You Guys Are Both Wrong

Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life? 
Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair. 
Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life? 
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. 
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

I don’t care about your stories of out-smarting some CPU, and I don’t care about your sand-castles unless I get to storm them. There’s only one thing worth caring about in the world of video games, and that is the deliciously sweet and salty taste of nerd tears. Specifically, yours.

The world is a cruel place. Nothing can survive here for longer than a microsecond before getting eaten by something bigger, stronger, or smarter. If you’re lucky, whatever natural gifts you’re given let you live long enough to fuck, and give your genes an extra chance to figure out how the hell they’re going to give You 2.0 a better chance to survive. It’s like a CS:S pub server where everyone is packing an M4 and you’ve got your cute little 9mm, and you’re just running around praying you can pick someone off or take a dead teammate’s dropped weapon and hope for the best.

And yet, we live in a world with beauty, whether you find it in the things you build or the stories you tell. But that beauty is shaped and refined by the pressures of survival. That’s why a real-world animal like a giraffe or a Mountain Cat are far more beautiful than any Pokemon. Pokemon are flights of fantasy created by artists. Animals are organic machines carefully whittled into their current form by tens of thousands of years of evolutionary pressure.

Alex, your Deus Ex stories are good for the occasional water cooler conversation, and that’s it. If you were playing Chess against Deep Blue, I’d be impressed. But you’re not. You’re playing a game that is designed to make you feel like a superhuman. That’s about as masturbatory as you can get without holding a penis. (Especially since you’re playing it on Normal difficulty.) It’s like you’re expecting me to be impressed with a story about how you cleverly kicked a whole litter of puppies. Now, if you took out ten guards in real life–or even a multiplayer video game–I’d think you’re on to something. For crying out loud, I beat the game without dying, and I shut the fuck up about it after a day or two.

Nate, you can keep on building your cute little fortresses all you like, but they aren’t worth squat unless they’re good at keeping a real, live, semi-intelligent person out. They’re not hard to find! We can start off easy, if you like. There are some real bottom feeders out there on Battle.net. But guess what? They’re doing something you’re not. They’re putting themselves out there, testing their abilities and exposing their ego to another real, live, human being. For sure, they’ll get knocked down, but maybe they get knocked down in six minutes instead of five. Then they pick themselves back up and try again. You can’t lose in spreadsheets, and no one sees you lose in Dwarf Fortress but yourself.

Perhaps the biggest luxury in the first world is that we can wake up every day, eat breakfast, take a shower, and head off to work in blissful ignorance of the thousands of human lives we’re crushing per minute. Every opportunity we take (and every one we squander) is a dozen we’re depriving from other people. How about instead of using that borrowed time to jizz onto a PC monitor and call it “creative”, we start earning those opportunities instead?

Because when you beat someone, you’ve done something good for them. You have told them, “Listen, this is a problem. You will not be able to get stronger unless you fix it. So fix it, and come back.”

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