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Friday, February 09, 2007

Grand Theft Auto And Progressive Politics

I don't know if I have enough coffee to properly grok the following - but I like the notion that everyone's favorite kicking boy, GTA, can be a model for change. Stephen Duncombe here uses GTA as an example as to why sometimes rallies and political causes don't attract followers ... they just aren't engaging:

As unlikely as it seems, progressives can also learn a lot from a best selling shoot-‘em-up video game like Grand Theft Auto. Yes, all the hand-wringing, wet-blanket, moralistic critics of video games are right: Grand Theft Auto is apocalyptically violent. But there is something else about these games, especially morally suspect ones like Grand Theft Auto, that demands our attention. They are wildly popular. Why?

Video games like Grand Theft Auto may appeal to our worst libidinal instincts—a bit of eros and a whole lot of thanatos—but these games also demand the participation of the gamer; new worlds open up to the player as he or she develops new skills, and characters respond based upon the player’s past actions. In video games, unlike almost all other mass media, the spectator also becomes a producer.

This runs counter to much of how progressive politics is done these days. Consider the typical “mass” demonstration. We march. We chant. Speakers are paraded onto the dais to tell us (in screeching voices through bad sound systems) what we already know. Sometimes we sit down in a prescribed place and allow the police to arrest us. While these demonstrations are often held in the name of “people’s power,” they are profoundly disempowering. Structured with this model of protest is a philosophy of passive political spectatorship: they organize, we come; they talk, we listen. Progressives need to re-think our game. If people aren’t joining us maybe it’s because the game we’re playing just isn’t much fun to play.
-- Dreaming Up New Politics

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