The Slow Violence of the Video-game Empire – Olivier Aveline

The popularity of video-games in popular culture is undeniable: While the business might be growing on a grandiose scale unequalled by almost any other sector in the economy, we fail to ever mention the dark side of the gaming industry. Capitalism has turned us into a culture of waste, where we are encouraged to change our consoles, phones, and other gadgets every few months as to keep up with the latest trends. The result of this economic trend has resulted in what Rob Nixon calls “Slow Violence”, a “violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is disperse across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.” (2, Nixon).

This violence manifests itself as environmental and social consequences, through the lack of a proper recycling program, exploitation of precious metals that is poorly regulated, and labour that would be deemed less-than-moral by the standards set in our own countries. Miller, in his paper “Gaming For Beginners”, writes that “16 year-old girls […]pick away without protection at discarded First World computers full of leaded glass to find precious metals, then dump the remains in landfills. The metals are sold to recyclers, who do not use landfills or labor in the First World because of environmental and industrial legislation…” (9). This immoral business practice is a byproduct of globalization, as well as the free market, allowing businesses to exploit resources and outdated laws in the pursuit of profit.

Playing by the rules has its drawbacks – After playing “To Build A Better Mousetrap”, I found it almost impossible to simulate a situation where I could fairly compensate my workers and still churn a profit. Two times out of three, my company went bankrupt, even when I was barely paying my workers a fair wage. Only when I automated my assembly line, computerized my analyses, could I profit from any of my business, at the expense of paying workers.

Companies even try to sell us their products through the virtual world. Second Life, a virtual world simulator, has been overwhelmed with a Capitalist presence, having their “streets filled with familiar logos […] [with[ in-game stores where you can purchase virtual equivalents of offline products” (xii Witherford and De Peuter). The waste we produce even extends to this virtual world: In “Capitalism and Videogames”, it is noted that “Computer servers that, according to one estimate, annually use about 1,752 kilowatts of electricity per Second Life resident as much as is consumed by an average actual Brazilian, and generating about as much CO2 as does a 2,300 mile journey in an SUV” (Carr 2006)

The current system is unsustainable. We cannot expel the capitalist system from the videogame empire, as it would require the whole world to embrace such a drastic change: A green revolution would need to take place, where the buying, recycling, and production process could become self-sustainable, as to end the cycle of consumption and exploitation.


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