Thursday, March 29, 2012

BRICS: Pardon Our Dust

Brand new world-system under construction.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mass Fan Effect

Videogame fan culture has come of age. Case in point: the disastrous conclusion of Bioware's blockbuster science-fiction role-playing videogame Mass Effect 3.

First, some context: Mass Effect has always been one of the better science-fiction role-playing franchises around. While its storyline has some of the flaws of Cold War science fiction (i.e. excessive militarism and a penchant for conspiracy theory) the series always had epic scale and scope, created a universe full of interesting species, and showcased credible and emotionally complex characters. Most of all, the game emphasized in-game relationships and romances, creating a level of emotional connection far deeper than the average space opera.

Mass Effect 3 was heavily advertised as the capstone of the trilogy. At the very end of the game, there is an epic final battle between the united forces of the galaxy, and a monstrous enemy which threatens to destroy them all. But instead of a final resolution, the only thing which ends up being destroyed is... the fans' faith and trust in the franchise.

 Gamefront describes the fan reaction here, while another fan's personal reaction is here.

The critical reaction is best summarized by Jeremy Jahns.

Bioware's own social network has been the center of some lively discussions, most notably a prospective screenwriter's perspective.

My own take on this: I'm a media scholar conversant in the major literary, theatrical and filmic modernisms of the 20th century, as well as late 20th and early 21st century science fiction literature and films, the media cultures of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations, and finally role-playing and stealth espionage videogames.

I've seen Mass Effect 3's ending, and I can confirm that the fans have every reason to be outraged. The ending would be astonishingly bad in any media, but it is particularly galling to videogame fans, simply because it is the cynical betrayal of everything which was good about the series (open worlds, player choices, actions with consequences).

But the story doesn't end there. The fans sprang into action, by posting online, investigating the making of the ending, and finally writing letters, joining online groups, creating memes, and signing petitions. Unlike previous generations of fans, who could only organize slowly and within small groups, today's transnational videogame fans have all the digital tools at their fingers -- including the tools of fan fiction, fan vids and fan art -- and they're starting to use them. If the decision-makers at EA, the corporate owner of Bioware,  think they can ignore or dismiss the collective power of fans, they are in for a rude awakening.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Occupy On the March

Occupy's tendrils of resistance are spreading far and wide:
 JP Morgan Chase accused of scamming credit card users -- details here.

Greg Smith openly resigns from the Vampire Squid, a.k.a. Goldman Sachs.

Somewhat further afield, but no less important -- fan communities are beginning to protest neoconservative videogame narratives which sneer at player choice and celebrate imperial genocide.

And yes, videogames really are one of the 21st century's most democratic, dynamic, and important art-forms.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Work, Work, Work

Russian rappers Triagrutika and Smoky Mo take aim at Russia's plutocrats:

На Работу [At Work]

Oh, and in case you're wondering why we 99Percenters are so pissed off, here's a little hint:

Student Debt Clock