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There Are Too Many Video Games (opinion piece by Jeff Vogel)


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Not sure what to make of this. I mean he's not wrong, the major issue with Steam or the Stich store is finding things but...I'm getting ahead of myself.

 

Here's the column.

 

https://bottomfeeder.substack.com/p/there-are-too-many-video-games

 

Some choice outtakes.

 

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So let's get to it: There are too many indie games. If my country was healthy, stable, and on a sustainable path, most of them would not exist, including mine. That they do exist is a symptom of misplaced priorities, crappy opportunities for ambitious youth, and ongoing damage to our society.

 

It goes on to point out that on Steam alone on average 30 games a day are released.

 

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It's Not Just Vidya, Of Course

An aside: I am fully aware this phenomenon isn't just video games.

Spotify now gets over 60000 new songs a day. Amazon now has millions of books. My country has over 550 scripted TV shows in production. And then all of the blogs and podcasts and Twitch streams and webcomics and YouTubers and VTubers and on and on and on ...

 

His solution, people who want to make the world better need to stop making art maybe.

 

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If a society produces nothing but dysfunction and art, it has a problem.

If my Empire wants to go full Bread and Circuses, that is fine. However, you DO have to make sure you can provide the bread before you get to make the circuses.

This is a whole another blog post, so I'll paint with broad strokes for now. My city, Seattle, is crumbling. We don't have the energy to maintain the roads, and our bridges are literally falling apart. We can't even maintain what our grandparents built, let alone make any grand new projects.

The days of the Moon Landing and building the Interstate Highway System are behind us. All our dreams now are small. The glorious projects that could feed the ambitions of the young just aren't happening.

Plus, my city of Seattle doesn't have a road without a big pothole in it. Fixing potholes is actual work. It's tiring, and it's dirty, and how could doing something that actually benefits people ever compete with Living! A! Life! In! Art! (tm)

If you want a job with actual meaning, that ACTUALLY makes peoples lives better, there is plenty that needs doing. The problem, of course, is that jobs that actually have meaning involve actual work and thus SUCK.

 

What should we be doing?

 

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Time is a zero sum game. If a bunch of people expend their energy making games, and a larger group of people waste their time playing them, and nobody steps up to do the things that need doing, well, that's bad right?

(Note: If you want people to do these jobs, you do need to pay a living wage with benefits. Otherwise, you just get more video games.)

Writing a game nobody plays discharges your energy and creates the feeling of achievement, but it's all empty calories and then your car falls into a sinkhole. If your game succeeds, it’s even worse. Your customers are now also expending all of their energy too, playing your game alone in a room. Meanwhile, sinkholes.

THAT is why I say there are too many indie games. They aren't sustainable. There is too much time wasted, and that will be true until time is applied to making the world work and bridges not fall down and food be in stores. Probably your time.

Hell, forget full-time jobs. If you volunteered at a food bank for one afternoon, you would do more good than spending 20 years writing games nobody plays. And I bet you'd feel more satisfaction too. And you'd get out of the house and maybe even make a friend.

Yes, you can call me an old Boomer and be angry at me for observing all this, if it makes you feel better. No, it will not make it less true.

 

I mean some of what he's saying is true but...well I could be productive, learn how to fix potholes and fly out to Seattle and et productive with fixing those potholes but it's more complex than that. I mean capitalism not funding essential services is a problem but

 

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Don't blame capitalism for these problems. Capitalism is the instrument that made the surpluses that made it possible for you to write art nobody wants in the first place.

 

...ah....ok then.

 

I mean deep down I know he's right but to go back to the bad old days of AAA games only and a handful of indie devs would mean that some small scale games that are made for an audience of dozens or less would just not get made. I mean Get in the Car Loser was my game of the year last year but if you look at audience numbers in this sort of reductive way then it's immoral that it was ever made (and released for free) since Christine Love could have done more good for more people filling in potholes or taking care of the homeless. I tend to think everyone needs a little art in their life that just speaks to them rather than the masses but I don't think all of societies ills are going to be fixed by telling every indie dev making their game for love or profit to sling their hook. I wonder if some of his frustration is the very real frustration of knowing that one is never ever going to play every game, hear every song, watch every movie or read every book.

 

Or maybe I've completely missed the point. His whole essay is worth a read in any case, not just the segments I've quoted.

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Man who has spent the best part of his adult life making byzantinely complicated RPG epics wants people to spend less time making / playing games.

 

Not him though.

 

Someone else. 

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That all reads like someone trying to find an argument for the sake of it.  Was it accompanied by an appropriately click-baity title, or is the too many games it?

 

 

His argument on capitalism is... non existent, but clearly it's the problem.  if you want people to do something, or indeed, not do something, incentivising it in some way is the obvious route, and in the world we live in, that usually comes with dollar signs attached still.  You want the roads fixed, pay them more and give them stability.  I'm sure plenty of folk would walk away from an equally paid, or perhaps even slightly higher art job (or... job they enjoy doing) that is likely less secure etc, and more stressful.

 

"People are doing things they want to do and my life is suffering because of the lack of minions, please read and get rid of your dream career, or most loved hobby so I can continue feeding the problem"

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the barrier to getting media out there has never been lower, you can shoot quality video on a phone and go straight to youtube, make music on a tablet or laptop and publish to a variety of platforms, self publish ebooks and games have digital stores (not carts or physical media runs) with libraries of tools available which don't make producing a good game easier but mean it's easy to chuck out the sort of free shite you see on the app store.

 

of course we've got more of everything than before, what has never been solved is discoverability, metacritic was meant to be the solution but doesn't really solve for the problem of finding the hidden gems, nothing ever has. It's the same problem you see in games with user content, there will be gold but you have to dig for it.

 

if you're time poor it's frustrating but unless somebody comes up with AI which learns your own taste of everything and hunts for it how is it fixed ?

 

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17 minutes ago, matt0 said:

Man who has spent the best part of his adult life making byzantinely complicated RPG epics wants people to spend less time making / playing games.

 

Not him though.

 

Someone else. 

 

See I read it a bit like that (reminded me of when Elton John wanted the internet shut down until he realised that the way to sell more of his music was more modern collaborations.)

 

16 minutes ago, Corranga said:

That all reads like someone trying to find an argument for the sake of it.  Was it accompanied by an appropriately click-baity title, or is the too many games it?

 

 

His argument on capitalism is... non existent, but clearly it's the problem.  if you want people to do something, or indeed, not do something, incentivising it in some way is the obvious route, and in the world we live in, that usually comes with dollar signs attached still.  You want the roads fixed, pay them more and give them stability.  I'm sure plenty of folk would walk away from an equally paid, or perhaps even slightly higher art job (or... job they enjoy doing) that is likely less secure etc, and more stressful.

 

"People are doing things they want to do and my life is suffering because of the lack of minions, please read and get rid of your dream career, or most loved hobby so I can continue feeding the problem"

 

Thing is his implied idea of people going out and making the world better in the US by becoming vigilante pothole techs is already a thing and their repairs are usually dug back up due to liability issues. There's a lot of public works occupations with gaps that aren't getting filled because it won't cover someone's rent, food and utilities.

 

18 minutes ago, Gotters said:

the barrier to getting media out there has never been lower, you can shoot quality video on a phone and go straight to youtube, make music on a tablet or laptop and publish to a variety of platforms, self publish ebooks and games have digital stores (not carts or physical media runs) with libraries of tools available which don't make producing a good game easier but mean it's easy to chuck out the sort of free shite you see on the app store.

 

I think that's a bigger issue for artists. Way more competition now. It was only 20 years ago I couldn't get access to certain books because if it didn't have a local distributor you just had to do without!

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This is a bunch of stuff I've been thinking about for a while, I think a part of it is the democratization of tools, people moan about not making money on Spotify, but the truth is absolutely everyone can make music and put it out there now, not being able to charge £4 for a CD single like it's 1999 anymore would happen anyway because there's way more supply and it erodes the price it can command. Videogames are kinda going the same way, reading Masters of Doom Carmack had to pretend to be a university student because the universities were the only ones with PCs, now computing is everywhere and with the rise of free engines that are way more capable than they ever were, along with free web tutorials on all of them it's a lot easier to make something.

 

And I think there is something in the point that as a society or civilisation we're lurching between a bunch of crises and yet we're spending all the money on more #content than ever before, just a massive boom in all the media industries, $70 billions being thrown around, y'know? Isn't it all a bit pointless? Shouldn't we be putting this towards solving the problems instead of naval gazing? Why is the biggest cultural thing the West has to offer nowadays a new Disney+ series? We're retreating into these lonely pods of infantilisation and comfort and no obligations to each other, and I don't know where it leads other than a harsh correction.

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The argument touches on many truths - except none of it actually makes any sense because he says ‘don’t blame capitalism’. He’s bemoaning the symptoms while ignoring the disease.

 

People should be able to create as much art and spend as much time ‘consuming’ it as they like, while also having the ability and incentive to make society’s infrastructures support everyone in as many ways as it needs to allow them to do so - and to satisfy everyone’s other needs and desires into the bargain. It’s a resource management issue, and nothing more.

 

The system we accept prevents us from having a world where this is real, and that system is capitalism.

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The bit where he exhorts you to look away from the real problem ("don't blame capitalism") tells you that deep down he knows he's writing rubbish.

 

Maybe there are too many games (too many by what definition?) The lowering/removal of barriers of entry to publishing your creative endeavours worldwide does obviously mean that anyone can do these things, and that's probably got some supposed downsides (not everyone has creative endeavours worth publishing or engaging with, and maybe a flood of crap makes the gems harder to find.) But it's clearly a bollocks argument that the issue manifests as some kind of causal link between "too many games" and "too many potholes." It wasn't worth the brain cycles he spent writing that, because he's apparently entirely uninterested in the answers.

 

This isn't a popular line of thinking on here at the moment, because we're in thrall to a non-political thinking where no-one's allowed to join the dots except in niche discussion areas, but the answer is indeed to review what capitalism (especially the US/UK - maybe AUS? - flavours of it) is doing to our worlds.

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37 minutes ago, Gotters said:

 

if you're time poor it's frustrating but unless somebody comes up with AI which learns your own taste of everything and hunts for it how is it fixed ?

 

 

Rllmuk

 

I'm serious, you guys do all the hard work for me. ❤️

 

 

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1 minute ago, Uncle Mike said:

The bit where he exhorts you to look away from the real problem ("don't blame capitalism") tells you that deep down he knows he's writing rubbish.

 

5 minutes ago, ZOK said:

The system we accept prevents us from having a world where this is real, and that system is capitalism.

 

I think that's pretty useless at actually describing where the problems lie though.

 

We've had capitalism forever, and a lot of this stuff like the atomisation of people away from communities towards a lonely existence of media consumption is a pretty recent phenomenon that seems to be due to the internet, unless your non-capitalist alternative is planning on binning the internet as being too bourgeois or whatever, that would continue being a problem.

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20 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

Thing is his implied idea of people going out and making the world better in the US by becoming vigilante pothole techs is already a thing and their repairs are usually dug back up due to liability issues. There's a lot of public works occupations with gaps that aren't getting filled because it won't cover someone's rent, food and utilities.

 

Sounds a lot like capitalism is the problem there too... 

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Just now, RubberJohnny said:

 

 

I think that's pretty useless at actually describing where the problems lie though.

 

We've had capitalism forever, and a lot of this stuff like the atomisation of people away from communities towards a lonely existence of media consumption is a pretty recent phenomenon that seems to be due to the internet, unless your non-capitalist alternative is planning on binning the internet as being too bourgeois or whatever, that would continue being a problem.


It’s not a new argument though, or a recent phenomenon; it’s an age old one. ‘People spend too much time reading novels’, etc etc.

 

I’m sure people said it about sniffing flowers when there was no reading.

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I blame the car, not the internet. But that's a different story. If there were worthwhile jobs to do, people would be doing them. And young people have always pointlessly noodled around on creative endeavours that were going nowhere. It's just now we can see them.

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2 minutes ago, RubberJohnny said:

 

 

I think that's pretty useless at actually describing where the problems lie though.

 

We've had capitalism forever, and a lot of this stuff like the atomisation of people away from communities towards a lonely existence of media consumption is a pretty recent phenomenon that seems to be due to the internet, unless your non-capitalist alternative is planning on binning the internet as being too bourgeois or whatever, that would continue being a problem.

 

We have had capitalism forever. But one of capitalism's key features is that it's unsustainable. We're just currently living in the late stages of it.

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13 minutes ago, therearerules said:

:hmm:

 

It's absolute bullshit. The reasons potholes aren't getting filled in isn't because there's not enough people to do it, it's because wealth isn't being distributed there. The whole argument is complete crap, it couldn't be more wrong.

 

I mean I think he's right that there are too many games coming out at once and that they're taking up a lot of time being played and being made verses other things that need to be done. But we're in the middle of a pandemic where we need to stay at home. And when I start to feel guilty at passing the time when stuck at home I think about how much worse this pandemic would have been if this had happened in the 80's.

 

I suspect some of the column might be guilt over doing quite well (or at keeping his head above water) during these weird times. I know a lot of people that have been questioning their place in the world over the past two years, especially in a system where we have been primarily defined by our occupation. And in part he's right, for base survival the arts count for naught.

 

I've thought a lot about if I'm wasting my time playing games during the pandemic and year one I was guilty of choosing work over recreation  for at least nine months. Pulled that back a lot last year though and I've come round to feeling that my hobby has been a way to relax and come back refreshed and sharper. And it's a hell of a lot better than doing mainstream things like developing an alcohol habit!

 

I think he's discounting the value of doing art for the sake of art. And the value that art holds in giving us meaning, feeding our soul or just giving something for us to look forward to at the end of a hard day. I can guarantee as harsh as he's being on himself as well there's surely potholers who get through the day knowing that they can sink their teeth into one of his RPG's at the end of the day and that his art scratches an itch that some mass market rpgs just don't.

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40 minutes ago, ZOK said:

It’s not a new argument though, or a recent phenomenon; it’s an age old one. ‘People spend too much time reading novels’, etc etc.

 

I’m sure people said it about sniffing flowers when there was no reading.

 

40 minutes ago, Uncle Mike said:

I blame the car, not the internet. But that's a different story. If there were worthwhile jobs to do, people would be doing them. And young people have always pointlessly noodled around on creative endeavours that were going nowhere. It's just now we can see them.

 

39 minutes ago, Benny said:

We have had capitalism forever. But one of capitalism's key features is that it's unsustainable. We're just currently living in the late stages of it.

 

With respect, I really don't get the feeling you guys are actually engaging with the topic.

 

Huge swathes of the population seem to have no friends anymore, no love lives, etc, at a level that is pretty unprecedented, and this has happened only over the last ten to fifteen years - basically from the moment smartphones got introduced and all social communication started being intermediated through the internet (and I expect if you're outside of this demographic and grew up before this happened, this probably isn't noticeable to you). The demographic crisis is going to get a lot worse than we ever expected.

 

11643052-6866649-Rates_of_no_sex_among_a

 

Saying "oh it's just capitalism" is just a way of slotting things into your pre-existing worldview, giving yourself a slap on the back for thinking the right way.

 

But the idea that it's actually the internet that's the problem is a lot scarier, right? The idea that it might be this big corrosive to society thing that you can't ever turn off, that it becomes the "legacy system from hell" that we were forewarned about, I mean what do you even do about that?

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Essentially, he's coming at it from an angle that the consumption of art matters more than the creation of it. Which is a capitalist way of thinking, and does a disservice to the democratisation of creativity.

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10 minutes ago, RubberJohnny said:

With respect, I really don't get the feeling you guys are actually engaging with the topic.

 

Huge swathes of the population seem to have no friends anymore, no love lives, etc, at a level that is pretty unprecedented, and this has happened only over the last ten to fifteen years - basically from the moment smartphones got introduced and all social communication started being intermediated through the internet (and I expect if you're outside of this demographic and grew up before this happened, this isn't noticeable to you). The demographic crisis is going to get a lot worse than we ever expected.

 

Saying "oh it's just capitalism" is just a way of slotting things into your pre-existing worldview, giving yourself a slap on the back for thinking the right way.

 

But the idea that it's actually the internet that's the problem is a lot scarier, right?

 

 

Lack of friends - having to spend more time working than socialising: capitalism

No love lives - too busy working to court anyone: capitalism

Lost in smartphones - actually Facebook, not "the internet". Capitalism

No sex - capitalism makes you ugly

 

Oh it's definitely capitalism. And the fact vested interests want to keep it going is a lot scarier than "the internet" being the problem.

 

But the above is a different discussion than what's actually in the OP essay.

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I think I just think that the thing he's describing (too many games) and the thing you're describing (loneliness and isolation) aren't the same thing.

 

I think even when I was young (most of which was pre-internet and certainly pre- ubiquitous smartphones) this isolation and atomisation was on the way. Not simply because of the internet (although I wouldn't argue with you that it's a factor) but because we've already destroyed our local communities.

 

You drive to your shit job. You hang out all day with a load of other people who also hate being there, then you drive home to your shit house. At the weekend, you and your school friends go into town, get drunk, try to cop off then get in a fight. Rinse and repeat.

 

If you escape that cycle and go off to Uni, you end up doing that again 3 years later, but in a different city, with a shit office job and 50k of debt in a flatshare.

 

Yes, I can see on your graph that the young are reporting this in alarmingly high numbers in a short space of time. But my thesis would that the internet is partly symptom as well as cause. Where do you go? How do you meet people? Where is the sense of community and a place in the world? These things have been brewing for a while, I think.

 

EDIT: plus, of course, this is the age of the supposed 'gig' economy and zero hours contracts etc. Of course people are lonely. God knows how the last two years will have broken societal ties even further.

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7 minutes ago, RubberJohnny said:

 

 

 

With respect, I really don't get the feeling you guys are actually engaging with the topic.

 

Huge swathes of the population seem to have no friends anymore, no love lives, etc, at a level that is pretty unprecedented, and this has happened only over the last ten to fifteen years - basically from the moment smartphones got introduced and all social communication started being intermediated through the internet (and I expect if you're outside of this demographic and grew up before this happened, this isn't noticeable to you). The demographic crisis is going to get a lot worse than we ever expected.

 

11643052-6866649-Rates_of_no_sex_among_a

 

Saying "oh it's just capitalism" is just a way of slotting things into your pre-existing worldview, giving yourself a slap on the back for thinking the right way.

 

But the idea that it's actually the internet that's the problem is a lot scarier, right? The idea that it might be this big corrosive to society thing that you can't ever turn off, that it becomes the "legacy system from hell" that we were forewarned about, I mean what do you even do about that?

This is a completely different argument to the one in the op. He literally states jobs aren't getting done because too many people are playing indie games. The stranglehold of social media over real life socialisation is just something you've come up with.

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I don't think the WWW and capitalism are compatible. Capitalism is based on having finite resources and charging for them. The internet is fundamentally based on sharing information too as many as possible. Whether it be art or other things. Technology is enabling more people to create and share things much more easily.

 

Suppose the middling ground is creating things of value that millions of people want to pay a little for. Although convincing people to pay is another thing altogether.

 

Still not sure if the internet was a good thing or a bad thing to happen TBH. I can see the values on one side and on the flip side I can see the negative effects of people not really engaging on a physical level. I know for a fact I was much more active growing up in the 80s than I am now... meeting up with more friends and getting out and about.

 

Its an odd time to be alive for sure. 

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13 minutes ago, Benny said:

Essentially, he's coming at it from an angle that the consumption or art matters more than the creation of it. Which is a capitalist way of thinking, and does a disservice to the democratisation of creativity.

 

No because throughout he insists that creation is important and still valid and so on.

 

The problem he highlights is akin to "elite oversupply", where too many privileged, educated people are competing for the same few positions.

 

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Elite overproduction is a concept developed by Peter Turchin, which describes the condition of a society which is producing too many potential elite-members relative to its ability to absorb them into the power structure. This, he hypothesizes, is a cause for social instability, as those left out of power feel aggrieved by their relatively low socioeconomic status.

 

It's not just games and media creation or streamers, that describes so many things in the modern world, the crypto guys, wallstreetbets, etc. All very smart, educated classes aggrieved at their merely middle-class standing and wanting to become the next Bezos.

 

Like I'm bringing in all these concepts and in analysis here and getting it dismissed with "nah it's just capitalizms bruh" is frustrating, continue to only see things on the surface level through your own preconceptions, I guess.

 

4 minutes ago, therearerules said:

This is a completely different argument to the one in the op. He literally states jobs aren't getting done because too many people are playing indie games. The stranglehold of social media over real life socialisation is just something you've come up with.

 

3 minutes ago, ZOK said:

Yes - it’s certainly interesting, but not what was being discussed.

 

No, he mentions atomisation of communities multiple times as a big driver of his phenomenon. He literally highlights the number of games doubling in this same post-smartphone period, he just seems to expect some familiarity with these arguments and doesn't lead you through every connection.

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1 minute ago, MattyP said:

Capitalism is based on having finite resources and charging for them. The internet is fundamentally based on sharing information to as many as possible. Whether it be art or other things.

NFTs, mate.

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