Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Libertarians, man...
The game [Andromeda] boasts an intricate conversation system, and a substantial portion of the playtime is spent talking to in-game characters, quizzing them for information...
At a certain point, it started to feel more than a little familiar. It wasn't just that it was a lot like work. It was that it was a lot like my own work as a journalist: interviewing subjects, attempting to figure out which one of the half-dozen questions they had just answered provided useful information, and then moving on to ask someone else about what I had just been told. 
Eventually I quit playing. I already have a job, and though I enjoy it quite a bit, I didn't feel as if I needed another one. 
But what about those who aren't employed? It's easy to imagine a game like Andromeda taking the place of work.
Unless your work is slaughtering pigs or paving roads. The essay is called "Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.)" It's by Reason's Peter Suderman, who clearly loves gaming and believes the hours he spends at it "have made my life richer and better, more interesting and more tolerable." Nonetheless, he says, "if I had to choose between gaming and work, I know I'd pick the latter."

There are of course millions of young men out there who don't and can't make that choice; Suderman talks to experts about them. Many of them, it turns out, spend their ample free time playing video games. That may seem bleak, even dystopian to you --  The Matrix meets Harlan Ellison.

But Suderman sees the upside: Games "bring order to gamers' lives." Studies are alleged to show that "far higher levels of overall happiness than low-skilled young men from the turn of the 21st century," when games were less prevalent and sophisticated, and jobless youths had to go out to have a good time. Which might almost sound convincing, until you run into this bit:
A whole generation of men obsessively playing video games during their prime decades of life may not be ideal, but most would agree that it is preferable to riots.
Maybe "happiness" is not in this context what we normally think it to be.

Suderman compares the workless gaming life to progressive social benefits -- "video games, you might say, offer a sort of universal basic income for the soul." He seems to like the idea -- it'll prevent riots, after all -- but he doesn't want the government to pay for it -- that "playing video games does not incur a direct burden on taxpayers" is one of its great libertarian benefits. Far better and more cost effective to feed everyone's soul instead, as the long-haired preachers serving Pie in the Sky knew.

By essay's end, when Suderman talks at length about how good gaming has been to him -- an educated, ambitious young man who was a safe bet not to wind up in his parent's basement -- it's clear that the whole detour through the land of the jobless console jockeys was just a feint at relevance, and the reason Young Men Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs is OK is because nobody at Reason, and maybe anywhere else, actually cares about them -- certainly not enough to tell us when or how the "(For Now)" part is supposed to end.

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