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On Foxconn and MMORPG's

"Send us teachers."
Peter Thompson, 6th grader, in defense of Earth to the alien galactic council
Bruce Coville, My Teacher Flunked the Planet


At GDC this past spring, one of the packed-till-bursting presentations as the crowning mark on the last day of the conference was by Ernest Adams, the founder of IGDA and a game industry visionary. Single-Player, Multiplayer, MMOG: Design Psychologies for Different Social Contexts, or, It's Not About You.

He gives a description of the burgeoning market of F2P (free-to-play) online games in China, and the business models they operate under in order to turn a profit. Gone is any ideal of fairness or game balance or tailoring the experience to invoke rich emotional empathy in the player. It's down to Raph Koster's laws. One, violence is inevitable (regardless of game mechanics). Two, hate is good (conflict drives social bonds). Three, no matter how good the admin, everyone will hate him (because he has power and they cannot know him). Four, it's a service, a world, a community - not a game.

"God forbid," Ernest Adams says in response, at minute 41:46, "the game world is a reflection of the real world! Who the hell wants a game world with all the misery and oppression of the real world? Why don't we just throw in cancer and Alzheimer's while we're at it? They're not fair!"

It was meant to shock Westerners - why would people who lived by mob laws under a totalitarian government possibly want to escape to a fantasy world of... more cutthroat feudal mafia politics?

The answer - to learn.

China is going through a complex evolution. The southern coast has become a land of massive factories employing hundreds of thousands of poor rural folk at barely living wages to mass-produce cheap goods to rich nations all over the globe.

This year, in a space of about 5 months, there were 11 reported suicide attempts, 9 successful, of workers at the 300,000-employee Foxconn factory complex in Shenzhen, China [Shenzhen Post, May 27, 2010].

Yahoo Finance reports that the era of cheap made-in-China goods is ending. [Elaine Kurtenbach, July 8, 2010]. Forced by worker strikes, companies are pulling up roots and moving to more fertile pastures in even poorer nations.

Foxconn claims to have brought prosperity to a destitute region. Apple's iPhones and iPads are manufactured at Foxconn, and Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, defends the factory by naming their on-site movie theater, their pool, and the fact that Chinese workers come dreaming of a better life. [Jonathan Robins, Sky News Online, June 2, 2010] But in order to truly understand prosperity, the people needed more than corporate CEO's sweeping in to maximize their own profits.

You gotta learn somewhere.

This brain's autistic wiring is not going away anytime soon. If this life left behind its young host and turned over its everyday life and major decisions to a group of virtual reality game characters, what of it?

There was a very simple message presented to the host when she was little, as one of many many little Western girls from middle-class suburbia. It goes like this:

"You have no idea what real pain is. If you truly had a difficult life, you would bloody well know it."

It resulted in this impossibility:

"I have no trauma."
"I am afraid all the time."

Many years later, acting alone, she made it to a therapist's office and found out that many of the reasons she was afraid were called autism. But that left no solutions and little understanding, in a world where people still fear for their livelihoods if they dare mention autism at work, let alone ask for individually tailored disability services. The brain changes are complex enough and little enough understood, they differ significantly enough from person to person, that average Joe and Jane are not willing to do their homework to meet each individual where they stand.

Fantasy is a solution more honorable than yet another day of underground struggle and inability to function as a non-dissociated person.

Watch Ernest Adams' presentation from 41:46 onwards. It's worth it. If anyone can't, I'll write a transcription.

And that, my friends, is why we are multiple.

- Lin, Raba Ua
In the name of the House of Ua.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
yonjuunana
Jul. 11th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Okay, this post is awesome and I will probably be thinking about some of this stuff for a while, following more of the links in it and watch the presentation when I have time, may come back to respond more. But for now I want to say:

It was meant to shock Westerners - why would people who lived by mob laws under a totalitarian government possibly want to escape to a fantasy world of... more cutthroat feudal mafia politics?

The answer - to learn.


YES. This is some of why I've found it hard to talk about fantasy life / inner world stuff in some ways. There seems to be this association in most people's minds between fantasy/dissociation and childish escapism- imagining yourself off in some happy place so you don't have to deal with the world. But if it was like that, why did I imagine myself as a spacerobot going up against some ridiculous odds, failing repeatedly, and never getting a happy ending? This stuff can be like some intense virtual reality training ground where you can go off and learn things that you couldn't learn IRL, then try to apply what you learn to IRL stuff, not just a happy escape. Perhaps a necessary escape sometimes, and when it IS for fun/happiness there's nothing wrong with that, but there's a lot more to it.
pyraxis
Jul. 13th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
:D

Exactly.
lb_lee
Jul. 11th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
Have you ever read Cory Doctorow's "For the Win?" After reading this, I think you might be interested in it. (MMORPG + unionizing = story!)

At the beginning of this, I found myself wondering the same thing of why you would want a crapsack game world. Then again, I realized that instead of games, I did a similar thing of learning through writing. It allowed me to test-drive and figure shit out, and while it meant that bad things happened in my stories, they allowed me to come to some conclusions and power me up against life.

--Rogan
pyraxis
Jul. 12th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. No, I had not heard of Cory Doctorow and his writing.

This has potential.

FWIW, one of the people here is come out of writing too. Same birth, different means.

- Lin
lb_lee
Jul. 13th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
Give it a shot. He writes for teens, but his work is pretty cool, and it seems relevant to your trains of thought here. (Admittedly, tech and economics are not our strongest points, so you'll probably get more out of it than us.)

--Rogan
tigerweave
Jul. 14th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
There was a very simple message presented to the host when she was little, as one of many many little Western girls from middle-class suburbia. It goes like this:

"You have no idea what real pain is. If you truly had a difficult life, you would bloody well know it."

It resulted in this impossibility:

"I have no trauma."
"I am afraid all the time."


exactly. You have described the first 26 yrs of our co-conscious life.

How hard would it be to do a transcript? It just kept downloading and downloading and we don't have an unlimited plan. Wouldn't let me just start it at 41.46 :-/
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )