This is a post about meritocracy, reviews, and Game of the Year

Written by Jordan Rivas

We don’t live in a meritocracy. The most sublime, the most aesthetically pleasing, the most culturally rich works don’t always attain commercial success or even above average recognition.

We must, however, recognize that merit is not the same as market value, nor should it be. True market value is determined by individuals exercising free will in voluntary exchanges. Essentially, something is “worth” in market value whatever free people decide it’s worth, assuming freedom from any force, fraud, or other coercion. This is not the same as merit.

What merit is exactly, is beyond the scope and aim of this article, but for now we can argue that merit is the extent to which people find something to be worthy of praise. An item’s merit, in whatever amount, isn’t guaranteed to match its market value.

As an example, the most expensive piece of art ever sold is a piece from The Card Players, a series of paintings by a French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. It sold for $259 million. Those who study art would say it is a highly meritorious painting, but they might also argue that it is not the single greatest piece of art ever. Despite their arguments — which may … Read More »


This is a post about games, guns, and politics

Written by Jordan Rivas

The vice president of the United States is not interested in video games, or what video game industry leaders have to say. He’s interested in politics, and appearances. And he’s interested in using both to further manipulate a frightened constituency into placated acquiescence.

Vice President Joe Biden didn’t meet with industry leaders across a wide spectrum of businesses and interest groups because he’s interested in cooperation and enlightenment that will lead to less gun violence, he held these meetings to give the appearance of cooperation and enlightenment. That doesn’t entirely preclude anything useful from happening, but to comment on the situation without an understanding of the underlying motivations of the White House is to reveal a startling naivete about Washington politics.

Whatever issues about violence and media are crying out to be discussed, and whatever arguments to be made about how, where and with whom we should be discussing them – when commenting on whether or not game industry leaders should have met with Joe Biden, you have to first understand the context of politics inside the Beltway.

When you take a meeting with the Vice President (or anyone in Washington, D.C.) and someone takes a picture, you’ve made a statement. When you … Read More »


This is a post about Dark Side, Renegade, and demanding refunds

Written by Jordan Rivas

I don’t like to fight.

I don’t become angered easily. I don’t get aggressive quickly. I don’t relish arguments, or even winning them. I feel guilty about “beating” people, even in verbal spats, if I win handily.

I’ve never pushed a mercenary through a thin pane of glass to a multi-story death drop. I’ve never executed a runaway mage who was begging for their life. I’ve never run the hot, glowing edge of a crimson lightsaber through the neck and spine of an adversary on their knees.

At least not in real life. In video games, I’ve done all of those things. And I had emotional reactions to all of them. The concerns are that these acts of violence in games are cavalier and committed without rational thought, but in these examples I thoroughly considered my actions, and found it entirely rational to send people to their death.

I did those things because I was playing a character, and sometimes the characters I play are really mean. It wouldn’t make sense for me to do those things in real life, but it does make sense for my characters do them occasionally, depending on the characters.

My personal beliefs and morality system don’t always come with … Read More »


This is a post about driving games and Deathless Days

Written by Jordan Rivas

There were no deathless days on Texas roadways in 2011.
Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles Crash Highlights Report, 2011

No one ever dies in driving games. Not even the fake kind of death we’re used to with a respawn afterwards. No one ever gets injured. In driving games we’ve taken more care to simulate vehicle damage than we have to depict people damage. People damage doesn’t exist in driving games.

Death is seldom depicted in a way that causes us to contemplate it as anything more than a bothersome indicator of a failure state. “I died,” in games means, “I lost.” Avatars respawn in seconds or minutes, players are reverted to a checkpoint back in time where the character is magically alive again, or at most a character is allowed to die and the player simply gets a new character to play.

Even if it’s dealt with in passing, death is still included. But in driving games, death or even injury is never mentioned. Even for video games, it’s an eerie omission considering how many people die in traffic related incidents.

Everyday someone driving in the state Texas dies. According to most statistics, approximately 32,000 traffic related deaths occurred in the … Read More »


This is a post about shooters, Katy Perry and Pop Culture

Written by Jordan Rivas

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold over 7.5 million copies in the US, but I don’t think we take its kind seriously anymore. I find that lamentable.

It’s a massively consumed entertainment product that’s scoffed at in the corners of the room that shelter the enlightened, the particular consumer, the astute observer who is either pained or confused when the artistically unambitious and flawed resonate with so many. Like Transformers movies, Justin Bieber, and Barbie dolls – the Call of Duty series has attained commercial success and general popularity that, according to its critics, isn’t consistent with its artistic quality.

They aren’t even necessarily saying the game isn’t enjoyable, or that there aren’t any interesting observations to be made concerning design or storytelling in Call of Duty or other shooters, but that among a niche group of thoughtful gamers, we find the genre less compelling than the general population which, according to sales, finds the genre more compelling than any other in video game history.

It isn’t a disparaging distinction exactly. Certain observers are trying to offer honest observations and analysis about a medium that hasn’t always gotten that treatment. In doing so, they’ve found that it’s the subtle works, the ambiguous … Read More »

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