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Video Games That Make You Realize how Meaningless Life Really is

Recently I’ve found myself wanting video games back in my life. It occurred to me that I didn’t have to get a complicated video game, I could just play one of the many video games available free online. I hadn’t tried out the games on social networking sites yet, so I dove in and started playing Crime City on Google+ (it’s like mafia wars on facebook). What I discovered horrified me.

Crime City is not really a game in the traditional sense. There is no way to lose; it’s all about constant upward progress with no real obstacles, meaning, or end. You are given a certain amount of energy to use, and once you use it up committing crimes and such you just have to wait for it to regenerate. You can’t go to jail or die. Time is the only real commodity, which can be exchanged for money by simply clicking on jobs. You can buy buildings and make your own little crime city, and these buildings will slowly accumulate cash, but they usually don’t pay themselves off for about a year (especially if you upgrade them). The game is a strikingly good example of the nature of capitalism: the constant drive to reinvest, the endless accumulation, and the loss of meaning in life. Looking over the cities of my mafia members, I could see quite clearly the struggle between having a nice looking little town or a cash producing industrial complex. Players are allowed to get two of most every building, a good financial choice but poor aesthetically.  Some players clearly compromised, with a line of meaningless doppelganger buildings on the border of their city and a nicer intentional image in the center. Some just abandoned all hope of a nice town and paved everything over with concrete, shoving all of the buildings to one side.

I struggled with this dichotomy for some time in the game, between making money and having a pretty home, and each time I had this struggle I realized that there was absolutely no point to the game. Was I supposed to make money? Have the best looking city? Have the highest stats? Kill the most people? Every accomplishment became a means to more accomplishments and thus lost value. Eventually I sold all of my buildings and put down grass and dirt where the concrete used to be, and I remade my crime city into Crime Park. The ironic thing about my park is that now that I’m not constantly looking for buildings to reinvest my money I have more money than I know what to do with, and once again I realized how pointless the game is.

Looking around, almost every single game on social networking sites follows this model (even the Real time strategy games and The Sims Social). It’s a good model because it creates an opportunity for the game creators to sell you things in the game for real money. I didn’t think people would fall into the trap, but probably about 20 out of 450 of my mafia members have used real money in the game, and I have seen a person who spent at least $300 on his city. To reiterate, someone spent enough money to feed a starving child for a year on fake buildings in a meaningless game.

The point of the game, in the end, is status. Just as with capitalism. It’s not about what makes you happy, it’s about what makes other people jealous of you; it’s about your jealousy of others. After helping a less powerful mafia member kill a boss he told me “Wow, I’ll be so happy when I can do as much damage as you.” Of course, the game scales up with your power, such that you always feel less than adequate, needing something more. You’ll never be happy in such a perverse system.

Video games don’t have to be this way, and they shouldn’t be this way (and the same goes for real life). This contemporary iteration of meaningless social games is a reflection of our social ills: we are looking for games not to enhance our lives, but to take up time, be addictive, and provide symbols of status. We are looking for games that are trying to sell us something. One mafia member renamed his city “Capitalism is Crime.” I would also say “Crime City is Capitalism.”

-Prometheus

Alright, who’s trying to hack my email account?

I got an email 2 days ago:

Prometheus,

Someone recently tried to sign in to your Google Account, psychesingularity@gmail.com. We prevented the sign-in attempt in case this was a hijacker trying to access your account. Please review the details of the sign-in attempt:

May 9, 2012 5:29am GMT
IP Address: 37.152.7.132
Location: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

If you do not recognize this sign-in attempt, someone else might be trying to access your account. You should sign in to your account and reset your password immediately. Find out how at http://support.google.com/accounts?p=reset_pw

Sincerely,
The Google Accounts Team

I of course reset my password. I know I’ve said that we need to accept a degree of loss of privacy in this transition, but this isn’t cool. The email doesn’t specify, but I would assume that this person in Jordan has my password, or I wouldn’t be warned about it.

Anyway, I’m glad Google was on top of this.

Googley Eyes

I’ve written previously about privacy, our inevitable loss of it, and why it’s not only ok, but good and necessary. Nevertheless, I must rant for a few more moments because Google has changed their privacy policy once again and everyone is a-twitter, freaking out about the world. Please relax and listen to me for a second.

While looking for news on the internet (incidentally using Google news), I stumbled upon an article “Why you might want to delete your Google browser history before next week.” Was my browser history going to be stored somewhere next week where I could never delete it? I was intrigued, so I read the article, which simply talked about Google’s privacy policy change which integrates privacy policies across all of its services. This will simplify things quite a bit, and is strongly beneficial to Google’s overall goal of integrating all of its products into one powerful singular product with many features, thus calling in a paradigm shift in the internet with Google a step ahead of the competition. It’s exactly like what Apple did with the iPhone, issuing a paradigm shift which rendered cameras, mp3 players, and phones somewhat obsolete (even while other phones had offered the same services in a less sleek and fast form, not affecting other devices much).

Google’s master plans aside, people are freaking out because of this policy change, and honestly I’m not quite sure why. Almost all of the comments on the article I found were to the effect of “I’m deleting everything Google related on my computer and using other search engines,” or “ this is the beginning of NAZI germany/the world is ending.” One lone woman put forth the idea that what you do on the internet is fundamentally not yours anymore, and in quick order she too was called a NAZI, or communist or something. Yet nowhere did people connect what was specifically happening in the policy change to any possible negative consequences. All I saw was fear: pure, irrational fear.

Here’s the thing: from the moment you leave your house, you will be watched, you will be listened to, and you will be examined. You will be videotaped and recorded, and everything that is observable about you will be observed. This is not a bad thing, and to understand this you must free yourself from the context of industrialism and nations. The truth is it is not “big brother” who is watching you; it is everyone, including you. We all are watching each other, just as nations watch each other with spy satellites. We allow ourselves to be spied on because there is no choice; you can’t control a man’s eyeball and you can’t control empty space. If we didn’t watch each other closely we couldn’t possibly form a cohesive unit.

This doesn’t mean you have to give away your social security number, or address, or any personal information you don’t want to. It means that you need to be more responsible with that information. It is entirely possible to use the internet with millions of people trying to steal your identity, and never let them get what they want; it’s completely up to you.

-Prometheus

The Internet is Basically Our Superconsciousness

I feel that I should be quite explicit here in case this connection has not been fully formed for some readers. I’ve talked in this blog about the joining of our thoughts and identities, the convergence of our consciousness, and the internet is a huge part of that. Of course the internet isn’t everything. A vast amount of human information is transmitted and processed beyond the reaches of the internet, but the internet will soon inevitably consist of practically all human interaction.

Like each of us, the internet isn’t a “thing,” it is a verb. We are not our flesh and brains as the internet is not servers, computers, and fiber-optic cables. The internet is the interaction of these things, the network of information being transferred. With the internet we are able to expand our consciousnesses in many ways which would have been unthinkable to people even 100 years ago: we can see across the world instantaneously, download more text in a minute than could be read in a lifetime, and communicate efficiently with millions of people simultaneously.

Carrying a smartphone around drastically increases the user’s knowledge. You may say that a person with a cell phone doesn’t know the things that can be found on the internet through the device, but I don’t see that difference. if I was to ask a person what the population of Egypt was and they told me the answer after looking it up on their smart phone, I’d say for all intents and purposes that person knew the population of Egypt, and the only reason that it matters that they had to look it up was the time delay that caused.

Speaking of Egypt, remember that revolution that happened earlier this year? It had no real leaders, no organization except for the internet. Thousands of youth were able to form a coherent consciousness and purpose, a unity of spirit because of the communicative power of the internet. People speak of raising consciousness and the birth of nations as if these are figurative sayings, but there is a literal edge to the consciousness that encompasses a common people.

The internet brings us closer to our universal consciousness, closer to the components that consist of our collective being. These components are the same as those that make up our individual consciousnesses:

Memory

History is the memory of the human race. Like our own memory it is not so much a video recording of the past, it is a narrative of our journey. Our collective memories, like our individual memories, are illusions, mental constructs which we keep in our minds because they match up with what we know of the world and the narrative we’ve constructed. As individuals we store and access our information in specific ways, ways which can be inefficient at times (try saying the alphabet backwards). As a collective consciousness, we work to improve the way we store and access information, notably with tools like Google, which is spending much time and energy cataloging the world’s books and looking for new ways for everyone to search through the wealth of information about the human narrative.

Sensory Experience

As the Internet currently exists, we are fed primarily audio and visual information about our environment. We can use webcams to monitor remote locations, in effect having eyes miles away from our bodies (People should really be more creeped out by video cameras). Sensory experience is more valuable than purer information like text because it is personal. Being able to hear the voice of someone across the world is much more valuable than seeing a text message from them, and it makes us feel closer to each other. The more personally we can feel each other’s presence, the less it will matter how far we are from each other.

Information Processing

Actually thinking about information can be much more important than simply experiencing it, and the internet is certainly helping us do that. A network of blogs, newspapers, and forums are constantly interpreting information from each respective source, and spewing out new perspectives on world events. This is much like the way our individual minds reel from new information, reacting to it, reacting to our reaction, and eventually forming a happy middle ground of understanding.

Mapping

Our minds’ ability to map the external physical world is remarkable and incredibly important to our consciousness. Our personal kinesthetic awareness guides our body movements, and our mind simultaneously maps the three dimensional external environment and stores it in our memory. Once again Google (sometimes I feel like I’m advertising for Google) has been working to map the physical environment encompassing the human consciousness: our roads, our terrain, the insides of our buildings, our bodies, everything is being mapped by Google. GPS is another big tool too, akin to our kinesthetic awareness, our awareness of our personal placement. We no longer need to map our environments in our heads because the human race is handling it for us.

These properties of consciousness are just to name a few. There are many other similarities, such as the fact that 99% of the information contained on the internet is in the so-called deep web, parts of the internet inaccessible to search. This is akin to our own unconscious thought.

The growth of the internet and its spread into every facet of our interactions is the growth of our superconsciousness. As networks such as telephone lines and Television channels and security cameras get incorporated into the internet for greater efficiency, our knowledge and experience will become more connected. Through the internet we will all become the eyes of the human intelligence, and our thoughts will come to such a level of unification that our actions may seem to be delegated from a higher source. When the internet ceases to run, so will Man.

-Prometheus