Will Candy Crush Set You Free?
Press Start for “Will Candy Crush Set You Free?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.
Written by: Jared Bauer and Matt Reichle
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Animations by: Dean Bottino
Original Music & Sound by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Additional Artwork by: Jacob Salamon
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Will Candy Crush Set You Free?
Wasting away in a cubicle, your jerk face boss is implementing the new micromanaging techniques from their yearly seminar in Honolulu, and someone took your pastrami sandwich from the refrigerator… again.
The mind numbing repetitiveness of the daily activity is soul crushing. Your phone begins to call out to you… the dreamland levels of Candy Crush demand your attention. So you decide to take some ‘me time’ for the next fifteen minutes.
You might even believe that these fifteen minutes of non-productivity are metaphorically sticking it to your boss. But is it really?
In his book Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism, British writer Alfie Bown suggests that although the leisure afforded by games like Candy Crush and Fruit Ninja may seem like a brief respite from your mechanical capitalist grind, it may be quite the opposite, they’re all part of your humdrum capitalist existence.
But this is nothing new. This societal demand for constant gratification, goes all the way back to the 19th Century Victorian concept of “Rational Recreation.”
“Rational Recreation” was a belief in a hierarchy of leisure—where the urban working class was introduced to the concept of relaxation in the direction of self-improvement. Instead of activities like drinking, napping, and fighting—workers were encouraged to spend their time doing productive and organized things like team sports and stamp collecting.
The idea was to keep workers engaged, happy, and domesticated instead of unruly, subversive, and wild. Because a happy worker is less likely to strike.
While we may not live in Victorian England, contemporary capitalist culture continues a new form of rational recreation with an arbitrary distinction between productive and unproductive enjoyment.
Basically we are culturally biased against video games. It’s the reason why at early ages kids are pushed into t-ball and soccer and not gaming. I mean… one rots your brain… after all.
So if our capitalist overlords don’t want us playing games, does that mean we’re heroically bucking the system when we game? What if the end of corporate capitalism and consumer culture doesn’t end with the whoosh of a fiery Molotov cocktail and violent revolution—what if it is heralded but the beep boop beep of handheld games? Wellllll… probably not.
There are a couple of obstacles to the revolutionary potential in games.
Most games require a massive amount of investment in order to keep up with the increasing demand for pleasure. Between DLCs and micro-transactions, grinding games like Diablo, Destiny, and World of Warcraft generate entire economies of their own. Not to mention the people that spend their day making pennies to farm for virtual gold or the six figure salary you can make as a professional gamer. There is literally an entire economy that thrives from the profit created from gaming.
People enjoy games; they spend hundreds of hours playing, building relationships, and they trust in their game designers. Sequel after disappointing sequel is snatched off the shelves with the hope that some inkling of the original magic will remain.
The new shiny advertising object is dangled in front of the consumer—one legendary camouflaged limited edition console at a time… it’s hard to see how games can eradicate late modern capitalism if they’re such an easy product to sell.
And how can anyone be upset about their working conditions when they’ve cleared all of the jelly in level 147 of candy crush?
It’s impossible because you are too busy yelling: “In your Face!!!!” to your tablet.
What we are dealing with is a particular type of ideology—an ideology of consumer capitalism that mandates enjoyment.
There isn’t a pure, correct, or optimal object to enjoy—just that one ought to seek out and find pleasurable experiences… and this works perfectly with our society of advertising—where there is always a newer and shinier object promising pleasure—capitalism promotes and demands that we find happiness and that, most importantly, we enjoy that happiness.
Surely your boss doesn’t want you to play games at work—but the very concept of distracted gaming maintains a healthy work environment. While it should seem that the time that people take to play games like angry birds, clash of clans, or doodle jump hurts the workplace due to lack of production—it is the small enjoyment itself that keeps most people from burning the place down.
So if even games are just trying to keep us happy while we toil away… does that mean ALL forms of enjoyment are destined to dull us to the utter meaninglessness of our corporate existence? Alfie Bown finds a ray of hope in a special kind of Lacanian enjoyment: Jouissance.
Jouissance is an irrational form of pleasure that borders on suffering —it is a sort of pleasure and pain wrapped in one. A sort of enjoyment that there’s no explanation for- Like watching The Room, picking at scabs, or playing Flappy Bird or any of the Dark Souls games.
With Jouissance there’s an opportunity, not to destroy our ideology that mandates enjoyment—but to reflect on the how unnatural our feelings of enjoyment are—that we aren’t beautiful individuals who are fighting the good fight against the corporate machine—that what we enjoy is predictable, sellable, and taught to us. That no matter how much people try not to be sell outs—they’re just sad hipster pseudo revolutionaries in Che t-shirts and Berets.
Well dear viewer, which one is it: are we just non-playable characters in the ever-expanding RPG of late capitalism or are we a heroic avatar in complete control of our quest for liberation, fighting a consumer culture from atop the work commode—faces basking in the sweet incandescent glow produced by internet meme after internet meme?