to their beliefs. It’s the Michael Bay approach to art, you give the people what they want, nothing more and nothing less, and everyone leaves the cinema happy. In a similar vein The Daily Mail tells people exactly what they want to hear, no matter how ill-informed or disgusting that might be, and so long as they get their profit then they’re happy.
Writing for the New Statesman, Simon Parkin has applied this same neo-Marxist critique to indie video games (at least this is what his title suggests, though later on the examples he cites are categorically not ‘indie’ games in the slightest), deriding the indie gaming community’s ‘obsession’ with moneymaking. It’s a well-written piece, and I think Parkin has a point, but I just can’t see the evidence for it within the indie gaming scene.
July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last Friday Gamasutra’s Mike Rose posted an in-depth study into the ethics of paying for Youtube coverage after questions started to be raised that prominent ‘Youtubers’ are being paid to give favourable coverage to certain games. The theory goes that Youtube, and the ‘Youtubers’ who produce hours of footage of themselves playing and commenting on games are now as vital a marketing tool for video games as the more traditional print- and television-ads.
The dodgy thing about this, is that whilst it is (for example) obvious that the content between segments of a TV show is designed to sell rather than inform, the same cannot be said of Youtube content, when functionally a commentator enjoying a game appears the same no matter what the reason. At a certain point you have no idea whether their enjoyment is coming from the game itself, or the nice fat cheque that will be coming their way shortly.
At any rate it’s important to note that Gamasutra’s hypothesis appears to be true. 26% of Youtubers with over 5,000 subscribers reported that they had received money from publishers in exchange for recording videos. The fact that it happens is thus not up for debate. The real question is whether this is right or not.
Personally I’m inclined not to care.
July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
For whatever reason, the console warfare between Sony and Microsoft seems to have cooled off of late. There was a time around the launch of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 when the internet was filled with vitriolic bile from fans of both consoles, with both sides arguing for the superiority of their own console and the flaws of its nearest competitor. We had to endure pages of arguments on internet message boards, patronising Youtube videos and even executives who couldn’t hide their distaste for the competition.
Nowadays the immature smack-talk feels like it’s fallen out of fashion. Initially I thought it might just be the sites I’m spending my time on nowadays, but Keith Stuart at the Guardian has noticed a similar trend. He notes that upon the North American launch of the Playstation 4, the official Xbox twitter account sent out a message of congratulations, which was later responded to amicably by Shuhei Yoshida of Sony Worldwide Studios. Far from welcoming this age of civility however, Stuart laments the loss of the “conflict and chaos” of yesteryear and the “great art” that emerges from it, and I couldn’t disagree more.