Bogost on Zynga & originality

Some excerpts of a recent piece ‘The Bulldog and the Pegasus‘ on Zynga/Nimblebits and the accusations of copycat behaviour by the Big Z. Best thing I’ve read this week.

It’s easy to hate Zynga, but neither moral turpitude nor mythic hubris sufficiently explains our present situation. Folklore and modernity alike condition us to desire a lucid answer, a simple take with a clear moral: don’t steal game designs, don’t abuse players, don’t exploit workers. Those are decent principles. But they are also stories, and stories are lies whose deception we forgive in exchange for their grace.

If games ever can do good for the world, this is perhaps all they have to offer. To remind us of contingency, to give every move an orthogonal weakness. To impose a doubt for every certainty, while still admitting the need to carry on, out of vanity and shame as much as ambition and hope, to ride higher like Bellerophon on Pegasus to touch Olympus, all the while secretly knowing that we are not gods, that we will be toppled. And to hope that when we do someone will take us in, and that we won’t die alone.

And a great point from one ‘Nicholas Bollerophon’ in the comments:

…when you attempt to make something with a bit of originality to it – even just a little – your effort shows and is in and of itself a political expression. You are asserting that you can step out of the path of collapse; culture has grown instead of just turned over.

I’m reading little bits of Oliver Marchart’s stuff on the difference between ‘Politics’ and ‘The Political’. According to a journal article, “Marchart has elaborated an extended definition of minimal politics, the minimal criteria required for an action to be considered political… To this end, he proposes five criteria of minimal politics.”

The five criteria are 1. “the aim of becoming a majority” (i.e. “…it aims to transform the contemporary social order.“), 2. “Strategy”, (“Strategies contesting traditional ways of doing and saying are also linked to the aim of establishing new institutions and practices.“), 3. Some sense of organisation, 4. “Collectivity” (“As with the aim of becoming a majority, the collective dimension of political action need not be understood as an empirical collection of individuals, but as a symbolic collective; as the symbol of a collective actor.“) and 5 & 6 are “conflictuality and positionality” (“Since politics therefore always includes a dimension of conflict, actors will need to take up a position within this conflict.“).

I think it’s reasonable to suggest that making “something with a bit of originality to it” could be made to squeeze within this set of criteria.

I also really like Ian’s phrase “orthogonal weakness” and emphasis on contingency.