Diablo 3′s missed opportunity

You know how the story of Diablo 3 just doesn’t make any sense? And you know how Deckard Cain is kind of like the unofficial “hero” of the story, even though he gets killed off in the first act (OOPS SPOILERS)? He does all that research on weird esoteric stuff, and he knows all the batshit-crazy lore about which devil fought which angel and when, and then all he managed to do is tell it all to you as a disembodied voice over… I mean, the guy basically knows everything. According to this reading, Diablo 3 is an expression of the tortured mind of Deckard Cain and his attempts to stave off dementia and senility.

Read this way his own “death” in Act 1 becomes a transcendent event that, far from being a fearful one (Deckard is suppressing the reality of his condition by retreating into his deteriorating mind – that’s why the story keeps getting worse as it goes along!), is actually his imaginary escape from the limitations of his own body, into the safe realms of disembodied knowledge.

Small wonder then that the hero/player-character is such an insufferably confident egomaniac: “guided by prophecy” is just the convenient excuse to express the innermost desires of Deckard’s repressed Ego (scholars are always repressed). It’s also a fantastically simple explanation for why every character repeats the same story four times! The repetition reveals Cain’s desperate attempts to hold onto his failing memory, as he goes over and over his knowledge again and again, returning to rote learning exercises in a tragic, yet futile gesture. No wonder it’s so grindy.

This “story” would only ever end, if – or rather, when – the player forgets to ever return to Diablo 3 and never plays again, thus completing Cain’s slide into mental oblivion.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Diablo 3 actually supported this interpretation? Now that would be a story.

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Fuck everything about this.

A violent excess of “realism” is being forced upon young people.

“…I’ve kind of made sure i’ve been involved in a lot of extra-curricular stuff.”

“You were actually thinking about your CV, age 19 or 20?”

“I was. You have to have a CV at the back of your head…”

And you can forget about holding onto anything like your precious “values” as a politics student. How are you going to eat:

“As a politics student [with values]…you never want to become a careerist… someone who’s always looking for what kind of job you can get… but actually you don’t have a choice to think about that. You don’t have a choice but to become a sellout always thinking about how to get a job.”

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Just some tweets I found.

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‘Youth in Trouble’ by The Presets

Directed by Yoshi Sodeoka, who looks like he’s done some stellar work.

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Mark Fisher’s ‘Capitalist Realism’ is super cheap

You can get it from the Book Depository for $7.50! Bloody hell, I think I might buy a few copies so I can give some away.

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Solidarity with Da Youf

Two pieces popped up in my twitter feed and I wanted to respond to them (though I did so first on twitter and Facebook). The first one: “An open letter from a millenial: quit telling us we’re not special“. The critique is of parenting styles, which seems to miss the really rich target for disdain, but the attitude is spot on in taking the pulse of young people’s feelings in the (disaffected) west.

The second is better in that the author, Paul Mason (who was one of the few western journalists actually reporting from Greece during the crisis, rather than merely reporting on it from afar) and it sets the target of critique much closer to the mark, I think, beginning by discussing how crucial disaffected and disappointed graduates were to the recent ‘arab spring’:

As the Arab spring exploded around us – and unrest continues from Athens to Quebec – this sociological type has been central. The graduate who has been denied the leisurely, liberal education of their parents’ generation, but instead has been faced, almost since puberty, with a battery of psychometric tests, exhortations to excellence, and life-limiting vocational choices.

When I was at university (Sheffield, 1978-81) I found time to play in a band, picket a steelworks, occupy several buildings, write embarrassingly bad fiction, switch courses and demand the creation of a special dual degree to suit my life’s purpose. “You can do it as long as you don’t tell anybody else it exists,” my professor told me. Tuition was free. There was a grant you could live on as long as you did not stray from drink to class A drugs, and in the holidays I had a factory job that paid nearly as much as my dad’s real factory job did.

It’s embarrassing to say this to a generation where individual tuition has become a privilege; where non-examinable knowledge is perceived as a waste of time; where every thesis and dissertation must begin with a mind-numbing rehash of existing knowledge, written to a formula as rigid as that demanded by the Qing-era Chinese civil service. But here goes: the past was better.

 But Mason concludes with a strange optimistic twist that “All those tests, drills, teach-to-exam lectures, and the relentless vocationality of education, has made this generation highly entrepreneurial.” To which I can only respond with a confused, ‘huh?’ No, I don’t think those things actually did make our generation entrepreneurial – I think that’s just what people do under these sorts of conditions. Got nothing to do? Might as well go make some art.
Look at the incredible Auckland based art collective Young Gifted and Broke – the stuff coming out of there is phenomenal, but it’s because they are phenomenally talented people that late capitalist society hasn’t made/found a place for. So they made their own. Indeed, it does manifest as a kind of part entrepreneurial enterprise, but primarily it’s an social-artistic endeavour, and they just happen to be making money on the side.
Tom Scott, rapper and the public face of HomeBrew lives with his mother, for fucks sake. Calling that type of lifestyle “entrepreneurial” doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Anyway, here’s another thing linked to in Masons piece: the (apparently famous?!) Communiqué from an Absent Future, which is jaw droppingly, vigorously head-noddingly apt:

Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt.  This bankruptcy is not only financial.  It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making.  No one knows what the university is for anymore.  We feel this intuitively.  Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market.  These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls.

There’s a spectre looming over this whole discussion, however, and it has generally gone unacknowledged: Global Capital is (probably) the main driving force behind all these changes. Why could the UK government in the late 70′s afford to pay students “a grant” and “free tuition”? Because the UK still had manufacturing exports, a strong currency, blah blah blah and all the rest of it. What has yet gone unacknowledged in all this, I think, is that the globalisation of capitalism means that no longer can we just think in terms of nations, or even the amorphous “The West” – from the factory worker in Bangalore, to the kid wiping clean iPad screens with chemicals, we’re all implicated in the operation of capitalism, and I strongly suspect we won’t manage solutions on our own anymore.
That might be the most worrying thing in all this – we can’t even make meaningful global changes to avert natural climate catastrophe. How on earth are we going to fix a broken politcal-economic system?
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More on transparency

“Transparency is at once the most powerful, dangerous and incomplete political ideal of the 21st century.” – Parag Khanna

This image from the hilarious self-parody that is the ‘Quotable TED‘ gallery on Facebook is worth commenting on. I don’t know anything, anything at all about the rest of Khanna’s talk, but I almost don’t need to (we know what kind of talk TED tends to attract). He’s right though – transparency is a dangerous and powerful ideal, as we’ve seen with the McDonald’s video. Clearly “just enough” transparency can be as illusory as silence.

There’s also a growing awareness in some circles that what can often happen with ‘Transparency’, far from making clearer or clarifying, is actually an obfuscation and distortion. Consider the self-reporting and self-surveillance techniques that Mark Fisher talks about as an integral part of the (neoliberal) modern university bureaucracy: anywhere  targets, goals and metrics are put in place to measure things like education/teaching performance the metrics become and end in themselves. The teaching shifts to “teaching the test” (Cf: The Wire and it’s episodes in Season 4 and 5 recognising this issue in the US public education system) and performing for the sake of the metrics instead of… actual teachin.

To return to the issue of transparency, I think an identical thing happens. When the goal is transparency, transparency itself becomes the goal rather than the product of a higher ethical commitment to honesty (or anything similar).

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Youth and constant, obligatory deferral :: not a “poem” I guess

I woke up wanting to write something about some ideas that kind of just fell out my head. I think it’s probably prompted by a friend’s situation in the Unites States, in which a smart, impressively articulate (and white! booooonus!) 20-something college graduate can’t get a job, and hasn’t been able to for nine months. And this isn’t an aberration. These are the new conditions. And there’s no alarm. No panic. No media outcry, just a smattering of analysis and prediction pieces about the barreling-locomotive that is the intersection of western age demographics and (regressive) tax regime changes.

Why are people of my generation – anyone under 30, give or take – obliged continually to “defer” or infinitely displace our hopes and expectations about the future… into the future? Want to move out of the suburbs to expand and broaden the number and type of people you interact, mingle with and encounter? Got to deal with the rentier class who owns everything. Pay your tithe to your elders! Okay, so you stay in the suburbs and ride shitty, chronically underinvested public infrastructure for two hours, one way.

Well okay fine whatever, I make my strategic choice. But fuck strategy! Since when has it been incumbent on youth to plan for the future? Why do I feel like if I don’t start out as a good little capitalist as soon as humanly possible and build that equity (!!) I’m going to get fucked into middle age and beyond? What the hell is even with this kind of thinking? I’m outraged that I’m even thinking like this. Why are my (and my generational cohort’s) horizon’s so small? It’s not for lack of imagination – look at the shit we get up to on the internet, that’s hella imaginative.

So we’ve been told to think small: “Be realistic.” Save money, be safe, well fuck you! What happens when capitalism destroys our planet and our savings become worthless as insurance and banks and economies shrivel up and die? Whatfor the conservatism of our youth? What’ll we have when the sea levels rise except for some really expensive lagoons? You, dear capitalists, industrialists, business leaders – suit wearers! – YOU have written a cheque that OUR future is going to have to cash. And we can’t even be heard over the sound of your endless buzzing. “Another great big new tax!” “Job Creators!” “Investment!” Fuuuuck oooooofff.


And forget about free education. Debt relief? What’s that?! Again, I’m not even talking about myself here! I’m insanely lucky in comparison to my comrades. My HECS debt is a minuscule $21K, and will probably be paid off in a few short years once I land a fulltime job (hahahahahahahahahhaah). A “cheap” US college degree rings in at about $60,000. Before interest.

Oh hey: fuck debt, too. There has to be debt relief coming. There is just no way a whole generation of young people can get ass-fucked so hard for so long. That’s a reality that bites harder than any economic (faux-) rationalism; that bites harder than any capitalist realism.

Read this and then talk to me about “necessary sacrifices”:

In 2006 (when figures were last available) James Dyson contributed the bulk of the income tax paid by the 54 billionaires then resident in the UK. Out of £14.7m paid by all 54, he contributed £9m. That’s a whopping 61 per cent of the total tax take from billionaires…it is widely agreed in the tax accounting community that JK Rowling and James Dyson are the only UK billionaires who pay a tax rate even remotely proportional to their income. So, on average, your grandma pays tax at a rate roughly 250 times that of the richest people in Britain.

But then, you already knew (or suspected this). It’s never even really about the actual money. It’s all an excuse, a smokescreen, for an attack on people with the temerity to be either a) poor, or b) young.


Something something Control Society smoething something Panopticon something something DRONES something DEFERRED HOPES something something WALL STREET something something LIBOR BANKING SCANDAL >> SWITCH OFF YOUR TELEVSION somethign something go about your business

“O you’re just being self-indulgent” – fuck you, this is happening to people like me (not me) all over. In the United States. In Spain. In Greece. In the UK. In Canada. Tell me not to be angry? “U mad bro?” bet your fucking ass I’m mad. So mad. So mad because I’m allowed to be mad but I’m not allowed to do anything about it except get mad and impotently rage about it on the internet like this is some kind of state-sanctioned release valve

I want to bottle the sentiment of Home Brew and then run a feeding tube down the gullets of our political, religious, business and other leaders:


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The best thing in gaming right now

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Analysing some reactions to the McDonalds’s burger video

A quick look at some of the reactions to the McDonalds video. First, my hermano Kirk Hamilton posted about it at Kotaku and started an open-thread discussion about it. Some of the comments are telling:

 I’m a bit surprised that anybody was unaware of this. It’s not just McDonalds that does this, it’s everywhere.

Awareness with no translation into action (or even affect, i.e. disgust/disavowal) is typical of the internalisation of capitalist realism: a kind of self-awareness that fails to affect anything.

Why so surprised? as a Graphic Design graduate I learned product photography… Learn it yourself!

Same as above, really, adding only that the onus is on individuals to inform themselves. Atomisation to “issues” like this is typical of capitalist realism, and could possibly even be said to be constituting a new strata between class. The “educated”, and “aware” middle class knows this kind of manipulation goes on, but why bother telling anyone who won’t “Let it for themselves”? Next.

Is this actually all that surprising? It’s like the idea that a lot of people don’t know that McDonald’s food is gernally not healthy food. I’d wager that 99% of people know that both the advertising makes a burger look better than the one you’ll get and that it’s not healthy.

If they suddenly start saying their food is really healthy or made of nothing but vitamins and antioxidents, then I can see being upset. But until that day just eat it and enjoy it or don’t and don’t. Whatever.

The above comment is our first example of the “consumer power” deferral. “If you don’t like it, spend your money elsewhere.” I find this unsatisfying, personally. There was a post about why it’s also not a good idea as social activists to rely on the “let your money speak for you” arguments about combatting sexism, racism, etc. Think: symbolic boycotts that do (nearly) nothing that a business actually cares about. Next.

I am not shocked by this because there’s nothing to be shocked about. Like the lady said, it’s the same ingredients, they’re just photographed to look cool. This isn’t a big bad food corporation thing, all restaurants do this. You can hire food photographers to make you menu pics for your restaurant, and you really should, because like many other things, including people, food photographs not very well if you just point and shoot.

Also typical of many defences of this video I’ve seen, in that it involves the unspoken argument that because this is how it “is” therefore that is the way it “aught” to be. Which we know is a logical fallacy.

Huh. That makes far more sense than I imagined. I thought all their pictures were airbrushed. I guess not! Cool!

It’s still the same disgusting shit they make, just prepared in a LESS disgusting/fast way. Not really deceptive, it appears, as much as it is trying to inform the customer everything in their burger.

Here, the goal of “informing” customers is turned into a positive, rather than being the otherwise negative revealing of deception. The fact that the way it is prepared (i.e. the “fast” in fast food) constitutes the issue itself is unsurprisingly overlooked.
That’s probably enough to get a sense of the main kinds of responses we’re interested in. I should add though that quite a few of the Kotaku comments were quite encouraging – a few people seemed to understand that this (and any!) kind of manipulation is a kind of deception, even if they might not have picked up on the duplicitousness of the video’s “transparency” functioning as a heading-off-at-the-pass of any possible critique. Quite a few more commenters noted they’d “sworn off” McDonalds for one reason or other, so that’s nice I guess.
But beyond Kotaku, the reception of the McDonald’s video didn’t inspire a lot of hope. At the amusingly named ‘Bright Side of the News’ a blogger posted about the video, with the only real editorialising/commentary coming at the end, after the video:

Just for the record, the author of this story just had a burger for dinner, but he opted for one of custom creations over at The Counter in Del Mar, CA (San Diego). And in mere couple of hours, those calories will be burned by doing a 5 mile run around La Jolla (at least, he hopes so).

Again, this is an example of an appeal to “consumer power” and to vote with your dollars. Not really acceptable, for me.

At the Foodea blog, it’s presented in the typical internet “news” reporting stlye of “here is a thing”:

Isabel M from Toronto asked “Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?” http://qmcd.ca/MOwwgV

McDonald’s responded with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of a McDonald’s Canada photo shoot comparing a store bought burger to the one’s used in their advertising campaigns.

I wonder how much the PR-ification of “news” is responsible for some of this process (could you imagine this kind of story being run in the 90s? No editor of a respectable publication would treat this in the same uncritical way).

Failblog mentions the video, and perhaps surprisingly actually does a better job – primarily because they add some editorial and don’t merely ‘present’ the video sans-commentary. The post title ‘My Quarter Pounder Never Fails to Not Live Up to My Expectations‘ at least leaves room for (primes the reader for?) the possibility of outrage, unlike the generic presentations above:

Here at Cheezburger, we know a good cheeseburger when we see one. Trust us. Unfortunately, fast food often fails to live up to the images of it we see on commercials. So, just how do they make heartburn with picksles look so darn wholesome? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not plastic… I think.

It’s hardly outraged (how hard it is to get mad at such honesty and transparency!) but it still seems to acknowledge that, yes, something is disquieting; we should be disturbed. The way this video is presented to readers seems to be really, really important so far. Kirk’s presentation of the video at Kotaku put it in a critical and sceptical context, as did the Failblog post. The comments on Failblog (despite being less) are almost unanimously of the “who cares” variety, however, so perhaps it’s not so important. Hmm.
The twitter account for Rio-based Digital Creative agency ‘Vulsai’ also presents the McDonalds video in the typical “Here is a thing” way. No commentary or critique or dissent (shock horror).

On twitter however, Cindy Gallop makes a really going point for me, saying about the video: “Here’s what you do in the age of transparency – all brands take note”. I think she’s completely and utterly right – this is the future of corporate “transparency” and it gives me nightmares. Gallop doesn’t seem to mind, though: as she is someone who has spoken at a TED conference I can’t say I am at all surprised. The TED class always sides with business over discrete individuals and our collective rights not to be subtly lied to, manipulated, and have our expectations toyed with. But hey, transparency! It’s open secret now! That’s better, right? Hardly.

Lastly, ‘Crisisblogger’ Gerald Baron writes about the piece, and it’s worth quoting at length:

Transparency is a good thing, right? But what if that transparency is about how you “doctor” photos to make your products look better than they really are?

The marketing manager of McDonald’s Canada did a noble thing in today’s world of transparency: she answered a social media question with a nice little video giving a straight ahead entirely credible honest answer.

It is perhaps the most perverse of the lot (though I totally understand why Baron thinks the video is a good thing – he’s the former head of “a moderately sized marketing and public relations firm”, and his blog is more interested in communications around “corporate crises”, rather than “crises of capital” or “ecological crisis resulting from industrialisation”) but it’s also the most revealing. Baron details a LinkedIn discussion about the video that went on between PR folks wondering whether this was going to backfire on McDonalds. And yet,
…to my surprise [and gratitude], I’m finding an awful lot of appreciation for the transparency shown by McDonalds and the presentation of the photo shoot by Bagozzi. Twitter comments surprisingly positive. And mashable’s story has 68 comments at this point with many of them expressing appreciation to McDonald’s for their honesty.
McDonalds should be very glad the Hope Bagozzi did the video and not someone sneaking into the photo shoot to do them damage. The story would be quite different.
Which is totally correct, and also totally baffling and horrifying. What it signals the a new phase in PR, involving the precorporation (think: pre-incorporation) and prediction as well as ultimately the subsumption of any kind of protest, exposure or criticism. McDonalds has beat the critics at their own game, via a strategic use of just enough ‘transparency’.
The conclusion that I am drawing from the whole episode is this: Food image manipulation in advertising is now beyond an open secret. It has moved into a new phase in which we’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole of public acquiesce and normalisation of being manipulated and virtually lied to that we no longer even care. “It’s the cost of doing business”. “Everyone’s doing it”.
In ‘Capitalist Realism’ Mark Fisher gives us the example of Gerald Ratner, whose jewellery company “made shit”, itself an open secret that everyone knew but which (crucially) no one “officially knew”. When Ratner became overconfident and described “the inexpensive jewelry his shops sold as “crap” in an after-dinner speech…the consequence of [him] making this judgement official were immediate, and serious – £500m was wiped off the value of the company and he lost his job.” (p.47)
If anything, I bet Ms Bragozzi ends up with a promotion.
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