On The Corporation is Not Your Friend

Spider man, spider man, doing things a spider can,
spin that web, poison that man, oh no it's spiders-man

Spider-man, into the Spider-verse is the best movie I've seen since Lord of the Rings. It is an astounding tour-de-force. It's the first time I've seen something visually authentically new in cinema since the Return of the King. Also, it made me love Morales as spider-man.

I don't know that much about the Marvel universe. I'm a visual artist, I read comics, but mostly indy stuff? Lots of Dynamite comics, risque nudity, the type of thing that offends the weak minded.

When I was a kid I decided I was going to listen to whoever had the best arguments and think those things, the ones that were the best. But it turns out, there's actually a biological component to what I think. No matter how much a (for example) plutocrat explains their views to me, it turns out I'm not going to agree.

What's going to happen is that there will be a few more spider-verse movies and they will be good to ok, and then there will be a lot of them and they will be bad. I know this, because Sony owns Spiderman. And they are a corporation.

Let me explain: Let's talk about blizzard.

The Name is Blizzard. Activision-Blizzard.


In late 2007 Activision began the process of buying Blizzard. Bobby was put in charge.

I'll let him damn himself with his own words, yeah?

From the article titled "Activision: If we can't run a game into the ground, we don't want it." (This stuff writes itself, are you kidding me? That's a quote!?!):
"The games Activision Blizzard didn't pick up, he said, "don't have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we'll be working on them 10 years from now." - Bobby
Yeah.

So Activision eliminated the bonus program, dropping technicians to their below industry average rates, causing many developers to flee. Anyone who followed Blizzard's developers on twitter, would now be following people who no longer work at Blizzard. Personally, as a Hearthstone player, having Ben Brode steal some members of the team and leave to found his own company was where it impacted me.

Here is a list of major developers and programmers who have left just in the last few years, not even since the Activision takeover 10 years ago. Rob Pardo (creative director). Chris Metzen (Story Director), Nick Carpenter (VP Cinematics), Josh Mosqueira (Game Director Diablo III), James Waugh, Tyson Murphy, Craig Am, Ben Brode (Hearthstone lead), and hearthstone programmers, Jomaro Kindred, Yong Woo, Michael Schweitzer, and most recently, Mike Morhaime, the co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment.

Blizzard doesn't work at Blizzard any more.

Here are people describing work at Activision/Blizzard: "Siloed mentality. . . fear based culture", "Severe problems in management", "Lots of politics, pleasing egos on a constant basis." "Lots of pressure, way too much overtime."

Here's a story. There's a golden goose. Wait! There's a surprise.
Someday this goose is going to die.
A 'bidness man', not a bleeding heart artist like me, says something like this: "This goose is gonna die someday, so I better get as much gold out of it as I can." And they decide to dip into the nefarious world of microtransactions, loot boxes, in-game advertising and research on algorithms to prompt people to spend money by matching them with rich players to get stomped.

Because why build art? Don't you know that the goose is gonna die someday? Best to get as much out of it as you can.

The goalpost at blizzard has unquestionably shifted from, "Make and test games until they feel perfect." to "Let's exploit this for profit." and it shows. The last Hearthstone expansion has serious weird bugs that would be impossible to miss during playtesting—at least the way blizzard used to do it. The work is getting shoddy and it shows. Who is left to make sure it doesn't?

It seems stupid, yeah? Until, of course, it's pointed out that, even though it's a long shot, from their perspective it's better money-wise, to take the shot. Blizzard did it, right? It just made "Everquest but from Blizzard". That worked out real well.

The shot in question being a big f-u to everyone looking for a new diablo community on the internet with a new PC release, with the announcement of a skin of a chinese game written by a chinese software company to release a microtransaction-focused diablo-skinned arpg slot machine. You know the sort, 4$ to turn off ads, 6$ for the experience doubler, and then the gem packs.

Welcome to Diablo Eternal, written by the chinese market for the chinese.

So, in retrospective, much like the 19th century was about british imperialism, the 20th about the information age, the 21st will be about the rise of China. It's ok. They aren't going to go to war with anyone, except on the market.

So who knows? Maybe tapping the chinese market will make Activision a ton of money.

But what about Blizzard? What about what they stood for?

Me? I'd want to extend the life of the goose. Give it a little swimming pond, some free range spaces. I mean it's a goose, and geese are assholes. Seriously. Geese are dicks. I mean, I'm no speciest, but I don't want geese moving in next door, if you know what I mean. They will honk all night. Still, if it's laying golden eggs, who cares if it lives in a nice house with a swimming pool?

Henry Ford said "If the only reason to run a business is to make money, it's a bad business." So when activision takes over, policies change. The culture changes. People leave. The games do drop in quality. But Activision wants to acquire, and extract. After all, it's not like Blizzard was going to stay profitable indefinitely. Even if it did, it's just not enough money every month.

Not every corporation has the practices. Others love their game so much they enslave their workers like a medieval lord, forcing people to labor for over a hundred hours in a 168 hour week? Some companies like Steam are private, lean, and generate both revenues and power.  Others like Crate are made up of a group of people who love their jobs and lives, pouring their soul into the game.

Along Came A Spider To Sit Beside-her

Venom, Black Cat, Silver Sable, Morbius the Living Vampire, Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Jackpot and Nightwatch. Those are all the movies Sony has planned for the Spider-verse in the next 24 months. I only know like 3 of those characters.

The animated movie was just a side project.

But already sequel plans are in place. A sequel with morales and gwen. That will serve as a "Launching Pad" for spinnoffs. Gwen/Spider Woman/Silk. Spider Ham.

They don't have an idea for a movie. They have an idea about how to produce a lot of content while people are excited. In their favor is that the people getting these projects care about the spider.

But here's the thing. As quality varies in the movies, shareholders will demand better returns, and that's when the rules come about what directors can and cannot do. With less freedom and more studio interference, director quality will decline, until they've squeezed every last penny from the spider-verse that they can.

And you know, good on them. But don't turn the corporation into your heroes. Maybe we shouldn't let corporations operate without concern for the well-being of people. It turns out the invisible hand will give people cancer if it makes 'em some money. This is why extremism is so bonkers. Of course you need both socialist and capitalist traits in a government for it to be successful. I don't care about someone making a few hundred million a year, but even libertarians—a political movement founded on the principle of freedom from government intervention, believe that the wealth concentration is an issue where injustice is being perpetrated and must be addressed.

Like the vast vast majority of humans are on board with this as a problem.

I mean, that's why the future of the Internet is in communities. They've become social entertainment, doors open in many houses at any given moment, time shared with people you care about who's jobs are communicating and building communities. Patron, Twitch, human organization is changing. That's why I'm following Overhype studios, developer of Battle Brothers. Because they are a pair of brothers, making a toy they love. They have money, but mostly they just want to make their little sandbox. I drift along with other fans who watch and stream the game, becoming a part of a tribe.

It turns out that people do things for reasons other than money. I'm not taking a choosing beggar stance, people should be compensated for their talents. But the fact is, if people have their needs met, they still will do things because they enjoy them. The fact that the very plutocratic policy these objectivist follow doesn't even heed the core maxim of the creator "Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hopes of getting more than your ability deserves?. . . If so your money will not give you a moment's or penny's worth of joy."

We all know that isn't true. People making millions at activision or seeking to save and distribute twenty-five million dollars to executives, while stiffing floor people who are fired. They don't feel guilt about that. Just trying to get as much for them as they can.

But here's a crazy thing. Aggressive assholes? That's not something that's biologically selected for. It turns out, you are more reproductively successful if you have friends (said the uncountable bacteria encasing every human body.) So in the long run, we are seeing an evolution of humanity itself. It turns out, that evolution selects for community instead of aggression. What befalls the fox befalls us all.
While Belyayev and his team "didn't select for a smarter fox but for a nice fox", Hare said, "they ended up getting a smart fox."
I'm sad about the future of Hearthstone, and glad we are going to get some good spider man films.
Have a great Christmas everyone!

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