Game Over


They’re all playing games. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

The way a game is framed, victory is the only thing that matters. Accumulate your resources, destroy your opponents, be the last one standing, survive at any cost. Any sacrifice necessary is worthwhile, if you can win. That’s how the game is played.

When you take that viewpoint, and translate it into the real world, it’s a massacre. Pointless sacrifices made for worthless gains. That’s the world we’re in right now.

Everyone’s playing for a high score, ignoring the fact that the plays they’re making reduce the value of the points they scrape up. Raising money, the abstraction and quantification of a country’s productivity, at the cost of the productivity it’s meant to represent – it’s hard not to smell the doom coming, if you’re paying attention. Capitalism is a kid in a net cafe, thrilled at winning a round of Counterstrike, ignoring the clot that is forming in his thigh, blinding himself to the slow creaking of each victory bringing him closer to a grander and more final defeat..

It’s all about what we’re willing to sacrifice. Our government has proven itself willing to sacrifice our privacy and freedom of press – supposedly to uphold our safety, though, in point of fact, their policy of freewheeling military invention for nebulous causes in distant countries tends to be the genesis of most terrorist activity. Not that it matters, since the police appear to be more than willing to cut out the middle-man and brutalize us directly, so I’m not sure where the safety they’re supposed to be providing even lies any more.

What’s sad isn’t that it’s evil. What’s sad is that it’s stupid. What’s sad is that, if the people who are ruining everything right now sat down and actually thought this shit through instead of playing the game, instead of constantly plotting each move and counter-move, instead of finding the optimal strategy, instead of finding a path to victory, if they thought for just a few minutes about what is actually in their best long-term interests, most of it would stop tomorrow.

I love games, but only when everyone knows that they’re playing. Right now, we’re all just NPCs in their elaborate game of Civilization, of Sim City, of Total War, and beholden to the whims of people trying to achieve victory, whether or not that victory happens to map to any real-world benefit. Some of them ignore this, some of them tell themselves it’s part of a greater good, a battle that must be won, and some of them just don’t care. Very few of them, though, I suspect, realize that they’re sacrificing their own future, along with everyone else’s, just for a slightly better chance of victory, just for a slightly higher score on the leaderboards.

There is no victory, but the players can’t leave. The grand game continues, day by day, and we are crushed under its rules.

  1. Glen Speering said:

    Do you think the rise in game theory studies and applications has resulted in these politics the world over? Or has this been something that has been going on for much longer?

    • I think much longer. If you think about it, feudalism was all about these sorts of power games, but slightly more justified at the time because it really was a matter of either playing that game or refusing and being massacred by the next kingdom over who was playing the game. All of these impulses have good reasons for existing, because survival really is a game that you either win or you lose, but are instincts which have now long outlived their purpose.

      Nowadays, those who are in power are in a strong enough position that they’re in little genuine danger, and have the economic muscle to choose not to play — however, just one person choosing that makes relatively little difference, since then they tend to just get pushed into irrelevance by people who still want to win.

      • Glen Speering said:

        Yes, I agree.

        And that is the problem. Leaders now play a game that rewards exactly the kinds of behaviours people do not want in their leaders, but have no choice but to accept them.

  2. fulcronz said:

    In capitalism, money has become security parameter for living a life aside of natural basic needs. And this is very bad in many ways. : (

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