free realms

a review of Free Realms
a videogame developed by soe san diego
and published by sony online entertainment
for personal computers and the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by Toph Stuart

ZERO stars

Bottom line: Free Realms is “killing the minds of children.”

One of the enduring fallacies of modern society is the constant desire to treat children like children. This desire is a symptom of the larger goal, which is to keep children as children: to prevent maturity. Indeed, the project isn’t just to prevent children from growing up, but even to make grown-ups jealous of children, and to persuade them, through force or charm, to constantly yearn for childhood. The project is the infantilization of everyone. After all, a child’s wants are easy to anticipate, because they are plastic: they will be whatever you decide they will be. You can manufacture their desires to any specifications, and then handily arrive with precisely the product you’ve devised them to slobber for. Everyone with a brain knows that anything that you can sell to children you should sell to children, because children are from whence the money flows. It’s elementary to observe that even mass-market pap like Terminator: Salvation loses handily at the box office to “family friendly fare” like Night at the Museum 2. Monetarily, Nintendo’s greatest coup was not Super Mario Bros., but Pokemon. Et cetera.

 

At the same time, it’s no secret that the modern MMO business is built from the bottom up around player retention, rather than anything we would recognize as “mechanics” in a game-design sense. There are interviews with the masterminds behind Blizzard’s brain-deadly World of Warcraft that state in no uncertain terms that any design concepts are created in the service of eliminating “player decay,” “cycling” and the like. (I’m 30% sure I just made those words up, but the underlying ideas are easy enough to imagine.) If there is an Auction House in World of Warcraft, it’s because someone has determined not that it is fun, nor communicative of some theme, nor even merely efficient; it is because it has the effect of preventing players from not paying Blizzard $15 a month. If endgame raids get harder, it’s to prevent players from leaving. If endgame raids get easier, it’s to prevent players from leaving. And so forth. As it must be, I suppose; as purveyors of a service instead of an artifact, an aesthetic object, MMO creators are beholden to their customers to provide the service they desire at all times. The customer is always right, you see. In the contemporary vision of service, this is equivalent to obsequious genuflecting to every customer desire at all times. No substantial idea can be communicated in this fashion; only the bare satisfaction of the transaction itself remains. In exchange for my $15, I have bought the confidence that next month, my $15 will buy me the same amount of unlimited time of not having to think at all.

These pyramid schemes masquerading quite baldly as “videogames” can at least be tolerated, if not justified, by the omnipresent specter of consent. Maybe grown people are paying a monthly fee to rot their brains, but they’re adults, and that’s something they’re free to choose. Maybe they’re cancer researchers and chess grandmasters, and need some way to let their brain reset after a long day at the cancer/chess research office. Sleeping is out of the question, you see, as their brains are operating furiously on so many simultaneous frequencies that only a portion of them may be shut down at any one time. Instead, you need to fool the whole brain at once into a state of placid sloth. I don’t know the per capita ratio of cancer/chess research grandmasters to normal people in even the richest of the world’s countries, so while it’s probably something less than World of Warcraft’s twelve million subscribers, we have to at least leave open the possibility that someone is using Blizzard’s brain bulldozer to make the world a better place.

The children, though. They aren’t so lucky.

Free Realms, a stitched-together Frankenstein monster of a videogame electrified to life by Sony Online Entertainment – better known for suffocating the nascent inheritor of Ultima Online’s legacy, Star Wars Galaxies, in its cradle — is the newest, best and most efficiently cruel device marrying the “all-ages” predator psychology of the MMO with the infinitely market-exploitable capacity of children to be captivated by stupid brightly-colored stuff. It is also a tool of Satan, the Father of Lies. I say with a straight face and a true heart that Free Realms, the newest and most gilded cog in the infantilization machine, is killing the minds of children. It is the Final Solution of critical thinking, assembly-line murder of rational minds by the tens of thousands.

The essential parameters of Free Realms’ service (as opposed to its “mechanics”) are nothing new. The idea is to waive the subscription fee, in exchange for a slower, scragglier product, to lower the bar of entry and attract children and other “casuals” locked out of the facially more complex interlocking systems of World of Warcraft et al. Then, once you have hooked them with your wide variety of Pavlovian tortures, lock anything even remotely interesting behind a wall of micropayments. These are made in proprietary Station Cash, perhaps the most classlessly-named currency in history. It reeks of stale corporatism, like an airport lobby.

The devil (and Free Realms is the Devil) is in the details, of course. It’s not the basic free to play, pay for the good stuff scheme that sets Free Realms ahead of the pack (which includes not only child- and casual-targeted games, but also a seemingly endless number of usually Korean MMOs aimed at an even broader cross-section of the market that attempts to include “hardcore” gamers). It’s the fact that the little hooks it uses to drag you into the paying segment are so facially ridiculous, so scattered and incoherent, so tedious and irrational, and yet so perfectly devised to keep you clicking as your eyes gloss over and you stare at a place about three inches behind your computer screen.

Free Realms’ basic conceit is that every person is every class, whenever he wants to be. Click on a menu and your gormy, High School Musical-derived teen stuffface (or pixie, inexplicably the only other playable “race”; n.b. the pixie is exactly the same as the teen stuffface except smaller and with wings) will spin like a top and, voila, you are a Ninja or a Chef or a Kart Driver. The granularity of these Jobs is stupefying; your Destruction Derby Driver, for instance, is separate from your Kart Driver. Each one of the fifteen or so Jobs has its own gear, the typical MMO slots plus two accessory slots plus four “Shard” slots. Each class is leveled separately by its own separate experience; there is no cross-pollination at any time. Gear is achingly, depressingly acquired a piece at a time for each separate slot for each separate class, and only a bit of it comes directly from leveling. An early levelup that takes perhaps an hour to acquire, for but one of these classes, might reward you with a dark red Amateur Brawler Shirt to replace your dark grey Student Brawler Shirt. Here is the corporate ladder; now climb.

Each one of these Jobs utilizes a separate, utterly mindless Flash-esque minigame to perform its main and only function. The only difference is the combat, in which a few of the Jobs can partake, and the asinine Kart games, both of which is laden with powerups that make each attempt pathetically simple, assuming you can crank around your kart correctly in the stuttering browser engine. The combat is a hilariously button-mashy affair. Instead of the overcomplicated but slightly interesting interleaved resource-management systems that make up a WoW clone, each fighting Job has a maximum of four ability slots that you pound more or less without regard for much of anything. If your numbers are high enough, you win. More often than not, your numbers are high enough.

 

HILARIOUS ALT TEXT

The game is terrifically ugly, a kind of elongated Akira Toriyama-cum-Hanna Barbera affair, full of bright colors for the sake of bright colors, a conscienceless inversion of something like Resistance’s relentless brown. The game is broken up into “areas,” each of which has a “theme” derived from some mélange of low fantasy and children’s literature: scary swamp, spooky woods, cheerful winterland, happy forest.

The first of these areas will serve as a perfect example of how this game actively stunts the development of human intelligence. It is called Snowhill, and it is exactly what it sounds like. On the periphery of Snowhill are little glowy piles of leaves, and little glowy patches of flowers. Each pile of leaves, and patch of flowers, is identical; there is nothing to distinguish one pile or patch from the next. They are scattered about in nominally “hidden” places, micrometers from established and heavily-traveled paths. They respawn regularly, enabling a sufficiently dedicated dimwit to jog around, picking up each one slavishly as it appears. Within these piles are random bits of stuff, represented only by a few words and an icon three menus deep, that count towards “collections.” Completing a collection wins you a not-insignificant piece of gear for one of your Jobs.

Here are the collections I could complete in Snowhill alone:

From the flowers:
Snowhill Daffodils
Snowhill Daisies
Snowhill Roses
Snowhill Tulips

From the leaves:
Snowhill Leaves
Pine Cones
Checkered Ants
Spotted Ants
Checkered Spiders
Spotted Spiders

I stuff you negative, Checkered Spiders and Spotted Spiders. Each of these collections has eight members, and here’s the kicker, you can reget collectibles you already have. This is menial labor par excellence, the videogame equivalent of drawing minimum wage from the State for masturbating with steel wool three times a day.

Alongside these pathetic attempts at “parallel player advancement structures” is the absolute needlessness of your fellow “adventurers”. Because you can literally be any Job at any time, and there is never any need for more than one Job at once, there is no reason to communicate with anyone, ever. Free Realms has an oppressive name filter, presumably to shield junior from the Sir Buttseckses of the world, but it’s rendered unnecessary by the fact that the entire gamespace is socially antiseptic. I’ve never felt so alone in a game allegedly populated by hundreds or thousands of other real live human beings.

Of course, where there is no communication, there is anonymity, and where there is anonymity, there is disinterest. Compound this with a child’s natural tendency toward egocentrism and you’ve basically got a game full of douchebags. Of course, the fact that almost everything is instanced means that the opportunities for griefing are minor (while also reinforcing how utterly alone you are), but mute, passionless races for glowy piles of Snowhill leaves and their analogues are common. The winners are not even happy, not even gloating. The losers are not even dejected. It is one more random happening in the machine. There will be other leaves.

What could existence in such a machine mean to a child? Let’s examine the lessons this curriculum teaches. Because there is no value in others, alienation becomes total. Because you are alienated, you have no links with any value structure that might provide some pernicious, alien values other than the ones prescribed. Because you lack any such values (in videogame terms, you might call them player-directed goals), they are there to be dictated for you by the overwhelming and beneficent hand of Sony Online Entertainment. Access to these values requires, of course, your parent’s credit card. Because each of the Jobs is individually purposeless, “fun” and “work” melt into one flat, grey organism. Don’t look for love in your work, and don’t look for escape: any conceivable alternative is only another facet of drudgery. With nothing to create, there is nothing to imagine; with nothing to conquer, there is nothing to achieve. There are only things to do.

Free Realms is, in other words, training for insanity. Not for psychopathy — not for a disorder of manic or depressive highs or lows, not for a shattered but kaleidoscopic lens through which to see the world, no — but for the bland sociopathy that lives in the dull, sullen eyes of fully entertained and completely bored children everywhere. Games may or may not find their Citizen Kane, but I’ve found their Teletubbies. Ignore the nonsensical burbling in your ear and the abstractly-hued clumps of clay on your screen and you might make it out with a personality intact.

–Toph Stuart

Comments

31 Responses to free realms

  1. I’m glad other sane people exist. This review makes me love the world more.

    Somewhat hilarious aside. Scientific American’s ‘100 years ago’ section this month has a quote about the horrible brain-wasting habit of chess proliferating through american culture–distracting people from more fruitful pursuits.

    Is the future more terrifying in retrospect or when you imagine it? I can never decide.

  2. How can the future be more terrifying in retrospect? By then, it’s the past! I see what you’re saying, though; I couldn’t resist.

  3. Games have already found their Citizen Kane.
    It’s called Super Mario Bros. for the NES.

    I can’t understand why the gaming community still obsesses over this obvious debacle.

  4. “Here! Watch this! Shut up!
    You are free to do as we tell you!
    You are free to do as we tell you!”

    I always thought that ‘Massively Singleplayer Online’ would happen, and I’m sure it has before, but here it is in pure, unadultered, tasty complacency juice (from concentrate)!

    Aside to an aside: I wanted to do chess puzzles so I visit chess-dot-com almost daily at work, and there is always a host of ridiculous decades (or more) old game analyses on their front page. Dozens of comments every time. ‘More fruitful pursuits’ be damned.

    The irony being I’m posting from work.

  5. This is simply taking World of Warcraft and its ilk to their ultimate conclusion. Free Realms is at least honest about it: you don’t matter, you can never matter, and nothing you do means anything. Come, join the crowd in meaninglessly wasting your life away.

    Good God, it’s like existentialist dread in a video game. This review expresses everything that disturbs me about MMOs.

  6. wouldn’t super mario bros for nes be like, “The Birth of a Nation” of videogames?

  7. but yeah, either way, it’s a stupid thing to be obsessing over.

  8. We ARE NOT having a “Kane of games” discussion in my comments thread. I knew when I wrote it I should have been more snidely dismissive.

    When the Galaxies emulator comes online sometime in December, I plan to write what is nominally a “review” that is actually a history of MMO development, including its behemoth autocrat, World of Warcraft. In the meantime, though, I’ll say that while WoW stands for all the faulty game design principles infesting MMOs these days, it’s got at least something going for it. Free Realms is… different. Free Realms is Actually Evil. In large part because it is marketed at children, yes. But not merely because it is marketed at children.

  9. Bah. I have to come up with an excuse to talk about how the RPG has become the non-gaming design replacement before then, then.

    Desktop tower defense ‘review’ inc.

  10. Bravo. I can’t stand games that murder personality.

    Though looking at it as an existentialist game makes Free Realms pretty interesting. Just not something needed.

  11. oh jesus. What have you done to me. It’s all lights and particles moving on flashing lines in space while demons talk about stars.

    This isn’t going to help me get to heaven.

  12. This review gets four stars.

    I’ve tried to play games like WoW before, but ten minutes in, I always stop and think “Oh, wait, I already have a job”.

    I play a stuffload of online shooters, but you can play one or two matches in Team Fortress 2 and put the controller down without feeling entirely unaccomplished. Nobody with fully functioning bowels ever bought adult diapers to play Team Fortress 2.

  13. I entirely agree with the first paragraph of this review (as well as nearly rest of it). There aren’t many things more advanced than basic math and bright colors that a child can’t understand, or even enjoy. In targeting children with this pap, SOE is perpetuating the notion of stagnant adolescent intellects. I’m certain there are more than a handful of children with minds strong enough to see Free Realms for what it is and take no interest in it, but that’s not enough to affect sales.

    If only companies like SOE would make products of the same format to encourage intellectual growth, rather than take advantage of an underdeveloped mind. The former option stands to turn just as much, if not more, profit and actually provides an enriching service to young minds. All it would take is a little creativity and a smidgen of time, on their part. I would go as far to say that, perhaps, SOE is unaware of what they are doing and what they COULD do, but that would be naive of me. For whatever reason, they are consciously marketing a product with no intellectual worth, merely because it’s marginally easier, foregoing the guilt of the (even if slight) social impacts this potently has the potential of generating. Sick.

  14. so, citizen kane, huh?

    i kid, i kid, Cuba! gonna read this review now! pretty excited ’bout it!!

  15. okay, two sentences in and already i can’t go on. Cuba, i am afraid that you will be spittin’ to much truth in this piece.

    that is very bad.

    especially for a lawyer to be

    especially especially for a lawyer to be with a huge debt

    i’m gonna have to go for a walk before i’ll continue with this.

  16. You’re complaining about the lengnth of an ABDN review?

    I thought it’s one of the first things you have to get over before you register an account on this site.

  17. Well, that, and how people who write on this site berate you if you dare to disagree with them.

  18. FACT1) I’m complaining about too much TRUTH. Length? It’s no Dostoyevsky.

    FACT2) Me and the author of this piece are like this. [i’m crossing my middle finger over my index finger to symbolize closeness]

    FACT3) People who write on this site love me to pieces.

    okay i’m gonna read this hecking review now

  19. liveblogging my reactions to your article, Cuba! Not going to read it over and correct mistakes / unclear passages because I don’t have the time!

    from a moral standpoint / some moral standpoints it is bad to “prevent maturity”, as you call it, and the same much likely goes for revoking someone’s maturity — to degrade responsible adults to powerless consumer man-children.

    yet from a survival standpoint it is absolutely necessary.

    necessary for the survival of companies,

    which in turn are necessary for the survival of individuals.

    it’s necessary for parents to keep their children dependant on them, so that they won’t wander off too soon, before they are truly ready, and thus threaten their own survival (with their premature feeling of maturity and all the actions that may result from it).

    “The project is the infantilization of everyone.” indeed. see: religion. just put your faith in big poppa and he’s going to take care of everything, nothing happens without him willing it, etc.

    this works quite well for religions!

    Cuba, oh Cuba, why do you have to lament everyday reality?

    “we have to at least leave open the possibility that someone is using Blizzard’s brain bulldozer to make the world a better place.” Real thought: No. Official though: Glad that you think so.

    This is still one of the best things ever written: “Free Realms, a stitched-together Frankenstein monster of a videogame electrified to life by Sony Online Entertainment – better known for suffocating the nascent inheritor of Ultima Online’s legacy, Star Wars Galaxies, in its cradle — is the newest, best and most efficiently cruel device marrying the “all-ages” predator psychology of the MMO with the infinitely market-exploitable capacity of children to be captivated by stupid brightly-colored stuff. It is also a tool of Satan, the Father of Lies. I say with a straight face and a true heart that Free Realms, the newest and most gilded cog in the infantilization machine, is killing the minds of children. It is the Final Solution of critical thinking, assembly-line murder of rational minds by the tens of thousands.”

    Even though I don’t like how you vilify Satan. (lol even though I’m dead serious.)

    “[…] your Destruction Derby Driver, for instance, is separate from your Kart Driver.” that is somewhat amazing. kind of like lazy Mortal Kombat palette swapped characters, isn’t it.

    “a kind of elongated Akira Toriyama-cum-Hanna Barbera affair” congratulations, you have created the anti-christ. that combination must be every corporate suit’s dream match-up. Disney’s got nothing on that.

    “Each of these collections has eight members, and here’s the kicker, you can reget collectibles you already have. This is menial labor par excellence, the videogame equivalent of drawing minimum wage from the State for masturbating with steel wool three times a day.”

    TRUTH. And also the reason for why I, once I had grown the heck up, hated — and abolished from my living room — all videogames revolving around collecting virtual stuff in a virtual world.

    “I’ve never felt so alone in a game allegedly populated by hundreds or thousands of other real live human beings.”

    That is high art though, to create such an atmosphere (and still keep people in it). It’s the ultimate money drain. I experienced this at an open air festival once. It was a three day festival and people were camping there. There wasn’t anything to do for the whole day except get sun burns in the scorching hot summer, ruin your shoes by marching through mud created by people spraying loads of beer and water onto themselves and each other, and — of course — spend money on stuffty merchandise and overpriced food and drink. Talking to and connecting with peope was pretty much impossible because everybody felt slow death-pull of the concentration camp like atmosphere and of how disgusted everybody was by everybody else’s inability to cope with it. The boozers hated the nn-boozers for being killjoys
    and the non-boozers hated the boozers for being mindless. sleeping or even just relaxing was out of the question because washed out soundwaves hit you with such force at all times, from all directions. mostly from bands you didn’t much care about. that was another layer of terror: the incredible noise. Obviously rock ‘n’ roll noise is something people love, yet that doesn’t mean that it can’t destroy your gray matter and put you in a state of anxiety. after all, it’s a proven fact that infrasound / very low frequency soundwaves can cause anxiety and are behind some places being considered “cursed” or “haunted sites”. such places emit those sounds naturally (tectonic activity or whatever) and are even responsible for ghost sightings because a certain frequency can make human eyeballs vibrate and thus cause optical illusions. (always wanted to start a rock band around that phenomenon. we’d not just cause monocles to fall out of decent peoples’ faces, we’d make their glass eyes shatter and their eyeballs pop!) So it was a very uncomfortable place and people were being jackasses because of the environment: the infrasound, the sun, the booze, the drugs,
    the frustration from realizing that hedonistic dreams aren’t coming true, etc., etc. So what’s a person to do? Buy more booze, buy more food and buy more Nice Things to comfort oneself. I was out of that place before I even got to see the band I came to see and that was that. Gave my wristband to some shifty dudes waiting outside and pitied them silently.

    The devil is an amazing fella. Force people into a situation where they will be terrorized by loud noise for three days straight, where they will be cramped together with thousands of other people, without any comfortable shelter, without adequate sanitary infrastructure, where they will be drugged up into a stupor, where they will be hackled and annoyed by other people, etc. and they will REBEL with all their might. The devil, somehow, knows how to make people come all on their own. He knows how to compell them. He makes it all seem … FUN. And so people will come and they will “enjoy themselves”. They will honestly think so. They will believe it. They will think that they got a fair trade. That it was time and money well spent. Sure, thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach (fingers crossed that it’s not the garlic baguette I just ate). Yet, how could you not admire the devil for it? Sure, sure, at first I didn’t.
    Sure, at first I was all like This Shit’s Got To Stop. Shit’s Got To Change. How foolish is that though. The devil has proven himself time and time again, and whatever Great Big Change people will come up with, there will always be a way for a cunning fella to corrupt it and to squeeze the lifeblood out of it for his own gain — and everybody else’s detriment. And that’s how you win at survival. That’s how the devil does it, and that’s why he’s still around. He’s not going to prostrate to Adam and the rest of mankind — we know that much. He’s going to keep on taunting and exploiting everybody until the end of time, and his business will be a success for as long as there’s even just one soul around to do business with. The Good might win in the very, very, very end, yet until that day comes, Evil will reign supreme. And without as much as even a day’s rest.

    “The winners are not even happy, not even gloating. The losers are not even dejected.” Yes, that matches with my own observations made during the even described above: it’s the state you want to keep your paying customers in. Get too dispirited up and you’ll leave, like I did, and that’s no use to the proprietors of (online) volunteer concentration camps. Get too happy and feel too good about yourself and you won’t be spending any money on mindnumbing stuff, which is also no good. Personally, when I went to the festival I had no need for anything other than some Good, Hard ROCK, and I had payed for that already, so I was good. Was feeling just fine. So, it’s really the WINNERS that will be the ones to see through the scheme, subsequently feel like they’re being had and like they are LOSING HARD, which will cause them to just MAN UP and LEAVE. Those are the people you can never get a hold of that’s tight enough to properly squeeze them. They realize what’s happening and they’re not going to fall for it.
    Like you didn’t fall for Free Realms.

    “Because there is no value in others, alienation becomes total. Because you are alienated, you have no links with any value structure that might provide some pernicious, alien values other than the ones prescribed. Because you lack any such values (in videogame terms, you might call them player-directed goals), they are there to be dictated for you by the overwhelming and beneficent hand of Sony Online Entertainment. Access to these values requires, of course, your parent’s credit card.” Ah, finally you’re brushing against religion again. The almighty hand of SOE. And the role of parents as His intermediaries, his holy priests. Dude, you’re not touching on that aspect nearly enough. You could liken this to whole thing to a cult and even the Catholic church and have yourself bomb ass analogies (at which you were SUPPOSEDLY always best in class). I wish you’d have the BALLS to get into those “profound mysteries” that religions provide — quoting your own words there.
    (in part because I think it would be great to have you discover some of those in Free Realms too lol) Although I suppose it’s for the best that you didn’t do it; you’d probably just have ended up unknowingly carrying out the devil’s work. yeah, especially if you had gone into more depth talking about “values”! No. 1 tool of the devil right there.

    “Free Realms is, in other words, training for insanity.” No, it’s training for the everyday reality that 99.9% of all people will find themselves living, someday. It’s training for servitude. It’s training for consumerism. It’s Bitch School. (Bitch School. I’m trademarking that as we speak. Look forward to my MMO of the same name. It’s gonna be a riot. No, not a riot, a feast. (

  20. (dunno what’s going on here; that’s not what copied and pasted into the box here… for example: i didn’t have two instances of “Bitch School” in that paragraph. gonna skip that paragraph.)

    “Ignore the nonsensical burbling in your ear and the abstractly-hued clumps of clay on your screen and you might make it out with a personality intact.”

    Yeah, well, goes without saying. Just be sure to tell your children that, too. Tell them that there was a time when we were predators. When we hunted and killed lesser animals for our survival. Tell them that after that there was a time when we kept herds of lesser animals and fed off of their dairy, clothed us with their wool and slaughtered them for their meat. Tell them that after that came the time when we settled down and cultivated the land to subsist from its produce and fruit and wheat. And finally, tell them that nowadays we prey on other humans, who in turn prey on other humans, who themselves cultivate the land, keep animals and hunt. Tell them that we’re interspecies predators now, when they’re old enough.

    And then see if it doesn’t hurt to watch them grow up.

  21. Guess I’m just an optimist.

    I’m inclined to agree with you, sn, but the thing is: I don’t see where any of this is inevitable. Just because it’s repeated itself so many times in history is hardly a reason to throw your hands up in the air and make sure that you’re just getting for you and yours.

    As to “other values”: in a social context, you might call these unorthodox, or exogenous, or any number of such adjectives. Point is they are not dictated by La Programme, or rather do not lie within its narrow constraints. They might be extremely traditional and communitarian or newfangled and idiosyncratic. It hardly matters; all of them have more integrity, via the organic, inner passion that inflames them, than the sterile happy-happy of Just Get Along. In a game context (and I say as much in my review), “other values” are player-directed goals, the Holy Grail and original promise of the MMO, a promise broken time and again by the Everquest model and its adherents in the name of, I don’t know, “fun” or something. “Accessibility,” maybe, or “polish”.

    So no, I wouldn’t put Free Realms alongside something like Catholocism, even its darkest and most twisted splinters – that is a different kind of evil. A more tolerable kind, really. No, Free Realms is more like Unitarianism, the acceptance of everything that lends profundity to nothing.

  22. [quote=”CubaLibre on ABDN”]I’m inclined to agree with you, sn, but the thing is: I don’t see where any of this is [i]inevitable[/i].[/quote]

    well, it is. though to try and prove how it isn’t can be very lucrative (and it’s what you should do, as it is part of your job). see: religion. for example, buddhism proposes a Final Solution of its own kind — a non-evil one! a GOOD one!, it claims — and… well. does it seem to be working? what about other religions? what about raw science? is there some solution to be found there? have you seen one? have you encountered laws — in your studies — of such profoundity that you would consider them game changers; do you think that we’ll ever be able to perfect the justice system to such a degree that there will be no more cruelty carried out against man by man, because we’d have made it impossible? is there a way to 100% get rid of inter-species cruelty and just, maybe, shift it to the lesser animals or even artificial humans — of whatever build? so that all men will finally be brothers and only those other beings will be exploited? or, what, no exploitation at all anymore?

    because as it stands now we’re exploiting each other’s weaknesses for a personal gain. we see, “a-ha! this person needs entertainment, so I’m going to give it to him but only if he gives me something in return”, and that’s trade. we do not go: “oh, this person needs something so I am going to try and find it and give it to him”, without ever getting anything in return because then we’d not be able to survive. we can’t survive just the way we were born, we need to trade with our environment. we need to get food from it and we need to get rid of our waste in it. so if i want to live i have to eat that apple and basically exploit it for my own gain. that apple will not get the chance to grow any more after i’ve plucked and eaten it. that’s where it starts. the apple might have tricked the first man that ever ate an apple because he had to stuff it out at some point and the seeds might have survived in the dung, fallen on fertile soil and grown into another apple tree. Zing! Apple Vs. Man: one nil. but we never really cared about the interests of apples and their trees, and now that we’ve outsmarted them we’ve made them our bitches. We exploit them systematically for our own gain. we crossbreed them however we like and we plant them where we want them to grow while cutting them down where they’re in our way.

    This quite biblical example becomes less ridiculous when you continue with it and see how it applies to humans treating animals and humans treating humans. if we don’t like a motherhecker we sit him up on the chair and let him fry. if we dislike a whole gang of motherheckers we dig them big ditches, stand them up in front of it and shoot them in the head one by one.

    there’s little regard for what those people want. maybe they’ll get a cigarette, yeah. but only if it makes ourselves feel better about ourselves — if it makes the whole act more “humane” — or if it calms our victims enough to make the kill go over more smoothly, more efficiently.

    it comes down to this: we don’t give, we trade. giving anything without it changing our own situation is impossible. you can’t get out of the chain of causality. now, some exchanges are supposedly good ones that put you in a better place than before and others are bad ones. you might just give your house away — hand the keys to a stranger in the street — and be on your way, never looking back. well, what you get from that is not having to pay for that house anymore or be otherwise responsible for it or attached to it. a certain kind of freedom. one that i know first-hand. and should the receiving person tell the story to the press then you might become famous. might just become a hecking saint to the catholics or whoever. might just get something to eat wherever you go because you’re such an angel, etc. and even if nothing happens you’ll still have the memory of giving away your house to a stranger and that might make you feel good. might make you feel bad too. most likely it’s going to do both in rather random alternations. either way, you received something in return. your action caused a reaction.

    so, free realms has come to do some hecking business and it exploits children.

    well, so do i when i buy shoes. and even when i buy shoes that supposedly weren’t built by child workers then I’m still giving my money to a company that exploits the fact that there is child labor in the world and it uses that as an edge over its competition. it’s not doing anything about child labor because if that company were to acquire enough momentum, by making a stuffload of money and conquering so much of the market share that it forced every competitor to stop using child workers as well — because people won’t buy their products otherwise — then there’d be nothing to set the companies apart from each other; they’d all have to find a new edge to be able to compete with each other; and now, they won’t just get along and not compete. or maybe they will and create a cartel with a monopoly, and no, that won’t work out any better either.

    so they might industrialize their production processes further and eliminate their workers altogether, to make their shoes cheaper, which is always an edge, and with all those adults working for them and wanting to be paid like adults there’s a lot of room for reduced spendings there; so at some point they might near exclusively employ machines to make their shoes because it’s cheaper. so we’ll exploit machines instead of people.

    but where are those machines going to come from? technologically advanced and rich countries, yeah but its parts might still be built/assembled in cheap labor countries. and, yes, maybe by child laborers again! and if not the parts then the resources for the parts might be dug out of the ground by them. And on and on it goes.

    that’s a prime example of the devil’s work right there: he doesn’t change his ways, he just removes them further from your eyes, makes them less obvious. that is [b]progress[/b]. “i don’t have to deal with my stuff, someone else does it for me”: whenever life gets a little bit more clean, a little bit more comfortable, then you can be dead sure that someone just received a little bit of extra toil and labor. that’s inevitable balance.

    children are easily exploitable by nature. as long as exploiting them is a possibility then people will do it. people will do whatever gives them an edge. is that inevitable? as inevitable as water going the path of least resistance. as inevitable as lifeforms struggling for survival!

    that’s my argument. [b]for [/b]the inevitability that you mentioned.

    now, one might say that if i start up a company that makes “brightly colored stuff”-videogames and create a game like Free Realms that has children toiling in a virtual reality sweatshop so that they will give me the money of their parents that’s still better than running a real sweatshop where they stitch together shoes in quite possibly physically dangerous environments. that’s not really how it works though. one thing builds on the other. if we weren’t exploiting those third world children so hard then we wouldn’t be rich enough to have videogames and a whole lucrative industry around them anyway. by starting up such a company i’m just being efficient. i don’t wanna whip and pimpslap children all day long so they work faster — i let someone else do that for me and i wash my hands clean. i got nothing to do with that, right?

    [as i was writing this i had my feet placed on the floor in a way that put a bit of stress on my house slippers and the right one ripped. time to buy new ones, i guess.]

    well, at least our children are enjoying themselves while they’re feeding our economy, right? better than real sweatshop work, right?

    don’t underestimate shoe making! it’s better than post-industrialist agriculture!
    Wiki Quote of the Day: [i]Austrian school economist Murray Rothbard also defended child labor, stating that British and American children of the pre- and post-Industrial Revolution lived and suffered in infinitely worse conditions where jobs were not available for them and went [b]”voluntarily and gladly”[/b] to work in factories[/i]

    and also, i hear the children quite enjoy it because the fumes from the glue and whatnot make them feel so at ease and relaxed. some even find the work… addicting! yes, just like collecting stuff in videogames, gaining XP and otherwise jumping through virtual hoops. well, it’s mind poisoning either way! at least you can touch and smell the real world and gain some sort experience from it, which can’t be said about the online world of Free Realms.

    but again: the two worlds are inseparably connected anyway

    we’re just trying to get our children into the strongest position possible, the cleaner world of the two; just seeing to it that “you and yours” are well off, which segues into part of this:

    [quote=”CubaLibre on ABDN”]Just because it’s repeated itself so many times in history is hardly a reason to throw your hands up in the air and make sure that you’re just getting for you and yours.[/quote]

    if you mean throwing your hands up in the air in despair then that’s not what i’m doing.

    if you mean throwing your hands up in the air because the almighty DJ is telling you to, at the grand, debauched gangsta-rap-blasting party that is life and because you’re hecking enjoying yourself then, true indeed, i am doing that! got all the reasons in the world, too.

    it takes a genius to come up with great theoretical solutions to humanity’s constant problems, like the ones proposed by monks, gurus, prophets, etc. — or even just [b]optimists[/b]; same thing, really — that people will believe in and commit to, despite millennia of failure.

    it takes a fool like me to see all that and go, ‘nope, it’s not gonna change unless the highest rules that govern our behavior are going to change’ — and then wholeheartedly support all the optimism anyway because it’s the path of least resistance, and even though it won’t make the world a better place for [b]everyone [/b]it will make it better for [b]a few[/b].

    one thing taking advantage of another started in the precise moment when — for whatever unknown reason — there appeared this mysterious irregularity, this slight imperfection after the big bang had occurred, when all was still pure energy. when matter and anti-matter was equal and changing form freely, and the universe was nothing other than light, basically, and there was nothing else. and suddenly: asymmetry. suddenly 4,999,999,999 particles of anti-matter met 5,000,000,000 particles of matter. for reasons unknown. and so this one matter-particle didn’t find an anti-matter partner and couldn’t transform into energy anymore. and that was when it all began: the physical world as we know it. matter was here to stay.

    that’s how they tell the story nowadays, the scientists. how this imperfection happened, they can’t say. we fell out of paradise — the time when everything was equal and all was energy — because of the tiniest imperfection possible and from then on everything splintered and became this dog-eat-dog world that we can observe now. the devil, they say, is in the detail. seems like that was so since the very beginning. maybe he was the one that tipped the vase off the table? maybe he’s the one to blame for this ever-splintering universe that we find ourselves in. it has fallen, it splintered and it’s not done yet. we’re still falling and splintering as we speak. chaos is increasing.

    and it’s not going to reverse ever again. we’re not going to crawl back into the womb. the universe will just stretch out,burn out all its lights, turn cold and die. there will be no big crunch. that’s what they say nowadays. there will be no fires of Armageddon, only — like in Norse mythology — the freeze of Ragnarok. which is another MMORPG, I guess. and i think it’s abundantly clear now that it takes the devil to make those.

    will you look at this hecking tan it is unbelievable

  23. Reviews like this are why I love coming to ABDN. Well articulated points that reference things beyond the shallow, incestous pool of gaming. And Tim’s reviews, which feature a unique sort of tangent genuinely worthy of being called “legendary.” As in, “long ago there was a man who worked for a video game company, and wrote about video games, and yet found a way to speak about anything but gaming. And the people rejoiced.”

    Or something.

  24. After reading through all the comments and Kite´s lovely reviews, I am starting to see the ABDN staff as something of an actual family. I hadn´t felt that since IC, so THAT´s awesome.

    Also to SN. do you have any website or so in which I could find your writings? I can see now that you really know your stuff.

  25. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Action Button Dot Net [actionbutton.net] on Topsy.com

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