Of Dragons & Ruined Cities

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Of Dragons & Ruined Cities

All human culture is phlegm, and just like phlegm, sometimes analyzing it can give you a pretty good idea of the health of the entity it came from.

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This article has left me thinking as to why we are all on The Escapist, now.

"Massacres and disasters that clock up significant body counts are happening all the time, somewhere in the world, but despite mass media allowing us to be more aware of them than before, we also can't help having no sense of the weight, because these events lead to absolutely no consequences for us, here on a safer part of the world. Just as the death and destruction in films and games seem to have no consequences for the main characters that we can perceive."

I do find it hard to care about how Mrs Bloabenheim and her school students were shot to death by terrorists in good 'ol Fictionesia when it has little impact on me. The death of Mrs Bloabenheim and her school students were likely very gruesome and had it occurred at the school down the road I'd have likely cared.

I don't always agree with Yahtzee, but he is right about media reflecting culture. Just look at the supervillains from comicbooks after WWII - they used to be mad scientists, shadow archetypes of Einstein and Oppenheimer, using their potential to further the bad side of science - weapons.
But when we finally regained trust in science, the economy collapsed and all those that had lead it to collapse were used as villains - people with a lot of money EMPLOYING the evil scientists of yore.

Good stuff.
However, you missed a small tick.
Overpopulation.
Like a horde of rats stuffed into a very small cage.
The rats will begin to eat each other for space and nourishment.
Man might not be that different to rats.

And now that the world is more connected and you can interact more with people, become aware of more people and get annoyed by more people, I think we're slowly turning into those rats.
And with the problem of being killed or incarcerated for acting on our rat-like instincts of obliterating the nearest human being, virtual media takes it's logical position. With no real life consequences for annihilating virtual human beings this is the perfect place for the rats to party.

Hey, cut Batman some slack. He didn't really have a choice in the matter. Superman on the other hand? What a cunt.

Fascinating article though. The dragon revelation alone is pretty incredible. I noticed that dragons had 'come back in fashion' a few years ago, but I never begun to wonder why.

Feeling a bit grumpy today, Mr Croshaw? :)

You are right about popular culture influencing media and visceversa. After all, media comes from popular culture, and those that stand the pass of time are those that, in some way or another, speak to our culture or caught the interest of their culture better. But I believe your examples are way out of mark.

The example of the dragon is not about greed being more prevalent or evil in depression era or the 60s, it was simply because Smaug is based on Scandinavian dragons, and those are always vile and greedy. Compare them with the dragons in Beowulf or Sigurd. Puff is simply a kids show dragon, and as such, is no different than Falkor and other children's book dragons. I am pretty sure the pile of gold was never a part of Puff's backstory, so to claim his was a representation of a more accepted greed is pointless. They are both dragons, but based on very, very different references and made to fit different roles, so to compare them is like comparing Barney and the T-Rex because "they are both dinosaurs".

Speaking of dragons as the cultural barometer, I wonder if Mr Crosshaw's theory fits the Eastern/Western depictions of dragons. Certainly, Eastern civilisation (especially China) has been historically more stable than that in Europe, but I can't help consider if the depiction of murderous tyrant in the West and benevolent nobility in the East reflect the perception of the ruling class by the peasant masses at the time.

I always thought that art and culture are somewhat analogue to bodily excretions, I found that shit had all the qualities, in the sense that it takes the author time, food and digestion to build it and release it into the world for everyone to appreciate it. But I guess phlegm is more appropriate to start an article.

I always thought that art and culture are somewhat analogue to bodily excretions, I found that fecal matter has all the qualities, in the sense that it takes the author time, food and digestion to build it and release it into the world for everyone to appreciate it. But I guess phlegm is more appropriate to start an article.

So this is what happens when you don't have a good video game review to reference back to? I mean I want to call this something OTHER than a ramble...but...

An analysis of metaphoric calamities and their metaphorical impact on non-existent populaces? Did you get like SUPER drunk and really got way too much in to SimCity? Not trying to be mean, but I'd love to know what spurred this thought process one...?

Dragons and monsters have been around for a lot longer than the last few centuries. We have modern interpretations of them, but just using the phrase 'modern' implies an obsolete origin. Dragon like creatures exist almost universally, from the Incas to the Greeks. And sometimes these are just stories. I honestly never understood the whole dragon thing in games either. I remember in Dragon Age wondering since when were dragons the ultimate expression of evil? In most games dragons are high level enemies, but natural ones. They exist in nature, and thus are neutral. Evil was supposed to be daemons and the supernatural. Things that ate souls and laid siege to heaven, not just horded gold and set fire to farms. Maybe I'm spoiled on Warhammer, but when I think 'great evil' I think of a Chaos God or Greater Daemon, not one half of the cast of How to Train Your Dragon.

*gasp* People not giving a shit about other people they dont know! Stop the presses!

Even thought we are made aware about these terrible things happening everyday it doesnt change anything for the one watching. These reports just have as little effect on us then the war crimes commited by the nazis and soviets back in the day had on US citizens, who where firmly against entering the war despite their allies overseas getting dominated by nazi germany, only when they themselves where attacked by japan did opinion change. So all this isnt exactly a recent phenomenom

Heck roland koch based his whole movie career on destroying entire cities in his movies.

What happens in another country stays in another country most of the times.. we might be watching but we have no control over the events that unfold either way.

All this morale finger wagging about how society has turned for the worse is nonsense... it has allways been like that.

The rest of europe didnt really care for the atrocities of the 30 year war... didnt really care for the genocide committed on native americans. The history of humankind is full of example how people simply dont give a fuck about masses of other people they dont know getting murdered... because thats how humans work, they dont care for anything outside of their direct sphere of influence. (there are very little actual people trying to make a better world and alot of social justice warriors who like to point fingers but never do anything themselves and live a comfortable live)

Humans arent noble.. that isnt how we became the dominant species of this planet for better or for (much more likely) worse.

We are where we are now because humans are arrogant self centered bastards.

It makes sense I guess, at first I wondered how the ticker tape parade would factor into the narcissism theory but actually that's the best-fitting part; if you think of yourself as the only rational one, then you probably also believe that people can only learn things the hard way. And hindsight is 20/20, hence the parade.

JenSeven:
Good stuff.
However, you missed a small tick.
Overpopulation.
Like a horde of rats stuffed into a very small cage.
The rats will begin to eat each other for space and nourishment.
Man might not be that different to rats.

Overpopulation hasn't been a problem in most of the world for awhile. Europe, Asia, Canada, and Oceania have been suffering from low birth rates for longer than most of us have been alive. Even famous batshit insane theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran have below replacement birth rates like 2.21* and 1.86 respectively. Even Latin America's experiencing a decline in birth rates.

The only countries in the world that actually are experiencing high birth rates at the moment are Honduras, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Papua New Guinea, and African countries south of Algeria and North of Namibia.

The real crisis is definitely underpopulation. Just look at Japan and Russia's current crisis to see where our future lies.

* Replacement birth rate varies by country from around 2.1 in developed countries to 3.0 in developing ones.

Yahtzee gets close to the real answer and the real answer is that video games and movies have become nothing more than spectacle over substance.

Man of Steel is the perfect example, as they relentlessly try to keep you distracted by all the punching and exploding so you won't stop and think about what's actually happening. Many video games have pathetically become the same way, assuming that without a healthy and continuous dose of explosions the player will get bored.

Bastard King:
The only countries in the world that actually are experiencing high birth rates at the moment are Honduras, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Papua New Guinea, and African countries south of Algeria and North of Namibia.

All countries where birth control is verboten or not readily available... just a little observation on the side.

Proofs that if people have the choice they take sex without consequences then sex that leads to pregnancy..

Karadalis:

What happens in another country stays in another country most of the times.. we might be watching but we have no control over the events that unfold either way.

All this morale finger wagging about how society has turned for the worse is nonsense... it has allways been like that.

I didn't get any moral preaching from the article. I think it's just pointing out how popular culture had the need to raise the bar in terms of the scope of catastrophes. No one can deny that humans have a tendency to vicariously enjoy other people's suffering, even if they are fictional characters. It's just that today post-apocalyptic scenarios are mainstream when once they where the subject of underground culture.
There's more craving to those kind of scenarios maybe because society is hyper-connected and policing itself.

I believe another root cause to misanthropy is that it is a pleasantly easy way to turn your back on the world. To not let it close enough to actually bother you. Engagement in anything is taking the risk of maybe becoming disappointed. If you make up your mind that it is worthless from the start, it's playing it safe.

Not to mention, if you only look at the negatives, which there is more than plenty of, it also does make some logical sense. It feels less like giving up for the sake of security, and more like simply being realistic.

Evonisia:
This article has left me thinking as to why we are all on The Escapist, now.

"Massacres and disasters that clock up significant body counts are happening all the time, somewhere in the world, but despite mass media allowing us to be more aware of them than before, we also can't help having no sense of the weight, because these events lead to absolutely no consequences for us, here on a safer part of the world. Just as the death and destruction in films and games seem to have no consequences for the main characters that we can perceive."

I do find it hard to care about how Mrs Bloabenheim and her school students were shot to death by terrorists in good 'ol Fictionesia when it has little impact on me. The death of Mrs Bloabenheim and her school students were likely very gruesome and had it occurred at the school down the road I'd have likely cared.

It's all about being able to relate to the people in question or being able to relate it to oneself. If something happened to someone on the other side of the world, it has nothing to do with you or anyone you really care about most likely. People from a different culture with a different social, political, economical and ecological situation? Not interesting, because there's no risk nobody in your social circles would be a victim of that. If it happened down the street however, it'd be the realization that "It could've been me" or "My friend works not far from there, it could have been her", etc.

We as humans only care about what is close to heart, and with good reason. If we were all to carry the burden of the entire world and shed tears for every single tragedy we read in the paper, we'd all probably hang ourselves before we could have our morning coffee.

Arkhangelsk:
We as humans only care about what is close to heart, and with good reason. If we were all to carry the burden of the entire world and shed tears for every single tragedy we read in the paper, we'd all probably hang ourselves before we could have our morning coffee.

"No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other's tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes-forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There's not a chance you'd mistake one for another, after a minute's close inspection), but still unique."
-Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Arkhangelsk:

We as humans only care about what is close to heart, and with good reason. If we were all to carry the burden of the entire world and shed tears for every single tragedy we read in the paper, we'd all probably hang ourselves before we could have our morning coffee.

Or, I dunno, perhaps we'd all just end up actually making the steps to help those people. If we're all feeling that level of tragedu burden, we're also probably much more used to actually helping people, in both individual experience and level of social acceptance.

But this is just optimism vs cynicism contention.

But boy, Yahtzee has an extended, excruciating hardie for internet comments, it seems.

Yahtzee is definitely right about the misanthropy. Almost everyone I encounter these days seems to be a bit of a cynical misanthrope. It's probably not helped by over-enthusiastic scientists being quick to remind everyone about how big space is and how insignificant humans are...

Why are we still going off on the ending to Man of Steel? It was fine, like the rest of the movie.

I thought it was all quite obvious.

For his whole life Clark was a demigod among men, and the arrival of Zod and his minions was the first time Clark's abilities were truly put to the test. On top of that, the antagonists were directly responsible for 90% of the damage done through out the film. If my memory serves me, Superman was doing everything he could to stop a group of all powerful genocidal maniacs who tried to kill everybody with their Intergalactic Gravity and Planet Altering Machine of Incomprehensible Death and HorrorTM.

Man of Steel is not a great movie, what with the bland characters, liberal shaky cam and lens flare, and the out of nowhere "romance" of Clark and Lois, but the destruction WAS justified and not overdone or in bad taste. I mean how many times was Metropolis destroyed in the 90s Superman cartoon, or the dozens of direct to video/DVD animated Superman films? Why does the equally dull and exhausting Avengers get a free pass for all that film's "consequence free" destruction? Why are we still picking on Man of Steel?

There's a big range of how collateral damage gets treated. From Conflict Zone which was released when the term was coined and which counts your approval rating so hitting civs with your attacks actually sets your tech back to the stone age. To a game like Earth Defense Force which operates on the general principle of "we don't give a fuck" and the only goal state is you alive and every enemy dead, doesn't matter how much collateral damage or friendly fire you caused. You can execute allied soldiers on the spot and nobody cares. Some mech games by the same developer even include missions where you are tasked to "accidentally" destroy a fast food chain during battle as a favor to that nice girl at another restaurant.

Of course we shouldn't forget the term "collateral damage" itself which sounds more like "you won't get your full deposit back on that property" than "you just murdered innocent people". And we live in a society where countries target individuals with drone strikes. Which launch large missiles. Then the govt acts surprised that innocents die in the same blast. Of course then we make games like Call of Duty where you can blanket an entire city in howitzer rounds and won't hurt a single innocent person. Which is then countered by Spec Ops: The Line...

Hell, my most recent encounter with strange collateral damage handling was R-Type Final (which I played last month). The police fighters all have descriptions going on about how their weapons are designed for precision so they won't hit innocents when fighting in a city and how horrible it is to use some of the other weapons in populated areas. Then in stage 3 there's a bit where you can actually destroy city blocks for points. The city is clearly not evacuated, the roads are full of cars and you even see some ambulances drive around, you're there to destroy a large battleship that's dropping bombs at the city.

I find it funny that you mention man of steel considering how one of the biggest complaints about that movie is the large property damage, I think that this is less proof of a evil society and more proof of lazy writhers.

roski:

I didn't get any moral preaching from the article. I think it's just pointing out how popular culture had the need to raise the bar in terms of the scope of catastrophes. No one can deny that humans have a tendency to vicariously enjoy other people's suffering, even if they are fictional characters. It's just that today post-apocalyptic scenarios are mainstream when once they where the subject of underground culture.
There's more craving to those kind of scenarios maybe because society is hyper-connected and policing itself.

Its not the post apocalyptic settings thought, its the process of getting there that hes writing about, in a post apoc setting the destruction has allready happened. And catastrophe movies have existed since ever starting with the realy cheezy alien invasion flicks of yore and culminating in todays super hero movies wich basicly also are catastrophe movies if you think about the amount of damage caused.

And ofcourse its moral finger wagging, why else bring the whole thing up? The whole text is one big "what has society become?" when in truth society has allways been like that. Uncaring about other humans that have nothing to do with them.

Also finger wagging and preaching are different in my book. One is pointing out the flaws without offering solutions and the other one is rallying the troops without getting in the line of fire yourselfe so to speak.

Neither has ever worked very well in the history of humankind especialy since the people doing the pointing and praying rarely take action themselves and instead enjoy their comfortable live behind the frontlines.

Pretty sure the ramping up of catastrophe has more to do with advances in special effects and the selling power of spectacle than any deep probing of our changing collective psyches.

Interesting Dragon theory, allthough a little far-fetched, imho. I would like to ask is it just an intro for the cry for social justice or did that part sneak in unnoticed?

Karadalis:

Bastard King:
The only countries in the world that actually are experiencing high birth rates at the moment are Honduras, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Papua New Guinea, and African countries south of Algeria and North of Namibia.

All countries where birth control is verboten or not readily available... just a little observation on the side.

Proofs that if people have the choice they take sex without consequences then sex that leads to pregnancy..

Not really. Saudi Arabia, Lybia, Malasia, Oman, India, Namibia, Botswana,* Turkey, Italy, Poland and pretty much all of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavian countries have quite low rates of contraceptive use, and all have low birth rates.

You're right that contraceptive use is also low in Middle Africa and Afghanistan, but even if contraceptives never come to those places in high quantity, their fertility rates are due for a drop sooner than you think.

*Which would ordinarily have a respectable replacement level birth rate of 2.9, but with an average life expectancy of 53, it's rather low.

I disagree with this, because the annihilation of faceless crowds of our fellow humans has been a hallmark of video games since Grand Theft Auto.

"So that could be it. Or, then again, again, it could just be good old fashioned misanthropy. A very specific kind of misanthropy that has only become truly possible in recent years. You see, everyone has always liked to think of themselves as the lone voice of reason and intelligence in a world populated exclusively by idiots and timewasters who just can't seem to grasp their obvious inferiority. But it's only since the invention of the internet that this attitude can be enforced and confirmed within a few minutes of surfing. That's why half the internet is so fucking condescending now, stuffed to bursting point with patronizingly-written social justice Tumblr infographics, and 'comedy' articles with titles like "10 Things You Never Knew About Science Except You Totally Did Because You Paid Attention At School"."

That was very insightful, Croshaw, how did you come to realize all this, I wonder? ;)

About that ticker-tape parade thing: San Francisco threw one for the Giants in 2010, when they won the world series. That was a blast!

beleester:
I disagree with this, because the annihilation of faceless crowds of our fellow humans has been a hallmark of video games since Grand Theft Auto.

You think Grand Theft Auto invented this? In 1997? Please. Front Line was doing this in 1982, and I doubt it was the first, just the earliest I can think of where you kill significant numbers of humans.

Uh, this has been going on a lot longer than recently. I mean giant monster movies where cities got casually wrecked used to be hugely popular, under the thin justification of "it's a metaphor for nuclear war"... when really it was the fun of watching the "rampage" of two super cheezy monsters (dudes in rubber suits) having an equally ridiculous battle and causing stupid amounts of collateral damage while it goes on.

In super hero comics, stuff getting wrecked to crazy extremes ALWAYS happened. The 1960s (when Yahtzee talks about people being nice and content) is actually when a lot of the most popular comics from Marvel really hit their stride. Marvel are the guys who addressed the whole "wow, how does anything survive after all of this fighting" question by inventing an organization called "Damage Control Inc." which is under contract to pretty much run around and fix everything after huge scale battles and events. They even showed up in-comic a few times, and had their own (very limited) series.

Not to mention games like say "Rampage" where you take on the role of a giant movie monster and proceed to run around demolishing buildings for points, and devouring humans for health. :)

If you want to get technical, I think the reason why your seeing this kind of thing is movies is we've just gotten the technology to do it right (via current levels of CGI and Green Screen). While posted recently here is an old fight between Superman and Captain Marvel from "Justice League: Unlimited"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3tmtNqG3aE

The thing is that could be done in a cartoon previously (and happened all the time in comics) but it's just been recently that we could have things like the Kryptonian slugfests in "Man Of Steel" done with real people.

Of course I'll also be the first to point out that part of "comic reality" is the lack of realistic fallout to this type of thing, this is why you don't generally see innocent bystanders getting crushed (for example there is pretty much nobody dying in the backround of the "Man Of Steel" movie), and why neither Superman or Captain Marvel wind up suffering permanent PTSD from their duel in that comic over having killed a few thousand people in light of their respective codes against killing. Of course exceptions to this DO exist. In the cartoon "Superman Vs. The Elite" civilians are apparently shown being killed in the midst of a superhuman throwdown... but it's also faked, as part of Superman making a point.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zexXH3lS8Uw

Sadly the first part of the fight (where he's apparently losing) isn't up, which actually can make a case for Superman being a huge troll, but well, you know. :)

Understand also that this is pretty much regular comic reality, there ARE comics universes and such that DO set out to be a lot more realistic about things, and the issues of collateral damage, mass murder, and the morality of the entire idea of superheroism is brought into question. Indeed this was kind of the point of "The Authority" (DC/Wildstorm) when Warren Ellis was at the helm. Were they good guys? were they bad guys? What they were doing was necessary, but at the same time you had bits about the actual cost of say stopping a transdimensional invasion when "The Doctor" proceeds to remove a portion of the alternate earth doing the invasion from the earth's normal rotation, causing it to be destroyed and killing millions of people (along with the clear message: mess with our dimension, we'll be back). They didn't pull any real punches with that either, which was kind of the point.... but that's also not the kind of thing MOST super hero fans want to see, they want heroes to be campy to get away from you know... reality.


-

That said, don't get me wrong, I'd like to sort of agree with Yahtzee on some of this, as many might know I'm a pretty extreme militant, and believe the world is both overpopulated, and that nothing gets done, especially in war, by the first world due to morality and concerns over collateral damage... as I've said many times you cannot break a people without attacking the people, not just the military... but that's an entirely different discussion.

The bottom line is that comic books tend to represent a "perfect world" of sorts where the damage is generally just for show, the good guys usually win in the very end (even if they lose battles along the way), and idealistic morality (even among dark heroes) can be maintained in doing so. Some can question how all this collateral damage can happen without killing any innocent bystanders, and people are still going to love Superman. If your going to ponder that ask why a superhero who has a secret identity, and might be "wanted" by the police even when they work with him (at least officially) and beat the crap out of some dude after committing tons of crimes doing things the police can't, and then turn him over to the authorities to maintain their code against killing, and then have that guy go to jail and all the evidence collected by this anonymous vigilante stick. Sure, in comics it doesn't ALWAYS work, sometimes the plot has the system letting a bad guy go when the plot demands it. Typically having the system work like it does in real life is intended to show "how rich and powerful the Kingpin Of Crime/Lex Luthor really is" more than the silliness of having turned the guy over for arrest to begin with (and the whole situation for that matter).

Of course there ARE comics and stuff that get away from that, and handle things a lot more realistically for "mature" audiences. Sometimes even oddly within the same continuity as more campy concepts, some people read this stuff exclusively and can't stand all the camp. Me, I tend to follow both when I read comics as each has it's appeal. Things like "Man Of Steel" might be stylized a specific way but are clearly in the camp direction... your not supposed to think about it that hard, otherwise the entire thing shows how dumb it all really is. :)

JenSeven:
Good stuff.
However, you missed a small tick.
Overpopulation.
Like a horde of rats stuffed into a very small cage.
The rats will begin to eat each other for space and nourishment.
Man might not be that different to rats.

And now that the world is more connected and you can interact more with people, become aware of more people and get annoyed by more people, I think we're slowly turning into those rats.
And with the problem of being killed or incarcerated for acting on our rat-like instincts of obliterating the nearest human being, virtual media takes it's logical position. With no real life consequences for annihilating virtual human beings this is the perfect place for the rats to party.

Overpopulation really isn't a problem though, the Earth can carry trillions of humans and still be comfortable, but that's beside the point.

If you look at the birth rates of the Western world, it's going down.
Especially in Japan and Europe, they're actually loosing people each year.

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