Imperialist Reductionism and a Boring Universe

The other day on the Late Show I saw a game developer demonstrate his soon-to-be-released wares, a game called “No Man’s Sky”. The dev was himself suitably impressed with his own marketing hyperbole, but the demonstration, as per the usual in these circumstances, gave the lie to all the hype. The game generates an impossible-to-fully-explore universe the player exploits for resources. In the game, a universe consists of a fairly restrictive set of variables, summed up as planets and resources. The player looks at the pretty screensavers virtual landscapes, marvels at the life-forms that populate them (generated by the recombination of a limited set of variables determining animal appearance and behavior), and monotonously collects abstracted “resources”.  The reductionist ideology that guides the gameplay would have us believe that the only things to do in a “universe” is to engage in a mechanically simplified imperialist exploitation of foreign resources. That’s it! You’re G-d, and of course that means that all you want to do is collect energon cubes from hapless natives and watch your galactic credits pile up. The player gets a whole universe, and all he gets to do is play a monotonous farming game. It would be laughable if this ideology wasn’t so apparent all around us:  places of cultural value, such as bookstores and revered record stores, close in towns across the country only to be replaced by Chase bank branches pushing the empty signs of monetary value.

The universe is bigger than dollar value. To attempt to reduce it to a place that only abides the predatory regard of others is cynical propaganda.