The new culture is here and a big part of it is Twitch and computer games. Two of my favourite streamers on Twitch say “I don’t talk politics and religion”. Instantaneously two of the most important subjects are erased from discussion. It displays an immaturity, an inability to discuss things without descending into wrath.
Its also very negligent of how important games are in the culture. Elite, GTA 5, Witcher 3, Minecraft, League of Legends and World of Warcraft are perhaps the most powerful cultural artefacts extant at this moment. They certainly make more money than cinema, music and novels do. Game of thrones is perhaps the last gasp of the old media, the culmination of TV and film making prowess fusing with a series of best selling books. This is the culture.
The good news is that Elite, GTA 5, the Witcher, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft are all fairly conservative in their values. GTA 5 is conservative??? well yes, because it ruthlessly mocks the entitlement of liberalism at the same time as it mocks cultural conservatism (which I have no love for either). Even Game of thrones is conservative in a funny kind of way, its depiction of evil certainly gives no quarter. The Ramsay Boltons of this world are alive and well in ISIS and the show suggests that these people will take over if they aren’t fought tooth and nail.
Just a few minutes ago I witnessed perhaps the most fantastic validation of my beliefs in crystallised form. “I bet David Braben (the game developer behind Elite) is a Tory voter!”, (said with disdain) then later from the same person. “Elite seems to be about real life”. Isn’t it interesting that a conservative seems to have a handle on what real life is like! Elite is a very political game, its new patch is titled ‘powerplay’. This is inherently about politics. I’ve spent the last few days fighting the Green party of Dulos. (The thought that every exploded ship was a wind turbine in flames fuelled my desire to fry them all) there are communists, fascists, democrats, capitalists, socialists, the aforementioned greens and every group of every political persuasion between.
Why is it popular games seem to be conservative when being conservative could hardly be less popular with young people? My theory is that its because they are interactive. Games need to reward players. Games that have economic systems have to find ways to give players a reason to do what they do in the game. The reasons why people seek rewards in virtual reality are almost always the same as they are in reality. Elite is the game I’ve spent the most time in. The three most lucrative jobs in the game at the moment are bounty hunter, trader and explorer, eg law enforcement, entrepreneur and pioneer. It doesn’t get more conservative than that.
The Elite community has a certain code of honour to it too. A few days ago there was news that someone was camped outside Sagitarius A (the super massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy) and was murdering explorers there. A few days later two other players had flown well over twelve hours to take this guy out and defend explorers who make the trip out there. (Exploration ships themselves are invariably poorly equipped for combat) There are numerous other stories of a similar nature.
Finally there is the Witcher 3. I’ve only watched this on Twitch and Steam. It is jaw dropping. In a nutshell you play a monster hunter trying to rescue a surrogate daughter from a pillaging, rapacious torturing group of barbarians. But the real story is in the side missions. Every mission has a story. The world may be fantasy but the motivation (and voice acting) of the characters is the most realistic I’ve ever seen. Yes there are even sex scenes, but they don’t seem pornographic to me. There seems to be genuine attraction between the characters based upon personal history, emotional bonds and mutual interests, and an almost child like vulnerability to the sexuality which is searingly realistic. This isn’t Lara Croft running around with impossibly large boobs because a developer thought ‘why not?’. This is the new Shakespeare, it is art describing the world as it is. Its a shame that to talk about reality we have to enter the fantasy genre but then this is nothing new, Utopia and 1984 spring to mind, there’s a reason why huge numbers of conservative voters wouldn’t tell pollsters their true voting intentions.