Yourselves in Video Games

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I like video games. There are the old classics like Mario Bros. or Pokèmon Yellow, and there are the ones that have been put out more recently, like the Mass Effect Trilogy or Saint’s Row IV. In the more recent games you play as yourself, designing every little detail about your avatar’s physical appearance and backstory. Throughout each of these games stories, you can choose to act in whatever way pleases you most. The game can either be a recess for your deepest and most twisted desires, or a pleasant affirmation of your own moral purity. Either way, the Avatar which you design becomes you in one way or another. In a previous post I asserted that you can define yourself based on preference. This assertion can be maintained to not only include material preference but also preference of action. What does it say about you if you decide to give your avatar’s vast wealth away to the millions of in-game people who need it most? Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, what does it say about you if you make your avatar level entire city blocks with the wave of his hand?

               While researching this topic I happened across a video that explores this idea perfectly. In the video ‘Controlling vs. Being your Video Game Avatar’, Mike Rugnetta explores the differentiation between just controlling your in game self, and becoming your in game self. In my opinion, all video games have to contain some portion of yourself in them, or else the game fails to immerse the player and the player never truly invests in the game, the player leaves without having learned anything from the experience. For more on this, watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLkyNzFmlHA&list=PLtHP6qx8VF7c0-JLPGLoIOl9LEpXmsBi7

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Otaku Culture

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Nerd culture is an interesting phenomenon, one with which I cannot speak about with a great deal of authority, considering I have only been alive for the post-popularization of it. I consider myself a nerd, but that really doesn’t mean that much anymore. I like comic books, Dungeons and Dragons, and video games, but so do millions, if not billions of others these days. One can no longer go twenty-four hours without seeing a Marvel t-shirt or making some sort of obscure reference to a TV show that only you have seen. The word ‘nerd’ really no longer is enough to cover what has become so mainstream, so I went looking for another. The most appropriate word that I found was the word ‘Otaku’ which refers to, in a general sense, obsessive interest in one particular thing. There are lots of great articles about this word, but the most entertaining by far was written by Patton Oswald and titled, ‘Wake up Geek Culture, Time to Die.’.

In this article, Patton Oswald reflects back onto his own life and what kind of things influenced him and made him into the person he eventually became. He recognizes that at first there was a clear, hard line between ‘nerds’ and ‘normals’, but as time went on what used to be buried under a threatening layer of ostricization became happy and welcoming to everybody, and therefore open to the market. Now Otaku culture is everywhere, and something special has been lost about it. There’s no longer anything special about wearing a Green Lantern tee or a Minecraft Bracelet, because everyone knows about it. For more, read Patton’s article here: http://www.wired.com/2010/12/ff_angrynerd_geekculture/all/1

Or watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHmIYMFM7AQ&list=PLtHP6qx8VF7c0-JLPGLoIOl9LEpXmsBi7

 

The Capitalist Individual

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In this post I would like to challenge our idea of individualism. Try looking not through just your own eyes, but through those that seem to be promoting that concept. How do you define who you are? More often than not, who you are is defined by your personal preferences and how those preferences are perceived by others. For example, I know I am different from my roommate because his favorite color is grey, and mine is green. He likes to play bridge building games, and I like eight directional fighters. To an extent, these preferences are what our economy is based off of. Ads are more sophisticated than ever, now able to search through our internet browsing history in order to determine what kinds of things we would be more likely to buy. Are we are simply the assets that big businesses need to attain and liquidate in order to turn a profit.

In an article on the blog ‘Savage Minds’, Adam Fish examines the financial behaviors of Facebook, and how their expenditures are expected to turn our status updates and profile stalking into cold digital cash. Two of the most notable annexes that Facebook has made in the past year have been their potential acquisition of a drone company and the Oculus Rift, both of which will further the immersion and availability of Facebook, and therefore the frequency at which we see advertisements for the next big thing. Are we individuals? Or are we just being herded into the best place for all of our money to be sidled out of our pockets? For more, read the entire article at http://savageminds.org/tag/oculus-rift/

Culture Space

Culture heavily influences what the individual considers to be public space or personal space. Depending on how each person lives his or her everyday life, personal space can range anywhere from 0 to 40cm. In Boston, Massachusetts, it is common courtesy to avoid touching others and avoid interfering with other people’s business, but in Cairo, Egypt, personal space virtually doesn’t exist on the streets according to journalist Leila Fadel. People do what they need to do to get where they need to go, even if that means getting a little close to another person. In the mornings, people press up against one another in order to flash money and get service.

Although touching total strangers might seem strange and unsanitary to us, Fadel also notices in her recounting of her visit to Egypt that there were unexpected benefits as well. She feels as though if she were to fall over, or accidently hurt herself in some way, there would immediately be a thousand bodies to help her back up and keep her moving on her way. This strange reduction or removal of personal space seemed to result in the formation of a culture space, where everybody relies on everybody, instead of each body relying on him or her self.

I like to assert that formation of cultural quirks and features all originate in environmental necessity. If anything seems out of place or unique in a certain culture, chances are that there is some condition that people needed to adapt to that resulted in the formation of that specific cultural feature. For example, in Cairo the sheer number of people living there combined with the little to no space that the population has to work with results in the reduction of the commonly accepted ‘personal space bubble’, and the acceptance of people touching one another.

Sources: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/05/05/181126380/how-different-cultures-handle-personal-space

The Moral Dilemma of the Cochlear Implant

Auditory nerve damage can occur from any of a significant number of serious diseases, or can simply be passed down from father or mother to son or daughter. Deafness, in any case, results in the formation of a fascinating social anomaly, one in which one person may not even exist on the same level of perception as another person. So the social connections that would be made in a normal fashion are taken off of the table immediately. Other routes must be taken in order to form relationships and communicate. This of course resulted in the formation of sign language, which ended up enabling those that are deaf to form communities and family units. With the formation of these communities and family units comes a culture.

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If a baby is born without hearing, a doctor can safely give said baby a cochlear implant as early as fourteen months, which will allow the baby to progress through learning language and social interactions as normally as a baby who was born with hearing.

In the article ‘Some Ethical Dimensions of Cochlear Implantation for Deaf Children and Their Familes’, Merv Hyde and Des Power of Griffith University, Hyde and Power Explore the idea that suddenly gifting hearing back into a prelingual child disrupts the formation of that unique familial culture and that deafness is not just seen as a disease, but as a way of life. This dilemma tends to not occur in hearing families that have had a deaf baby, but creates a problem in partially or fully deaf families when the option to have the insertion done presents itself through a doctor or some other medium. The moral dilemma lies in whether denying the baby hearing is objectively wrong, or if denying the baby hearing is simply choosing for the baby to grow into a unique part of human society.

Sources: http://jdsde.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/1/102.full

Treatment of Amazon Workers

We live in an age where the individual is championed by the many and forming an identity that is fresh, new and different is key to eventually attaining success. Although at first the feel of this concept might seem attractive and empowering, it inevitably results in the catering to this individual idea in capitalistic marketing. Why should you have to leave your couch that you bought with your money that you earned to get something that you want?? The answer that Amazon.com has come up with is that you shouldn’t. With the rise of this concept came the rise of the Amazon Empire which allowed the individual, with a click of the mouse, to summon any item that they desire to his or her doorstep in a matter of days.

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In the article ‘My Week as an Amazon Insider’ by Carole Cadwalladr, Cadwalladr details her experiences and interactions while working undercover at Amazon to investigate accusations of inhumane and unfair working conditions at the Amazon distribution center in Swansea, Wales. In her week at this distribution center Cadwalladr felt as though she were catching a glance at and into the ugly soul of capitalistic success. At that warehouse, the non-permanent employees are given only 16p (25 cents) above minimum wage,  and are required to work 101/2 hours a day while still being expected to remain healthy. If a non-permanent employee is sick more than three times in a three month period, they are promptly dismissed. For more, see the article at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work

This article is a prime example of how capitalism is a double edged sword. It does champion the individual, but the cost is doing whatever it takes to please the inexorable insatiability said individual, even if it means taxing the many.