For some time now, I have been observing, pondering and musing over the startling parallels between the games industry and the UK political scene. I know what you’re thinking, what a marvelously dull way to spend your time – and it would be hard to contradict your thoughts! However, my brain – being what it is and doing what it does – keeps me coming back to the comparative structures of either industry (and anyone that thinks UK politics isn’t an industry should reassess the situation, maybe give that Russell Brand / Jeremy Paxman interview a once over – it’s not all bad hair and loud mouth you know).
To begin with, we have three major players that dominate headlines, have passionate supporters and generate the strongest reactions from the public (see, you’re already unsure of whether I’m talking games or politics). The ‘big 3’ of the political world are obviously Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, whereas the parallel companies in the gaming industry would be Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.
Microsoft as the Conservatives:
This is an easy comparison to make. Both are ultimately self-serving companies that are primarily interested in generating the most money for their wealthy friends (of course, Microsoft is an enormous multi-national business and that is kind of what they’re supposed to do). It goes deeper than this though. Both have attempted to shoe-horn in their own agenda, regardless of public opinion – and then when meeting a strong reaction from the public, have drastically altered their plans making them seem as though they don’t really have the courage of their convictions or faith in what they were originally selling. The term ‘U-turn’ is as synonymous with the Conservative (cough, cough – ok, I’ll pretend it’s a ‘Coalition’ along with the rest of the media) Government as it is with Microsoft at the moment. Arguably, this immediate U-turn due to public outcry has more of a place in politics than it does in the games industry.
They claim they want to serve everyone, but have built a system that only works for a select few and leaves huge demographics out in the cold. Of course, all of the money lies in the key demographics they DO support and everyone else will just have to manage.
Sony as Labour:
You may disagree with this comparison, but it seems the natural one to me.
Recently dominant, yet in a position were they are having to fight to get back on top. Using the mistakes of the opposition to promote their agenda – without necessarily doing anything radical themselves. Rather than telling the public the amazing things they ARE doing, they are happy to stand up, highlight the unpopular decisions from their more dominant opposition, announce ‘we won’t be doing that!’ then stand back as people applaud.
They are also passionately left wing, for the people / for the gamer in public, whilst quietly installing policies that are straight out of the right wing opposition’s playbook. While they do provide a much greater level of support for a wider demographic, there is still the ever-present issue of having to line the pockets of the wealthiest in order to press forward. Additionally, there is the fact that some of their future plans patently won’t work in the long run (once again, I could be talking about Labour’s short sighted, knee-jerk reaction to the energy crisis OR Sony’s use of Gaikai to stream games to an EU audience).
Nintendo as Liberal Democrats:
Here is a comparison with which few could disagree. Nintendo and Liberal Democrats as the great pretender to the throne. An ever present third wheel at the dinner party. Brilliant ideas at times, policies that COULD potentially be in the interest of everybody – but nobody takes a blind bit of notice.
Nintendo may have been a dominant force once upon a time, but they are definitely out of the conversation for the most dominant and are unlikely to rise again, just as the Liberal Democrats will never really come to power. That’s not to say the ideas will always go unused, just that any real innovation will be repackaged and resold as the work of the 2 more dominant parties.
They have done and will do some truly marvelous things. The super powers will acknowledge their great ideas – then re-hash them, give them a new name and ultimately mess up the intended plan, essentially ruining what might have been.
It doesn’t end there:
It isn’t just the big companies floundering in similar fashions to the UK’s political parties, the public at large play their part in creating the undeniable parallel.
Just look at the extreme fanboy-ism that is currently being generated on the eve of the next generation of consoles. People passionately supporting their brand and denying the validity of others – just because that’s ‘what they do.’ Within politics, there are literally hundreds of thousands of families that ‘vote Labour’ or ‘vote Conservative’ because, historically, that’s what the family does. There is almost no consideration given to the policies or political arguments presented, simply a desire to conform to the traditions of the family. And that’s just at a personal level, let alone the impact it might have on the rest of the country.
Fanboys in the games industry are no different. They have crowned their console, without ever playing it, simply because they are fans of the current generation machine. No thought is given to what the different machines may provide and how that suits their gaming needs or household desires. It’s simple, it’s lazy and it’s ultimately not good for the individual, the industry or the country to cast votes and money in such a manner.
As one friend put it recently, it’s the “In this house we vote Conservative and buy Xbox, if you don’t like it – get out!” approach.
Perhaps rather than mimicking each other so closely, the 2 industries could try to learn from each others mistakes and gaming could eventually influence politics and vice-versa, making for a more harmonious nation!?
Or… you know, we could get a coalition console and the opportunity to call David Cameron an ‘effing camper noob’ over a chat headset. Either way, I’m in!
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