BEARS VS ABSTRACT CAPITALISM

29 Aug

No, not that type of bears. Try Tumblr. There’s a smartphone game called Bears vs. Art, in which

“Greedy millionaires have opened abstract art galleries to display and admire their latest work. Now Rory the bear is ready to fight back against the pointless pieces invading his home! … While pompous guests admire perplexing paintings, you get to rip them to shreds.”

Despite the ambiguous syntax, they do mean the paintings and the guests.

Lfqk3tdAF58tRqHX5mMxIDKBAnfBC_1A-mMTUTN9vIoAAzWViWeDQ5cDdnjxcVROzcc=h900

I haven’t been able to play it, not that I particularly want to. It’s free (or rather “freemium” in the manner of Candy Crush Saga and the same developer’s Fruit Ninja, a subject I’ll return to) but even though it was marketed as a multiplatform, international game many months ago, so far it seems only to have emerged for Android in the UK and of course, obviously, Singapore. It doesn’t look like my mock up:

BearsVsArtCol

“Pointless objects hanging mid-air, hidden subtext from just a square?”

Destroying works of art and murdering “people who came to look” is super cute!

I won’t do much more analysis here because Daniel Golding has already done a very good job of it in a lengthy ABC article that I think you should read (link below). He also seems to have played it, unlike me. If any readers have the game, please leave a comment and tell us all what you thought of it.

It’s clear even from the promotional material that the game displays both a very unpleasant anti-intellectual disdain for individuals and things that seem too clever for certain other people’s liking and, as Golding writes, a superficially more liberal disgust for “accruing wealth at the expense of good grace (that is, destroying a forest to build a gallery, or selling apparently meaningless art).” Note the old chestnut of abstract art being particularly odious, for some reason. Greed overriding good sense seems, on the face of it, a position that arguably has some merit. Yet this is a game offered as free while encouraging people to spend considerable amounts of real money for in-game items that– guess what?– have no intrinsic value either and whose cost is also inflated out of all proportion to any real world commodity or the utility gained from it. Just like the art market. If you want to get into contempt then both industries are equally worthy of contempt, in other words. They’re both examples of abstract capitalism, almost entirely divorced from– or at least having unique and nonlinear relationships with– traditional economic factors like supply and demand, scarcity, or input of labour and materials. They’re actually bubble markets, which stay inflated only because of a collective agreement and faith (or delusion) that the commodities have worth, and that the market will continue to expand indefinitely. Which of course, being bubbles, it’s in their nature never to do. The trick is to flip your artist’s work or video game for a profit at the right time, before the bubble pops.

Inside the game industry, people who pay out for premium items or preferential access are known derisively as “whales”: they swallow everything, subsidising all the free games (sic) enjoyed by the more financially prudent majority. “Freemium” games, Candy Crush Saga and Farmville among the most notorious, are explicitly designed to be highly addictive while becoming increasingly untenable to play for free; at a certain point it becomes virtually impossible to progress without paying something, giving them access to your contacts so the company can market to them (AKA “share this with your friends!”), or both. This is now the dominant model for the massive mobile and tablet app market. So game developers are hardly taking the high road or restraining their greed, either. And even the art world isn’t gleefully positioning itself at the top of the slippery slope that ends with you hitting Heinrich Heine at the bottom, ruefully holding a placard that says THOSE WHO BEGIN BY BURNING BOOKS WILL END BY BURNING PEOPLE. I occasionally joke (for example) about the work of certain artists being indistinguishable from fly tipping or the things teenagers doodle on their school folders, but I wouldn’t spend a great many hours of my life programming a game in which they and their art are annihilated by an angry bear, in the hope of making a lot of money by exploiting the very same economic shenanigans I affect to hold in contempt. People Who Work in the Games Industry vs. Cognitive Dissonance.

By the way, Halfbrick also developed the aforementioned Fruit Ninja. It is a matter of public record that the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron is obsessed with this game. He spends “a crazy, scary amount of time playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad” according to a senior government advisor. Scary indeed. Maybe think about being obsessed with the wellbeing, safety and prosperity of the British people, dickhead?

http://www.abc.net.au/arts/blog/Daniel-Golding/Bears-vs-Art-A-battle-for-the-soul-of-Australias-gaming-industry-140319/default.htm

unnamed

About these ads

2 Responses to “BEARS VS ABSTRACT CAPITALISM”

  1. anitachowdry 29/08/2014 at 11:59 PM #

    Hi Alistair, Thanks for highlighting hypocricy on so many levels…mordant as usual, which is why I so enjoy your posts.

  2. Alistair 02/09/2014 at 2:58 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,237 other followers

%d bloggers like this: