October 22, 2014

Chasing Tale [10/22/14]: Fear and Loathing in the Mushroom Kingdom

Chasing Tale is a recurring highlight of the most recent books to wind up on my bookshelves, as well as a rant about whatever is on my mind.

Have you heard of lapsed Catholics? Well, I'm a lapsed gamer. I love video-games to this day, but ultimately the hobby was a timesuck and a moneysuck for me. Two resources that do not come in great supply, particularly when my drug of choice, books, takes up so much of those precious twenty-four hours.

My college days were during the latter half of the 90s, and a big chunk of free time was spent with the N64, our hookah of choice, gathered round it in a semi-circle on the floor for marathon sessions of Goldeneye, Street Fighter, and Mario Kart. I can recall the casual "video-games are for kids" attitude from folks who didn't play. The disdain paled, however, compared to that for fans of Dungeons & Dragons, which some of my friends played and I would casually mock as basement-dwelling mouth-breathers, or for fans of pro wrestling, of which I was a fan at the time during the height of its popularity and received ceaseless derision for being duped into watching a fake sport. Heck, despite the rise of superhero movies, even comic books put a bulls-eye on people's backs, because it's one more thing that prompts the phrase: Oh, I used to read those a a kid, but ...

But unlike D&D, rasslin', and even comic books, video-games are a multi-billion-dollar business with mainstream appeal. Heck, video-games were big in the 90s, but then came the 21st century and online gaming, and that's when the industry became huge. Bigger-than-movies huge. And because the video-game industry is such a behemoth and offers such a vast array of entertainment for consumers, it is fodder for all kinds of commentary just like movies, music, television, social media, and the longstanding entertainment medium of ... wait for it ... books.

J.K. Rowling is seducing children into a life of satanism and witchcraft? Oh, f**k off.

Right now there is a sizable group crying out for "ethics in gaming journalism" with allegations of collusion between the people selling games and the people reporting on games, kind of like the very cozy interactions between ESPN and the NFL. That sort of thing. But under the thick candy shell of consumer awareness is a chocolately center tainted by a vicious, anti-feminist, anti-progressive smear campaign spurred by the ex of a game designer, replete with ceaseless harrassment and threats of violence. That firestorm kicked off in August. Since then, it's gotten worse, in so much gaggles of idealogues and agitators with Twitter accounts can make it worse.

If you actually try to wade through the morass of hashtags and memes that range from the vague to the snarky, you wind up face to face with a contingent afflicted with a virulent strain of outrage. The bellicose pushback against a perceived invasion of feminazis, cultural Marxists, and social engineers plotting to bring down the video-game industry strains credulity, much as it does in every other art form that has endured similar bellyaches. Personally, I think it's going to take a lot more to bring down the video-game empire than some YouTube videos and Kotaku articles poking a stick at sexist tropes. If you go and read the tirades against people like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, and find they sound similar to the NRA's paranoia about gun laws, or the AFA's hysteria over homosexuals,  you're not alone. While there is a disjointed groundswell of support, many people, including some much heralded and beloved ambassadors of gaming like Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt, have denounced it, while gaming companies (the entities that are supposedly the instigators of all this corruption with their huge marketing and PR campaigns) go untargeted as near as I can tell and remain conspicuously silent. And the cacophonous catterwauling, along with that of knee-jerkers content to cast the entirety of gaming culture as a den of depravity, is drowning out what rational discourse remains.

I keep trying to apply the whole sad affair to our world of genre fiction, but it just comes out looking ludicrous in my mind. Years of grumbling about feminist fiction ignited one summer by a bunch of voracious readers incensed at book blogs and progressive authors, with the most vicious among them harrassing and even threatening a feminist writer, all because they feel the critical praise for her collection of cyberpunk poetry or whatever is undeserved and could only be the result of her having seduced book bloggers in exchange for positive reviews? Come on.

At its best, the bigwigs of the gaming industry are being taken to task for tactics akin to the music industry's payola scandal from decades ago. But that's tough to sift through, because at its worst is a conflagration of misanthropic, NIMBY-esque malcontents, tipified by rape and death threats that leave vocal video-game consumers of sound mind either shame-faced or batting down the rejects in an endless game of Whac-A-Mole.

Who knew, when we were chilling out and playing Mario Kart after a rough day at work/school, there was so much fear and loathing in the Mushroom Kingdom?

Anyway, I'm a lapsed gamer, like I said. Nowadays, books are my entertainment of choice. And while gamers greatly outnumber bookworms, we see our own little dustups. It's just that our grumpy cats and sad puppies are most often the writers, and nearly all of them refrain from cyber-stalking ... okay, Kathleen Hale wrote about stalking a reviewer, but she didn't issue any rape or death threats, so that's something at least.

Speaking of books, about time I highlighted the few that recently wound up on my bookshelf. Have a look.

Ebola K by Bobby Adair - A timely enough thriller that came out not even a full two months ago. This one features the aftermath of an airborne Ebola strain in the 80s and the rise of a new, even worse strain in present day. Oh, and it was a freebie last week, so you might still luck out.

Lamentation by Joe Clifford - Out this month is some New Hampshire noir. Who knew there was even such a thing? Anyway, I've heard good things and I'm eager to dive in and see what all the hullabaloo is about.

The Big Ugly by Jake Hinkson - Some more crime fiction, this time from BEAT to a PULP, with an ex-con hired to seek out another ex-con with a lot of people looking for her. Neat-o.

House Dick by E. Howard Hunt - Before this fella went to prison for his part in Watergate--hey, look! Another -gate!--Hunt was a pretty good crime writer. This private-eye novel from Hard Case Crime was only a couple bucks a week ago when I got it, so hey. Why not.

In the Shadows of Children by Alan Ryker - This is a novella due to come out mid-November from DarkFuse. I can't recall reading Ryker's work before, but I hear good things, so I'll give this a go.

Ash and Bone by Lisa von Biela - Another DarkFuse release from earlier in the year, this one a short novel that's a bit of a California ghost story. Radical!

What have you added your bookshelf recently?

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Gef! I used to be big on video games too until the newest console came out, which wasn't a worthwhile investment for me at the time and like you, it came down to too much of a financial drain as well as a time drain, but there were some truly awesome games that I had fun with. I too miss the time when video games were really meant for chilling out after a rough day as opposed to all the unfortunate things that have been playing out on the Internet.

    Neat picks on the books front--enjoy!