Challenge Everything

I used to work with this stoner named Jack who, aside from his many other quirks, always wore his t-shirts backwards. You could still read what was written on the front, so when he'd show up to work, he'd have SADDIDA, or IRATA written across his chest, looking to all the world as if he were some wacked-out member of a secret sect.

I asked him about it once, and his explanation was that he hated corporate sponsorship, but was above actually buying clothes. He'd wear whatever swag came his way, but refused to brandish an unadulterated logo on his body. Therefore: the inside-out t-shirt

This made sense in a stoner kind of way. Not only was he denying his corporate sponsor free advertising, but he took it a step further by inverting the logo, thereby making a statement. For ingenuity and devotion to a cause, I granted him a few hundred XP, and we became fast friends. Until his girlfriend started popping over to my place late at night, but that's another story.

I learned a lot from Jack. Besides teaching me how to make a bong out of an apple, he encouraged me to look past the surface of things. We would hang out, he would smoke pot, and we would talk about life, philosophy and how to make DMT out of canary grass. This was back when the only other people I spent much time with were named Zelda and Mario.

It's not that I was anti-social, really, it's just that the NES was the least sucktacular thing I had ever seen. Truly, it was the best thing since PopTarts. I put stickers on my NES. I petted it and I called it George. After I got the NES, I no longer called playing games "playing games." I called it "playing Nintendo." Metroid, Bionic Commando, Zelda, these were the adventures of my youth. As I went from boyhood to manhood I developed an interest in certain non-video games such as sex, poker and running from the law, but the NES was still my constant companion.

Needless to say, I was a big fan. I even owned a Nintendo t-shirt, which I happened to be wearing one day while hanging out with Jack.

"A t-shirt," said Jack, between tokes, "really isn't just a t-shirt. If it's got a logo on it, it's an advertisement. When you wear a t-shirt with a logo on it, you become, in essence, a walking ad-space. Television stations, magazines and billboard companies charge money for their advertising space, and so should you. Otherwise you're getting screwed. Are those Cheetos?"

Sure he was more baked than a potato when he said this, but it made sense. It also made me angry. Because despite how much I really loved my NES, I realized that Jack was right. I wasn't just wearing that shirt because it happened to be in the drawer. Nor did I buy it for the colors. I didn't even buy it at all. It was sent to me for free when I subscribed to the (free) Nintendo Power Magazine, and I wore it because I felt an unabashed love for my Nintendo Entertainment System, and I wanted the world to know it. I was therefore endorsing the product, and Nintendo hadn't paid me a dime for the privilege.

My feelings for the NES instantly changed. I went home that night and tried to play a round of Super Mario, but things just weren't the same. My doors had been cleansed, as Jack would have said. I was now able to see things as they truly were. What I had felt for the NES was not love it was Brand Loyalty. The truth is that the NES was not a cuddly, love-producing wonder-box, and Nintendo was not my giant friend across the ocean. The NES was just a machine, and Nintendo was just another company that wanted my money, and not a very nice one at that.

Among the many un-nice things Nintendo did in their Golden-Age, the most insidious was the introduction of the concept of "licensing" to the video game industry. Prior to the "authentication chip" installed in the NES, console makers had very little say over what kinds of and how many games were produced for their systems. Some analysts have surmised that this lack of oversight was partly responsible for the rapid decline in popularity of the Atari 2600 in the early eighties.

The 2600 was so popular that a lot of people who had no business making video games made games for it, and many of those games sucked to the point of unplayability. So many buggy games were produced for that system, in fact, that it was hard for consumers to tell the good games from the bad, yet they all had the Atari name somewhere on the box and were therefore identified with the Atari company and their product.

To avoid this problem (and thereby avoid the decrease in sales that the 2600 eventually suffered as a result) Nintendo decided to demand a licensing fee and exert quality and creative control over every game produced for the NES. They demanded that companies make changes to certain games, and restricted the number of units sold based upon their own in-house distribution schemes. They also aggressively sued anyone who attempted to circumvent this new way of operating.

In other words, Nintendo re-wrote the rules in their favor, screwed over a lot of independent development houses and made a lot of money as a result. Kind of like what another game company is doing right now. I won't name names, but the company I'm thinking of starts with an E and ends with an A.

My friend Jack would call this "The True Nature of a thing revealing itself." Whatever the hell that means. Honestly, he made sense only about half of the time, but he really did have the best weed.

My point is: wear the t-shirts if you like. Buy the stuffed animals, the lunch boxes, the stickers and the funny hats. Drink the Kool-aid. It is tasty and refreshing, and wow look at the colors! Believe that Nintendo is your friend and that EA is your enemy if that makes you happier, but the fact is that neither is neither. Friends offer to bring you Kleenex and orange juice when you have a cold. Enemies throw rocks at your car. Video game companies do neither. They just make and sell games. Buy them, or not, but don't waste your time with emotional outpourings of betrayal and grief when the tiger shows its stripes and chews off your arm.

Comments

Well done, as usual, Fletcher.

Fletcher1138 wrote:

Buy them, or not, but don't waste your time with emotional outpourings of betrayal and grief when the tiger shows its stripes and chews off your arm.

I don't really mind that people display emotion under such circumstances. I think anger is a perfectly legitimate response to exploitation... or to having one's arm chewed off. However, I do find it distressing that so many people are genuinely surprised when they catch a glimpse of "The True Nature of a thing revealing itself," as your friend would say. When I see people acting surprised, I have to wonder why it is that they couldn't have anticipated the fact that Corporate Entity du jour doesn't care about them in the least. This leads me to ponder the means and methods of marketing, the institutions of control, the fostering of ignorance, the prevalance of branding, and so on. Before long, I find that I have come to resemble Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live!, only without the Sunglasses of Enlightenment and the Herculean torso. Or, if not the Hot Rod, then Herbert Marcuse. Take your pick.

I am reminded of a semi-recent blog posting by Alton Brown, one of my idols and host of Food Network's Good Eats. Since his blog seems to delete old posts without archiving them, and since the post I'm talking about is now at the very bottom of the page and thus next on the chopping block, I don't feel too bad about reproducing it here in full:

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

I just saw the movie "Supersize Me" and I have to say that I liked it. It was fun, irreverent film making on a shoestring and it's good to know that filmmakers can still pull that sort of thing off.

What shocked me about the movie wasn't what it said, or. Heck I already new most of that stuff. What shocked me were the gasps I heard from the audience, most of whom seemed generally surprised that big business could be so"…well"…business like.

Here's what it comes down to kids. Ronald McDonald doesn't give a damn about you. Neither does that little minx Wendy or any of the other icons of drivethroughdom. And you know what, they're not supposed to. They're businesses doing what businesses do. They don't love you. They are not going to laugh with you on your birthdays, or hold you when you're sick and sad. They won't be with you when you graduate, when your children are born or when you die. You will be with you and your family and friends will be with you. And, if you're any kind of human being, you will be there for them. And you know what, you and your family and friends are supposed to provide you with nourishment too. That's right folks, feeding someone is an act of caring. We will always be fed best by those that care, be it ourselves or the aforementioned friends and family.

We are fat and sick and dying because we have handed a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations. We choose to value our nourishment so little that we entrust it to strangers. We hand our lives over to big companies and then drag them to court when the deal goes bad. This is insanity.

Feed yourselves.
Feed your loved ones.
And for God's sake feed your children.

Don't trust anyone else to do it"…not anyone. I'm not saying that you shouldn't go out to dinner every now and then"…that is after all one of the great joys of life"…but it isn't life itself and that's what I'm talking about.

Is MacDonalds food bad for you? What do you think? Does that mean you shouldn't eat it? No, it just means you shouldn't live on it or anything else made by someone you wouldn't hug.

Burgers don't kill people.
People kill people.
Don't be one of them.

A

posted by Alton Brown, 8:08 PM
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If there is a simple, common moral between Fletcher's and Alton's tales, it can only be this: if someone or something requires money in return for their services, don't mistake them for a friend. Not under any circumstances.

Excellent article. I liked how you added Nintendo and Bong into the same article.

Excellent article again, Fletch. I've never hit the bong too much, but I try to subscribe to the same philosophy as Jack regarding clothes. Try buying something without a prevalent logo on it, though -- it's damned near impossible. Unless you want to wear a barrel, burlap sack, or cult robe. I prefer the barrel, it breathes better.

Lobo wrote:

I am reminded of a semi-recent blog posting by Alton Brown, one of my idols and host of Food Network's Good Eats. Since his blog seems to delete old posts without archiving them, and since the post I'm talking about is now at the very bottom of the page and thus next on the chopping block, I don't feel too bad about reproducing it here in full:

If you like Supersize me, read "Fast Food Nation". You won't eat another cheeseburger for weeks trust me.

Oh, BTW: You better add politicians to people you would not consider a friend with that rule Lobo.

I prefer the barrel, it breathes better.

Amen brother! Dont forget the convinent air holes too.

To add to what bagga said, "Try buying something without a prevalent logo on it, though -- it's damned near impossible," most everything we wear, own, or drive has some sort of logo on it. Thus, are we not advertising all the time?

Think about it this way: You're having a party. You're drinking Corona's, Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola, or Crown Royal. You're eating from a party platter brought to you by Hooter's or a giant sub from Blimpie's, Subway, or MASH Hoagies. Meanwhile, your tunes are jamming from the harman/kardon, JVC, Pioneer, or Sony stereo.

Every one of those items has some sort of recognizable marking upon (or wrapped around) it. Shoot, even most MMORPGs allow for brand advertising by blacksmiths/tailors/etc.

Funny thing about Jack: Just about the only non-advertised possession of his was--indeed--his weed.

Edit: Typo

So ummm You can make a Bong out of an Apple? I knew Steve Jobs was a stoner!

One of my pet peeves was when Old Navy first came out they pretty successfully made their name by advertising on their shoddy clothing. It seemed like every family I saw was wearing different variations of the same Old Navy logo.

Now granted, when I can get pants for my kids for $5.99, it is kinda hard to argue, but I refuse to buy anything from them with an obvious logo.

baggachipz wrote:

Unless you want to wear a barrel, burlap sack, or cult robe. I prefer the barrel, it breathes better.

But the cult robes come with tastey Apple Sauce!

Hey Fletch did you manage to make a bong out of that NES? IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v294/elconi13/esmilis/rasta2_bigsmoke.gif)

Buy them, or not, but don't waste your time with emotional outpourings of betrayal and grief when the tiger shows its stripes and chews off your arm.

Well said Feltcher. Great article, the bulk of the internet is filled with people who spend the majority of their time arguing for/against the various corporations interests. Sony vs. Nintendo vs. Microsoft vs. EA. It's nice to take a step back and realize any one of these companies would change places in a heartbeat if it made them more money. Sony more evil than Nintendo? If Nintendo could make more money being exactly like Sony, they'd do it. And vice versa. They're just business, and this hobby we all care about and enjoy is just that, their business. It's a box sitting on a shelf in a warehouse somewhere. There may be people who work at these companies that are passionate about games, in fact it's likely there's more than a few of them. But the business itself doesn't change, it's all just boxes to them.

Anyway, just agreeing and saying good article.

Don't you cuss Ninty you wankers!

Lobo wrote:

if someone or something requires money in return for their services, don't mistake them for a friend. Not under any circumstances.

That's why men and women can't be friends!

A great article Fletcher. But i have to make a slight disagreement with your closing ...

Buy them, or not, but don't waste your time with emotional outpourings of betrayal and grief when the tiger shows its stripes and chews off your arm.

Throughout the whole EA-NFL fiasco, I was --well not shocked -- but mystified to see the amount of people that didn't really care that a company would spend millions of dollars, not on game development, but on preventing the competition from putting out a game. Especially when said competition seemed by all regards to put out a superior product.

People that love to play Madden didn't care (for the most part) and a vast majority of people buy EA games based on the fact that they have a great public relations strategy. Nevermind the potenial for the destruction of the gaming industry. Nevermind that in the history of mankind a corporation whose primary reason for existence is to make money has never upped their quality when they had no one nipping at their heels, ready to take their place.

"But it's just a video game," they would cry. "There are other things to worry about in the world that this." The video game itself is worthless, they are correct. But the principle of a move such as EA (or any other company) is doing is what should be driving the protest. Not that "I will have to play an EA game," because as you say, if Take Two could be EA, they would in a heartbeat.

It is the principle of the move: We will stop competition (i.e. reasons for the advancement of technology) to maintain our market share, then we will put out a new football game in the fastest, cheapest way we can that will appeal to the most people it can to make the most money we can. Eliminating the competition will allow us to only make small modifications to the game in order to get the loyal players to continue buying.

And this is what is happening in coprorate America across the board. Corporations are buying each other under pretence. Oil companies merged because they claimng they were losing money. now we have BP/Amaco and Exxon/Mobil which one year after their mergers became Fortune 50 companies with profits through the roof. The more companies eradicate competition in any area of our lives, the worse it will be for consumers.

It's when it happens in the smaller industries, like video games, that makes it easier to accept in larger industries that have more impact on more lives. If you don't try to draw a line now, it might be too late when you REALLY need to.

Rant done.

What is "ADDIDAS", though?

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

What is "ADDIDAS", though?

The make hoes for dyslexics.

Great addition to the debate highlander. I don't think it nullifies my point though. The behavior you describe is capitalism taken to the extreme: i.e. the complete elimination of competition. In the United States of America we call this trust building, and it's supposed to be illegal. Republican administrations of late, however, have not seemed to mind too much about enforcing that particular law.

Another reason why even us gamers should get off of the couch every once-in-a-while and vote.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

What is "ADDIDAS", though?

Be great if you guys could swing by the house sometime on Monday evenings to ridicule my spelling errors before I hit submit. I've got margaritas I'm not drinking.

It's when it happens in the smaller industries, like video games, that makes it easier to accept in larger industries that have more impact on more lives. If you don't try to draw a line now, it might be too late when you REALLY need to.

He wasn't saying that you should never care that a corporation is or is not doing something bad. He's saying that you shouldn't care about corporations, they aren't your friend. Yes, EA did something quite bad with that NFL deal. Do they deserve some derision for it? Sure. The article is about wearing a SEGA/Visual Concepts shirt and making them out to be the poor little victim friendly happy company who loves us and loves games and wants everyone to hug rainbow puppies. EA currently is acting like assholes (self-destructive assholes, IMO), but they're just a corporation. What they're doing is bad, but Sega, Take-Two or Visual Concepts aren't staffed by better virtuous people who only care about us. It's all just business.

I've got margaritas I'm not drinking.

Haven't those been sitting around your house for like 2 weeks now?

They've been refrigerated. I'm sure they're perfectly safe.

What they're doing is bad, but Sega, Take-Two or Visual Concepts aren't staffed by better virtuous people who only care about us. It's all just business.

I was not saying that Take 2 is full of virtuous people. If they had the opportunity, they'd be just like EA. I was just adding to the commentary in my own weird way.

Complaining about how EA took away your Take2 football game is a bit childish. Complaining about Company A, who uses its power and influence to eliminate Company B without producing anything better (whether they are the second biggest money maker or the lowest independent company) is what should be happening. And as Flethcer pointed out, it seems like the past few presidental administrations have turned a blind eye to the monolithic coprorations that are being born today. The "business" of today seems to be geared more toward companies buying and selling each other and finding ways to make their stock prices rise that actually producing something that people will want to buy. The consumer needs to be aware of this. But many are not. They purchase out of "brand loyalty." There's a sucker born every minute.

I'll add that I have been listening to "Atlas Shrugged" on my way to work so I think it is affecting my thinking.

Highlander wrote:

I'll add that I have been listening to "Atlas Shrugged" on my way to work so I think it is affecting my thinking.

Ack! A Randian! Get thee behind me satan! I need a young priest and an old priest, stat!

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

What is "ADDIDAS", though?

All Damn Day I Dream About Sex. It's swearin' version of ADIDAS, for the athletic heathen.

Fun article, as always! I had a friend that made a bong out of my sister's Volvo. Bless him, he could make a bong out of anything.

Re Branding. I've always refused to wear clothes with obvious branding...which makes it difficult to shop. Especially since I wear primarily black...further narrowing the possibilities of finding something.

I've noticed, in my quest for the perfect black wardrobe, that the more expensive your clothes are, the less likely they are to be obnoxiously branded. (Which leads to all sorts of insidious fashion conspiracies.) Of course, there's they clothes that are absurdly high priced, and branded...but really, you can just think of those as early warning systems. When you see people wearing them, you know to avoid them.

But branded baby clothes seem to be about the only ones I can find. Sweatpants and shorts and stuff I can find unbranded, but tshirts all have cartoon/tv characters on them. The boy wears much winnie the pooh stuff.

Publicly owned companies have few incentives to make better product, even if they do have competition. Their only aim is to raise their share price so their investors will be happy. They'll make new products and innovate, but only just enough that it's still profitable.
Even when EA did have competition for NFL games, did they really make big strides forward every year, or did they change it just enough that people would buy a new version?

This article is precisely the thing, put just the right way, that I've been meaning to say now for a year or two.

My feelings for the NES instantly changed. I went home that night and tried to play a round of Super Mario, but things just weren't the same. My doors had been cleansed, as Jack would have said.

It sounds to me like Jack destroyed your youthful enthusiasm. Are you actually happier for having lost your love of your NES? While what you say is nevertheless true, it seems a shame for your enjoyment of a product to have been so cruelly assassinated (and yes, Nintendo was clearly the subject of a character assassination by Jack). Alas, your poor happy youth, gone now forever. Allowing something so trivial to sour something you so loved seems, well, sad.

A t-shirt," said Jack, between tokes, "really isn't just a t-shirt. If it's got a logo on it, it's an advertisement. When you wear a t-shirt with a logo on it, you become, in essence, a walking ad-space. Television stations, magazines and billboard companies charge money for their advertising space, and so should you.

This attitude isn't that uncommon. I've known a number of people who refuse to turn themselves into walking billboards.

Obviously, doing this takes a little bit of rationality and perspective. You aren't likely to find unbranded jeans, but other types of pants and shirts without obvious brands are easy.

A small tag isn't that difficult to live with, but there's no way in hell I'd wear a shirt with an Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle logo emblazoned across it. And whenever I see someone wandering around plastered with logos, I always wonder if they are conscious of the message they are sending - but maybe I'm perceiving a different message from most of the rest of the population.

I am Jack's destroyed youthful enthusiasm.

[size=9]Edit: Sorry, but that's what I immediately thought when I read[/size]

Paladin wrote:

[size=9]It sounds to me like Jack destroyed your youthful enthusiasm.[/size]