We’re Not The Little Guys Anymore
I think I’m stuck in the past. I remember a time when you and me — average consumers on the Internet — were nobodies who were happy to have a voice in the world. Corporations were seen as monolithic entities beyond our reach. It was the 1990’s to early 2000’s, before blogging took off and social media became the new paradigm. Back then websites had guestbooks, comments sections, or dedicated message boards where people would leave their opinions, like footnotes. Communities came in all shapes and sizes, but we were irrelevant to the main attractions of the Internet, which made it fun. The experts had total power and authority over the dominant narrative, but we could all chime in. Back then, being able to publish anything on the Internet, even the simplest passing thought, felt like a new and important privilege that might collectively make a difference. We were kind of like a tiny voting bloc.
When we were the little guys, it was “us” versus “them”. We had a common enemy, and we had to band together to have a voice. I don’t know when we stopped being the little guys exactly, but it must have been somewhere around the time publications started writing headlines about what some guy on Twitter said.
Along the way we saw the rise of paid shills, tribal divisions, territorial control, corporate bootlickers, and a myriad of warped motivations to get involved in the discussion. Rallying against corporate greed became a thing of the past; now we had a competition to see whose “side” could wield the greatest influence. We were like a bunch of tiny voting blocs. All trying to cut each other’s throats so we could be on the winning side.
Big Boy Problems
As social media became a tool of curating the endless stream of online content, things changed. Suddenly an obscure comic strip, artist, or game could go viral thanks to people like you and me. It was amazing. Prominent social media folks were launched into the position of talent scouts, or producers. They could now pick and choose whose lives they would change forever simply by sharing a link with their followers. Knowing this, people began to beg and pander to these little guys as if they were the big boys. And so they became the big boys — because that’s all it takes. Flooded with discounts, promotional offers, and sponsorships, these former nobodies (who often make nothing but commentary themselves) suddenly became powerhouses with millions of their own followers and luxurious lifestyles; the new gatekeepers of prosperity.
Charismatic and entertaining figures skyrocketed to fame and fortune, with no tribal loyalties or weird hangups about who’s allowed to say what. They were free speech types, enjoying the latitude they were given to say whatever they wanted and offend people in the process. Some of them play uptight or angry characters and put on a big show instead of just being themselves, and the audience gets it. The controlling, authoritarian personalities which made it their life’s goal to dominate message board communities and wield power over discussion were a different breed, rejected as too uptight and boring. Chaotic, unpredictable, and often risque “content creators” (a paradoxical term if you don’t understand the shift in priorities) stole the spotlight and let the kids run wild. If there were to be gatekeepers of prosperity, there didn’t need to also be gatekeepers of discussion.
In a bizarre reversal of fate, discussions have now replaced products. Our entertainment is no longer an artist’s vision or a corporation’s product in isolation, but the interwoven narrative of agendas, feelings and reactions surrounding them. Social media itself is the never-ending service and product that we consume and contribute to. YouTube personalities, Twitch streamers, and celebrity opinionists are the attraction more than stuff they review. Why? Because they listen, respond to, and represent us, but also because it’s happening in the real world all around us. It’s an old saying by now, but social media is the ultimate MMO. The comments sections and live chats of these personalities are the games we try to win. Winning means being heard amidst the cacophony of noise. When PewDiePie picks out your comment to respond to in his video you feel like you’ve won the social media lottery. When Kripparian reads out your idiotic username on his stream with tens of thousands of people watching and gives you the cherished “bro fist”, you become special for one fleeting moment. All it cost you was $4.99.
Where does this leave the boring losers who once held influence? Why, community management, of course.
I’m not talking about becoming moderators in some guy’s Twitch chat. Think about what these old parasites do for a living. They not only contribute nothing creative to the world, they don’t even have the entertainment value to hold an audience on their own. They are outdated, irrelevant authority figures propping up organizations that have only ever functioned as a press release repository. Some company tells them about a sale, and they write an article about it. Whoopdie-doo. Deeply cynical about the world that no longer needs them, they want to cling to importance any way they can. And who can blame them? Are they supposed to quit and go get real jobs?
This has pushed a whole industry of detritus into forming a cabal of manipulative schemers who want to hijack the narrative any chance they can. They openly hate consumers, tiptoe around major internet celebrities (lest they get crushed), and desperately try to demonize everything they don’t control. They align themselves with social justice warriors, identity politics hyperbole, and even politicians. “Nerd culture” sites have collectively merged into a dedicated propaganda cartel in the wake of stagnating viewership. Of course it’s a perfect fit for them, because the neoliberal agenda specializes in reframing billion-dollar lobby agendas as poor, innocent grassroots victims of oppression. Anything that tried and failed to control and destroy populist urges is now rebranded as a Permanent Victim™, and their script is already written out for them ahead of time. Call it political correctness, globalism, Cultural Marxism, or anything else you want, but it has become the disgusting umbrella all failed tyrants now rally under as they work to legislate, regulate, and censor their competition out of existence.
With Delusions of Power Comes Delusions of Responsibility
So let me ask you: who are the little guys today? The consumers or the corporations? Have we become the bullies, pushing around poor little studios of hard-working artists with our careless opinions? Gasp. Watch what you say, dear reader. We all have big scary voices now, and we have representatives that can truly impact the world. That must mean we’re the evil tyrants!
All this power might have gone to our heads. Maybe we should listen to the proper, noble, and progressive authorities telling us to abandon “toxic masculinity” and emotionally violent mob tactics, and instead become positive voices in the discussion going forward. You know, non-judgmental types. The type of people who never complain about anything. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. In fact I think that’s the name of a new law being passed through Congress next week: it states that anybody who gives off “negative vibes” will be sent to the Gulags for re-education. The future is happy, so if you ever say something that upsets somebody’s feelings, you shouldn’t be allowed in the future! Smile or die, asshole.
You see, those poor, tiny corporations are just trying to make us happy, and we’re hurting their feelings with our “standards” and “ethics”! Now that we’re the powerful, bigoted, hyper-masculine monsters that control the world, we have to use our power responsibly. Never call a corporate product a piece of trash; never rally against a consumer practice you think is bullshit; never exercise your free speech if it means it may affect the bottom line of a publicly traded company. Stop bullying billionaires!
Such delusions have led to a Twilight Zone episode where nobodies chastise their fellow nobodies not to say mean things about cynical trash being churned out by the helpless servants employed by the biggest corporations in the world. Even soulless cash-grabs that do nothing but exploit and tarnish the legacy of legitimate artists are being protected by this unelected mommy squad. The idea is that there’s some big scary mob rampaging across the Internet destroying legitimate attempts to make cool stuff. This is stupid, but the sense you get is that you need to make sure you distance yourself from them at all times, whether you agree with popular consensus or not. Disavow! You don’t want to ruin your chances to become the next mainstream sensation, right? We’re all one good week away from being famous, after all.
Self-policing your own thoughts and censoring each other is nothing short of the nightmare envisioned by Orwell. It’s a Machiavellian dream come true for the parasitic expert class, however. They toil away at it day and night, hoping that people will play along. Quietly, steadily, and with extremely questionable justifications, community guidelines are adjusted, public examples are made of troublemakers who dare to speak up, and pretty soon a chilling effect happens. Suddenly you tighten up. You think twice, when you wouldn’t have otherwise. You weren’t going to go off on some bigoted tirade even if you had total licence to say what you wanted, but now you’re worry about crossing a line some anonymous loser drew in the sand. You worked to build up your [X] number of followers, and you can’t afford to lose them! You’d feel like a homeless person. You’re an important person with power — you wouldn’t want to lose it over some stupid thoughtless joke, would you?
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game
Here’s some snippets from the short piece I wrote about Metal Gear Survive when it was first announced:
Speaking of next to nothing, that’s what it is. It’s technically not nothing… although it doesn’t register in my mind as anything more than an improvised, offhand hypothetical concept that a jaded Metal Gear fan might make to his buddies when they’re sleepy and can’t think of a good joke. It feels like nothing.
Already, “fans of Metal Gear” (including those who don’t know how to distinguish real installments from corporate filler) have come out mocking the piss-poor attempt. Boardroom discussions memes, appropriate “zombie” analogies, and more have cropped up. I’d be impressed if Konami even managed to anger the fanbase with this, because it’s such a transparent recycling of content and branding that only the most braindead followers of the series will get confused about what it really represents. The fact that they straight up went to “alternate reality” is the funniest aspect, because it’s a total admission of creative bankruptcy.
I will say this, however: if they bothered to make a ton of carefully-designed levels that emphasized stealth and strategy, with clever enemies and features, I would totally be interested in the game as its own thing. I wouldn’t refuse to indulge the final product if it was high quality on its own terms, and I could overlook the marketing/branding in order to enjoy the gameplay. But assuming that the game design is as hollow as the rest, Metal Gear Survive pretty much exists in a vacuum of interest, aggressively demanding to be ignored.
Metal Gear Survive is currently floundering around in search of suckers to milk money out of, but for some reason we’re not supposed to make fun of it. If you call it out for being a rushed turd with terrible design you’re going to get scolded for being “toxic”, and some genius will come by and insist that you pay $70 hard earned dollars for it and spend at least a few weeks suffering through the inane bullshit before you pass a judgment on this sacred work of art. My first reaction is that anyone who uses the word toxic unironically is retarded, and secondly, nothing you say will change the fact that the game is a rushed turd. You can enjoy a turd, but it’s still a turd. And I’ll be honest, I’ve enjoyed some turd video games before, like Divekick or the cancerous custom maps of the original Counter-Strike. Sometimes you just wanna turn your brain off and get silly with a game, and sometimes you don’t even mind paying for it. Great, go enjoy it, but for Pete’s sake have a sense of humor please. I could write 12 pages on how and why Survive manages to check every single box of “lazy game design” there is, but as I said originally, it’s aggressively boring to even think about. When I watch people playing it on Twitch, I slap my forehead and laugh at the comically bad craftsmanship at every turn as it’s worse than I ever could have imagined, but that’s good enough for some people. My point is, if you’re a sucker for this kind of trash, then godspeed to you. You have my blessing. We all have our guilty pleasures and gaming vices.
What annoys me much more is the mommy squad on patrol around the game. I don’t need anyone telling me what I’m allowed to make fun of or even “hate”, if we bother to use such a loaded term for something so menial, and I wouldn’t tell other people what opinions they can or can’t have. So can somebody please explain to me who the hell these people think they are, and what they’re hoping to accomplish? Is there even one person on the internet who will be rebuked by these self-appointed discussion managers and actually repent and change their ways? No, it’s virtue signalling. It’s letting the world know that you’re not one of “those guys” with “toxic masculinity” who mansplains and judges
Here’s my new rule: hate anything you want. Complain about everything you dislike. Whether it’s a matter of principle or a personal experience, you have my permission to give your opinion about anything to anyone. Shout it from the rooftops for all I care. We live in the age of postmodern cultural narrative Hell where society is a joke and every day is the punchline. Enjoy the freedom to bitch and argue while you can, because we’re all going to be censored and sent to re-education Gulags soon enough. I’m an old fashioned man, and I like red-blooded disputes between men with backbone, not collectivist agendas and secret conspiracies to undermine each other’s platforms. Real humans make judgments about things, and we share these stupid opinions with each other as if they’re important. It’s how we cope with the bullshit of life: by validating each other’s stupid opinions. If you’re too mature or disinterested in video games to make judgments about them, well then good for you, you’ve become irrelevant to the discussion. Nobody will listen to you. Nobody gets bonus points for acting like they’re above it all, either. On the other hand, if you love Metal Gear Survive and want to tell me why it’s not a turd, I officially invite you to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll love to arrange for you to write a guest article on it! Because you see, I love when people stand up for what they believe, especially if they disagree with me. I don’t want to control your language or bully you into submission, I want to provoke you into fighting back. I want you to proclaim the truth as loud and clear as you can, just as I will. People can make up their own minds, but I’m going to fight for what I believe in as long as I can. And as long as I’m running META GEAR, there will be a platform for disagreements.
That reminds me, buy my book or else you’re not a True Fan™ of Metal Gear. Make me a millionaire so I can become powerful enough to bully everyone I disagree with into submission. I may have spent thousands of my own dollars and several prime years of my life obsessing over how I can best present my arguments for readers on a subject I’ve cared about for decades with little hope of ever making a profit, but the mommy squad tells me I’m a greedy, uncouth bastard for bringing it up in online discussions! Thanks, mommy squad. You always know what’s most important.
The truth is we’re still the little guys. Nothing has changed, except the corporations now hate us openly instead of secretly, and those who used to pretend to be the middle men advocates between us have revealed themselves to be corrupt brownshirts brokering agendas for money. You and I are not millionaires and we never will be. We’ll never be YouTube celebrities or have the power to change the way the world works unless we rally together and fight against the monolithic corporations that hedge us in with their fake outrage and loaded narratives. In some ways we’re smaller than ever, because our representatives have launched into the orbit of success while we’re stuck on the ground being rounded up by algorithms and scheduled for execution. There is now an open war between the oligarchs, with their Leftist Cult, and the fed up people of the world trying to break free. They are weaponizing every platform and using every dirty trick in the book to demonize and destroy our voice. Whatever may happen next, now is not the time to police yourself or your fellow nobody. Enjoy the scuffles and the banter you have, because it brings out the best in us when force each other to raise ourselves to a new level. Judge something, and let yourself be judged.