On Gigagames

It isn't about money.

Activision Blizzard is run by a narcissistic, self-centered, aggrandizing CEO Bobby Kotick.

If you received 10,000$ a day from the birth of Christ to today, you wouldn't have nearly as much money as Bobby. True story. 

Here's what Bobby has to say. 

"The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games.

"With respect to the franchises that don’t have the potential to be exploited every year across every platform with clear sequel potential that can meet our objectives of over time becoming $100 million plus franchises, that’s a strategy that has worked very well for us.

You can't take or give bobby money that has any value. You work, he kills golden geese. The goose in this case is Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and of course, Diablo.

There will continue to be opportunities for us to exploit the PC platform in ways that we haven’t yet.

This is reflected in the choices of the company since activation took over. Blizzard supports (by refusing to oppose) China's genocide of Uighurs, has enacted punishments against e-sports players for supporting independence in Hong Kong and has taken part in the information blackout china requires. Why wouldn't they? Their goal is to extract value. People who own Activation stock will get payouts, until they kill the golden goose, and then Activision will buy something else. Why make beloved games like diablo, when you can make more money with phone games?

I promise this really isn't about what a reprehensible sociopath who spreads misery in order to exploit people for money he doesn't need.

"Lifestyle games"

They aren't "lifestyle" games. 

People used to have a lot less time. Like a lot less time. Communities had to produce their own products, conveniences like light sources caused terrible damage to interiors.

This happened in the space of 200 years. We went from using horses and simple tools, to literally having robots drive. We are on the cusp of the absolute elimination of labor. Non-invasive brain interfaces allow people, today, to control prostheses, drones, weapons, wheelchairs, and more with their mind. We are in the process of colonizing space. When I was born, we had phones with landlines, now we have a wireless network that extends to Mars. We have the ability to edit genes on living creatures, which is why people are engaged in a debate on whether to eliminate malaria by genetically altering mosquitos so they can't carry malaria. The debate started years ago when we gained the ability to edit genes in living creatures.

Have you maintained a well this year? Had to clean soot from kerosene or gas lamps from surfaces? How much wood did you chop and burn for heat in the winter? How much bread did you bake by hand? How much livestock care do you do in a day? Have you made your own butter? Soap? Candles? 

Humans are used to doing stuff. That doesn't mean that there isn't a bunch of stuff to do—there is, tremendous work. You can see that anytime something pops up and you wonder why this wasn't happening before. There are thousands of un-met needs. But survival is covered.

Idleness and lack of activity leads to depression. It's one of the feedback loops in depression, you do fewer things, your support structures suffer, and instead of 'recovering' depression increases. Isolation and idleness in general are symptoms and causes of depression. 

So, in first world societies people fill that time with activity. . . . like games.

But when I say gigagames, or when a company says a 'lifestyle game' (which is sometimes a gigagame, but is more often a 'gacha' game—a glorified slot machine, with colors, bells, digital collectivity, and graphics instead of cash payouts) I mean an environment that is both a game, a community, a marker of status, effectively endless playability, and a replacement for the lack of activity. 

There is uncertainty as to the name, massive games, giant games; lifestyle games refer to a subset of these that companies try to 'over-monetize', where companies use psychological manipulation to extract value (i.e. money) from a consumer. Obviously Gigagames can be expensive, but they are not, necessarily, designed to constantly bleed you for money. 

Grim Dawn is a good example of this. There are 40,000 class combinations. They don't charge per-play, or sell microtransactions. They focus on making a good game, and provide avenues for people to voluntarily support them. They are a successful game studio and plan for sustainability. The community and culture is positive. There are many goals in life. I live in a culture that glorifies what Bobby does, and denigrates other values and goals. It's fair to say that designing for maximizing profit makes for worse games—which is why people are still playing games like Grim Dawn and X-com, while Marvel Supers, Shadow of Mordor, Anthem and all those other soulless cash grabs rot in the bin.   

The idea of demanding a constant influx of cash is opposed to the core of what a Gigagame is, and eventually (even if it takes a long long while) leads to their downfall. 


Kingdom Death. The base game is 400$, and the basic set of expansions runs between 50-150$. There are more than a dozen expansions, and add-on's (like the gambler's box, or molded plastic boards) can run the cost up into the thousands. When you get the game, all the gamepieces are in sheets, which must be assembled like a model, then you spend months playing through a single game.

Total War: Warhammer. The base game is sixty dollars for four races, the sequel is sixty dollars for four more races, and each race pack will run you 10-20$, including beastmen, wood-elves, Britannia, the dead Egypt mummies, special lord and unit packs, and more. If you don't buy it on sale, the whole game can be purchased for about 325$

Pokemon GO. Grim Dawn. Stellaris. Crusader Kings. Rimworld. Civilization. Dwarf Fortress.

Dungeons and Dragons.

The really amazing thing about many of giga-games are played against literal rocks. In layman's terms, a wafer of silicon is put under magic light, and then dipped in magic water, and it becomes an incredibly tiny machine that we can then tell what to do. 

It's pretty amazing. I had dreams as a child where I could telekinetically control my toys to play with them, and now, my computer will simulate thousands and thousands of soldiers, dragons, and more all fighting and dying as I smash my toy armies against each other. 

Heady stuff.

Stellaris is a space game that was not well designed. It's been out for years and has been drastically different games at drastically different times. Whole systems have been created and then trashed. But finally, after over four years of being released, it's beginning to resemble a designed game, instead of a mess of different ideas.

None of these games are particularly challenging. They aren't about 'what's best'. After all, you are playing against a literal rock. Stellaris has one clear 'best path' meta to victory. But who cares? Warhammer, Dwarf Fortress, Kingdom death, etc. Gigagames aren't primarily about victory or competition. They are about simulation. 

It's this line of thinking that leads people into believing our universe is a simulation—the statistical odds that if universes can be simulated, then it's very likely ours is, simply because most universes are simulated. And are they wrong? Pawns in Dwarf Fortress meet every criteria for life, they are responsive to their environment, they grow and change, they have the ability to reproduce, they have a metabolism and breath (as anyone who's lost dwarves to miasma knows), they maintain homeostasis (Literally, they have internal systems that are regulated that drive their needs), and they pass their traits off to offspring. There is some degree of question as to whether they are composed of 'cells', but they without question are more complicated then many simple insects.

So while I work, drawing and writing, Stellaris chugs along in the background, simulating an entire galaxy and it's people, like a fish tank of a universe that I can watch. It's easy to imagine where this goes in a hundred years. You can just decide how all the beings in the universe are. Become a fascist empire, or peace loving space hippies. All of them work, they just have different. . . drawbacks. There's been a disconnect for me, realizing that this is a model of life.

We can have things be any way we want them to be. We get to decide. Right now, America wants to riot and kill black people in large numbers every fifty years. One year after the last pandemic (1919) red summer happened (where hundreds of african-americans were rounded up and hung, over 100 in a local city here, but murders happened all over the United States.) Your grandparents were around for that. Some of us and our parents were around for the civil rights act and the race riots triggered by a white cop executing a sixteen year old man named James Powell in 1964. 

This is mostly the way it's always been, and it's this way because most people want it that way. The real question is why?

There's still four days left to take advantage and grab my book in print for 19.99$! You'll be happy you grabbed a copy at this low price, and it might even show up in time for Christmas! If you like articles like this, you can make an incredible difference with a pittance, support me on Patreon—that's one way you can change the world. 

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