Why Can’t Real Life Be More Like Double Dragon?

Double Dragon“People get really tired of having all the tough villains front-loaded against them and resent getting short changed on play time because some fat mouth-breather’s hogging it all with a stack of quarters that could knock out a Clydesdale. If that’s all on offer, can you blame folks for staying home?”

Games are the repositories of our culture’s most primal values. As ostensible objects of complete fancy, they (can) deftly sidestep at will many of the extraneous ambiguities that force us to compromise our deepest values and thus help give clearest expression to our highest ideals.

For starters, game consequences are not so final or existential as they are in real life. You’re typically given at least 3 initial ‘lives’ to perform strategy experiments and become comfortable with play options before you’re fatally croaked. And even then you’re usually offered the option to restart the game. You have an opportunity to weigh options with some level of maturity and develop a play style that suits you personally.

Not so in the real world. Even if you’re bright enough to have intuited that Ayn Rand and Niccolo Machiavelli wrote the cheat book at a fairly young age, you’re faced with the ugly reality that there will be no restarts available for you. Mainly because that fat kid who breathes through his mouth will just keep shoving quarters in the machine before you can get anywhere near it.

This essay continued at Dystopia Diaries in 10, 9, 8 . . .

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  • Jin The Ninja

    liam, seriously great. 

    ‘Asymmetries of availability are the single indispensable enabling feature of capitalism. ‘ 

    that line was the wow moment for me. never mind the gaming metaphor or the seamless transition to WI politics.

    • Anarchy Pony

      Deprivation through private property.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      You are too kind.

      This one–like most of my pieces, actually–is admittedly a bit rough in places.  That they’re as much learning experiences for me as for any reader is purely by design.  I don’t figure any writer has a right to expect his audience to engage with anything that he himself does not.  I think that comes from some ancient Chinese sage, via Alan Moore.

      I think a person much deeper into game culture could have done a lot more with the gaming metaphor.  I’m kind of only on the remote demographic edge of that group, and clearly my memories of Double Dragon itself are not so vivid.  Except that the title was a very popular one in the late ’80’s.

      But I think that gaming metaphor deserves some real consideration.  By turning every field of human endeavour into a blood sport instead of a recreation, are we turning ourselves into benighted savages?  Turning our world into a duller place?  When consequences are so high, and access to meaningful participation so low, is it any wonder that Americans have become so deferential to their elites?  You’ve got one chance (max) to make your mark–don’t blow it by trying any fancy new moves.  In a scenario like that, isn’t it actually sensible to become a vicious, intolerant thug?

      If we could re-engineer, or at least re-enterpret, our society’s norms to create a wider variety of non-lethal arenas for real participation, I bet there’d not only be much better functioning in each of our institutions, and less cheating and dishonesty, but also much less hostility between subcultures and more happiness across the board.

      There might even be a place for capitalism somewhere in that.

      • Jin The Ninja

        again everything you wrote i am in 100% agreement. and don’t sell yourself short on the double dragon metaphor- it’s potency is only enchanced by the fact classic games (and i’ll age myself by saying i owned Double Dragon on NES, SNES) were notoriously difficult, and although limited by today’s standards- highly enjoyable. and on the subject of capitalism, well obviously my anti capitalist sentiment has not gone unsaid previously; however i really am not in any way opposed to historical ‘petty’ capitalism (referring to artisinal production of goods by small collectives)- nor am i opposed to the production of medium-specific art (like film or music) through non corporate means while retaining some vague notionship of ‘ownership’ over the end product. or maybe that’s not capitalism at all, but somewhere between marx and bakunin. it’s the notion of trans-national capital, resource and labour exploitation and fascism that truly is to what i am opposed.

        and to offer a reply to a very thought-provoking statement your posted on another thread, “I wonder if true egalitarianism is best understood as a static state or a dynamic process.”

        i tried several times to craft an adequate response- which seemed convoluted at best. so i wanted to wait until i could sort it out- i think (and by NO means do i have any philosophical or intellectual authority on such a serious topic) – it is both.

        the process by which we would achieve egality is dynamic. revolutionary. however the end-result would be a state in which all known hierarchies (or at least the most pressing ones) are deconstructed, dissassembled and realised outmoded. in that it is static, because from our contemporary perspective we can’t really imagine the society beyond the point of the hierarchies (or lacktherof) that we know. it would enable a sort of social reboot. however in creating a genuine egalitarian society, new tensions, new issues would arise that would require new modes of thinking and doing. so in effect- it really would be a cyclical process- evolving. and if egality is inherently tied to democratic organisation- which i believe it is- would it not require an evoving socio-political process ? as direct democracy is very much reliant on evolving social consciousness…

        i think the idea of the cycle- viewing it as a holistic process with ‘illness’ ‘health’ ‘life’ and ‘death’ is very appealing to me personally. anyway, just my 2 pence.

  • http://twitter.com/NilzDKlown Nilz D Klown

    While we are quite aware that there are some pretty awesome gaming platforms out there, for some reason, we are still swallowing the shitty 12 bit graphics, we are forced to go down to the local mini mart and feed the machine quarters while fighting off the fattened mouth breathers. We are dealing with a technology that is no longer viable and yet we are still feeding that motherfucker quarters, I just don’t get it. We are witnessing the death throws my friends, enjoy! Oh, and loved the article Liam.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Yeah.  In my opinion, all those problems are worse now than ever.

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