Now Cuck Philosophy has an interesting little video discussing the cultural impact Capitalism has had both on optimism as well as envisioning the future
. Now briefly, he argues that Capitalism has created a societal wide cynicism that's lent us to be unable to envision a future, a real, true future that's radically different from modern times, so to overcome this "cancelling of the future" we see the regurgitation of prior cultural norms, a false consciousness is created that's steeped heavily in nostalgia. The strange trend of things like, for example, vaporwave, is the 80's nostalgia it conjures up even for people who weren't alive during the 80's.
I highly recommend you watch the video, as what I want to discuss here is tangentially related to it.
Now, I love video games. I've enjoyed video games since I played the original Mercenaries
on my Playstation 2 back in the day, and they've always been an abiding passion of mine. Even though my preferences in video games have changed over the year, I still enjoy them immensely. Yet, as I've personally grown and changed, so to has the industry--and not necessarily for the better.
There was a big stink when the latest iteration of gaming consoles (not to say I'm a "filthy console peasant", PC gaming is my main platform) cranked up the online functionality/necessity, most notably when it was discovered that the Xbox One required you to always be connected to the internet. More than any other industry, what gaming is
has changed a great deal: corporate entities like Electronic Arts and Activision are pioneering a new conception of gaming: that of gaming being a service
rather than a form of entertainment or even (derisively) a "toy".
Now to those unfamiliar with the concept, gaming as a "service" is this industry standard, whereby rather than simply releasing a video game "as is" and enjoying a fun experience, instead games are "supported" long after their initial release. What this means in theory is that games would be continually updated, new content would be added, bugs would be fixed after launch, so on and so forth. In practice, this generally has meant that companies will nickle and dime you for paid downloadable content; while expansion packs have always existed in gaming the level of pure corporate greed outshines even the infamy of Oblivion's horse armor DLC.
While wasting a few dollars on horse armor prompted derisive laughter in the past, now we have videogames wherein you throw far more money at what amounts to a virtual slot machine for the hope of getting a character skin that's simply their normal model with a slightly blue tint, the promise of "fixing glitches after launch" instead turned into releasing games in a buggy state, and gaming itself has perhaps been hit by the worst "made by committee" feeling in recent memory.
The industry doesn't really make "games" anymore, but instead chases after trends: multiplayer open world battle royales with crafting and loot boxes.
Where before no one really knew how
to get a game working online (I remember spending hours with my father just trying to figure out what a "network adapter" for a PS2 even was) now you'll be hard pressed to find a game that doesn't have online functionality.
Curious enough, in gaming now we see a paradox: video games have become more "open" (to the point that the much vaunted "Open World" found in rare games like GTA are now an industry standard) yet they feel more enclosed and lifeless at worst, and at best they feel as though you're wandering through a virtual desert with nothing to do. We play games with more people than ever before, and yet the memories, experiences, and interactions we have with those people are borderline non-existent. I've played quite a few matches of Apex Legends
by now, and can only recall talking with my teammates only once.
Capitalism always grows, and it creates the illusion of progress as it does, but the growth potential of Capitalism is always
horizontal, thus in our (hopefully) late-stage capitalist society, now that it's found itself out of frontiers to colonize, we instead see a world wide feature creep in capitalism itself. Pointless new experiences are added onto our entertainment to justify further monetization: no longer are our movies isolated works, no longer are they even just based off of novels and comics, but instead they're "cinematic universes" cross pollinating one another to suck more profit out of moviegoers: no longer can you have just
a Captain America or Iron Man movie, instead they must be part of a network of other movies in the same franchise and deftly market one another to increase their total profitability, all the while "nerd bloggers" on websites like youtube are doing toy unboxing and talking about the "lore behind Thanos" all to drum up more sales.
Here I must disagree with some other Marxists in their assumption that nostalgia for the past is inherently reactionary, or rather a "defense mechanism" of Capitalism. Instead, I would argue that nostalgia is a kind of vulgar rebellion against horizontal society. More and more we find ourselves connected in a great big web that the bourgeoisie spun for us, and thus it's no surprise that in this increasingly horizontal society--wherein it's not enough to merely work, but to attend company outings, to keep up a social media presence, to be on call twenty-four-seven, and to embrace corporate initiatives trying to meld your work and private life together--we like to imagine a time when things were "simpler", or really: less horizontal
I remember playing World of Warcraft in late vanilla and early Burning Crusade, I've played every expansion since then--minus the latest one--and slowly watch more features creep into the game as the population grew smaller and smaller: LFG, Pet Battles, Faster Combat, Flying Mounts, New Races, New Classes, More Dailies, Achievements, Streamlined Questing.
Each of these features was introduced in isolation, but each of them worked towards creating a more "accessible" and "streamlined" experience. Yet curiously enough, to a large portion of the playerbase, all these new things they were adding seemed to take away from the whole of the game. By the latest expansion, I realized I wasn't having fun: I was just going from zone to zone doing dailies to get better loot so I can do dungeons to get more
better loot and so on and so on.
It's now gotten to the point that the company which once insisted that people "think you (want classic WoW) but you don't" has thrown up their arms and decided to create their very own classic servers which I theorize will eventually overtake the base game in terms of population. Yet it's not just Activision-Blizzard that caved: Capcom remade Resident Evil 2, Square Enix is in the process of remaking Final Fantasy 7, the Ace Combat series experienced a long-awaited revival after the failure of Assault Horizon, Devil May Cry is getting a sequel after the failure of DmC
, all these games tread upon the past and--in the case of the sequels--openly revive established franchises.
More and more companies are trying to cash into nostalgia, because the market for nostalgia has grown exponentially large. This isn't a passing trend, but rather people who are broken and beaten with pessimism about the future (if they can even conceptualize a future) becoming another growing market that Capitalism can profit off of. There's a general culture, especially in anonymous forums like 4chan, that the most one can hope for in the gaming industry is another great crash to wipe the slate clean: while not a radical hope in itself, it's has a small seed of radical thought within it: things will not ever
get better nor can they be reformed into being better, the best we can hope for is a crash to set things back.
Whether the seed grows, depends on the efforts of marxists to help gamers and other fans of niche hobbies, begin to conceptualize the cynicism they feel under a materialist worldview, and to understand that it isn't ideologues or mere human greed that are ruining their hobbies: the changes within them are necessary under Capitalism.
As for myself, I'm no less immune to nostalgia than anyone else, and fully intend to return to classic World of Warcraft when it's finally released.