Revengeance Data Storage – #8 We’ll Make Our Own Justice…

For Raiden it’s all about ethics in games…

In a codec conversation, Kevin tells Raiden that a US senator is involved with the bad guys, because of course politicians are corrupt (except N’Mani, and that’s why he died). I was starting to worry, but I’m relieved that we can tick this box too.

But politicians aren’t the only ones who are corrupt. The information system is corrupt: this scandal won’t make the headlines because “no major media outlet will investigate allegations like these. It’d be financial and political suicide.” And the police is corrupt, because “law enforcement was privatized and farmed out to [the bad guys.]” The whole system is corrupt!

The reason why this rhetoric is appealing is that it’s not too far from the truth. Yes, most politicians don’t have the interests of the people at heart, and yes, most media outlets hide biases that go far beyond a subjective perspective and extend into the need to protect certain countries or advertisers or shareholders or allies. And, even though police forces have not been privatised (yet), outrage against law enforcement has always been fashionable among ‘teenage rebels’, whether justified or not. (And sometimes it is justified.)

But it is still rhetoric, because it’s based on harmful assumptions and sweeping generalizations, and it’s uttered with the intent of producing a certain extreme reaction in its audience. Instead of trying to understand how this could happen, why a system so large exists and why so many would participate in it (and do they participate in it willingly? Do they have no other choice? Do they try to make it better from the inside? Are these criminal systems somehow inherent to capitalism?) there’s just some tired finger-pointing in that general direction. That’s how the world works, there’s no need for further examination, details are irrelevant. Everyone is guilty. Everyone is corrupt. Everyone is hurting ‘me’. Everyone is holding ‘me’ back.

And the first thing holding ‘me’ back are laws that do not allow ‘me’ to fix things and restore justice. “Colorado is in America, and America has these things called laws.” Not only is this sentence’s wording unfortunate but it gives voice and visibility to the desire the whole power fantasy is based on. In short, the rhetoric appeals to our (healthy) reaction of moral disgust by evoking some generic scandals involving all the usual buzzwords (politicians, terrorism, media, police).

But instead of encouraging us to think about why this may happen, and what could and should be done to change it, what kind of economic, political, social structures support the existence of such systems and what a good alternative would look like, the rhetoric appeals to the lowest common denominator in the form of violent reaction. It’s ‘me’ against the world. At best, this is manipulative in the Brechtian sense: the power fantasy is cathartic, it lets us live our dreams, vent our energies and our anger in an inconsequential setting, while defusing and preventing action in the real world. (Since those energies and that motivation have been vented in the fiction, they’re not there anymore to act as a spring for action) At worst, it’s representative of an actual mindset and worldview, one we’re supposed to buy into.

And it is precisely GamerGate’s way of thinking. In her wonderful article “We Will Force Gaming To Be Free” (in my opinion, still the best examination of the GG phenomenon) Katherine Cross outlines GG’s worldview, and the structure is exactly the same. The enemy is an archetype, the official guiding principle is justice, and since there is no authority to be trusted, no one to appeal to, that end will have to justify the means. “This conviction all but ensures that the movement will continually violate its own stated principles in order to achieve them, layering terrible irony atop terrible irony.” The parallel runs straight to the core: in both cases the official principle of justice is inconsistent with the actual motivations that fuel practical actions, which in MGR’s case is the enjoyment of violent gameplay.

The only suicide here is me mentioning that stupid hashtag… Maybe I should go enable two-step authentication…

Consider Raiden’s statement before the Mistral boss fight: “I… protect the weak. And if I must kill to protect them then so be it.” Also recall Raiden’s refusal to think of his enemies, especially the lowest ranking soldiers, as humans, possibly desperate humans. Compare Katherine Cross: “the tendency to view our opponents as irredeemable enemies could easily take on a life of its own.” The similarities between many of Revengeance’s threads (including ones I have not quoted or discussed in this diary – like the codec conversation between Raiden and Boris about Rules of Engagement and collateral damage to property – 1 & 2) and the Cross article run very, very deep.

There must indeed be some kind of reaction to corruption in politics, media, law enforcement etc. Were GamerGate’s allegations true, then some sort of action, some sort of rebellion would be necessary in that case too. But that rhetoric is so appealing because it gives a quick and easy sense of restoring justice, stroking people’s egos, making them feel important like a one-man army, without actually solving anything, and while committing many more injustices in the process.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the videogame clichés Revengeance is borrowing are reflected in the real-life ideology of certain gamers. (Also see: “Third person effect”; Wikipedia)

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