The value of gaming > the value of human lives

What would it take to make you think about the fact that your gaming hobby might be contributing to real world suffering? An anonymous claim that the factory workers who make your discs are criminally underpaid? Reports of iphone factory – style suicides? Or how about this one, which there is reason to believe may be true: That your gaming consoles contain minerals mined to fund the devastating Congo war?

I’m not going to elaborate on the link between gaming and the Congo conflict here. I was reminded of it by an article from Brian Crecente, editor at Kotaku, and I advise you to read it too. The article links out to further information which is well worth investigating. In fact if you don’t already know much about the issue, I would urge you to read Crecente’s article before continuing with mine.

I’m approaching this issue from a completely different angle. When I started reading the comments Crecente’s article attracted, I became more and more furious until I had to stop reading them. I was so angry, I could just as easily have screamed as cried. Whilst the comments posted on Kotaku itself are generally calm in tone, those posted on N4G featured predictably naked insecurity and vitriol.

First thing’s first: Nobody is saying that you are knowingly supporting the war in the Congo. Nobody’s saying you knew where the components came from when you bought your PS3/PC/360/Wii/whatever. Nobody’s saying you are directly responsible for the pain and suffering, nobody’s saying the war would stop if nobody played videogames, and nobody’s saying there aren’t a hundred thousand other products that contribute to the conflict (and many others).

Let’s look this ugly issue right in the face, shall we? Most of the ‘why should I care’ comments mask an attitude of ‘This is happening to a bunch of black kids in a far away place, not me or my neighbours, so why should I give a shit? I’m not giving up my games for anybody’. If you found that a percentage (however small) from the sale of your favourite games machine went to fund violence and rape on your doorstep, you’d care then, wouldn’t you? I hope for the sake of us all that you would.

Photo: AP

Saying ‘other products and hobbies fund war atrocities too’ isn’t an argument – it’s a cowardly get – out clause. If you discovered people on your street were kidnapping and raping children, would you report them – or would you shrug your shoulders and join in?

Oh I’m sorry, was that last paragraph shocking? Unnecessary? The sad truth is that proposing an extreme theoretical situation like that is going to connect with you emotionally much more than detailing the real life suffering happening right now to human beings you’ll never meet. The point is, you should have left the ‘well they’re doing it’ argument at nursery school.

It’s important to remember that comments – both positive and negative – are only left on websites by a vocal minority, so it’s difficult to gauge just how many readers of that article took such a callous view of the situation. Nonetheless some certainly did, and some even take the issue lightly enough to make poor jokes about it. Why? Well I’ve already hinted at the possibility that some simply hate the idea of being told to stop playing their games, and that others wrongly assumed they were being accused of knowingly contributing to the conflict. The bottom line is however, many people (to one degree or another) find it difficult to empathise with people unless they’re standing in front of them.

So what do you expect me to do?” I hear you cry. A fair question. I’m not going to tell you to destroy your consoles – I don’t want to do that either. In theory, what I want you to do is simple; tell Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft (incidentally, the only company to indicate they try to avoid sourcing materials from conflict zones) that you do not want to buy machines made with conflict minerals. The best way of doing this will probably be an online petition, so I ask you: do you know of an already established one we can help to promote? If so then please leave a link, along with any other ideas, via a comment below.

If you don’t think complaining or protesting will make a difference, you’re wrong. If the big three see that the issue is widely known – and most importantly of all, that people care about it – they will issue public statements. If they officially declare that they will do their best to ensure that no conflict minerals are used in their machines then no, you and I have no way of checking this; but there are official bodies who can and will. That’s how the issue was discovered in the first place.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

8 comments

  1. Krazyface /

    I totally understand your reason for wanting to pit an end to this, but I fear stopping the sale of these minerals from Africa might make the problem worse. What I mean is, if we could find a way to make this mineral bussiness (from Africa) a legitimate one, that might bring down some of the conflict. Unfortunatly, it seems as long as there is division in Africa, and dictators like mugabie are allowed to come to power, there will be no peace for this continent.

    I’ve been aware of the mineral trade and it’s effect in our products for some time now, and though I feel guilt about how we (Brits) live in our country, I just thank fate for placeing me here instead of there.

    I’m glad you’re bringing this to the attention of the masses though.

  2. Red /

    This is a just a tiny piece of a huge picture, one where multinational corporations harvest the natural resources of a small country, and reap the vast majority of the profits. These countries, while resource rich, are left as some of the poorest in the world from a monetary standpoint. This is besides the point you’re making, I know, but I just wanted to point out that this issue is much larger than just gaming alone.

    To your point, though, this is exactly how we have been taught to think as gamers. We have been marketed to so heavily for so long, that we accept this corporate mindset as the gamer mindset. This leads us to defend gaming itself with a religious fervor, as we are constantly bombarded with notions that gamers are somehow in this special club that no one who doesn’t game would never understand. Of course, gaming is the most profitable entertainment industry on this planet, and more people buy games every day than do people go to the movies, or buy music. We’re not a special group, we are no longer nerds playing NES in our basements, we are the overwhelming majority.

    As long as we, as a whole, feel a need to defend gaming religiously, and shed all notion of consumer responsibility, then you will see comments like the ones you point out. Huge corporations like Microsoft and Sony do not want people to think about what they buy, or the consequences their purchases might have, people who do make for bad consumers from their standpoint. They have marketing divisions that are paid very well to make sure they dictate what gaming is and is not, case in point being the “Kevin Butler” pep talk in Sony’s E3 presser. None of these companies, and everyone is guilty of it, want anyone to be faced with the fact that the products we buy are made in the modern equivalent of slave camps, and that the countries responsible for providing the resources for these products see almost no profit at all from their sale (in some cases, entire countries have gone into inescapable debt to international banking outfits, as they take out loan after loan to support their mining/production endeavors).

    Gamers think how they are told to think, as a whole. It is the reason why these same gamers defend the industry charging more and more for their products, despite being the most profitable entertainment medium in the history of this planet. It is the reason why gamers defend sequel after sequel, shooter after shooter, as we are told that thats what it means to be “hardcore”. It is why these gamers defend these huge corporations right to profit, even if it means untold millions suffer because of it. Consumerism and denial, they make for huge profits…

    • DarthDiggler /

      @RED
      “These countries, while resource rich, are left as some of the poorest in the world from a monetary standpoint.”

      You are leaving out a very critical point. These countries are always run by tyrants. Resources or not, people who live under tyrants are generally poor. It’s one of the things they use to keep power. You create class warfare, blame everything on an elite establishment. It’s how communist usually assume power and it always sounds like a democracy before they assume power.

      You can’t negate the role of the leadership of a country for the countries woes.

      If you have an A-hole at the top that is taking all the riches and wealth of a nation a corporation making deals isn’t the cause of that.

      This is why 90% of the oil rich nations GDP combined doesn’t touch the USA GDP. The riches never filter down to the citizens.

    • DarthDiggler /

      @RED

      At odds with more of what you said…

      “As long as we, as a whole, feel a need to defend gaming religiously, and shed all notion of consumer responsibility, then you will see comments like the ones you point out.”

      Last I checked, I am not defined by the material items I amass. That being said I don’t feel 100% responsible for checking into all the materials of items that I purchase, I just don’t have time to live life, make money, sleep and check to make sure my purchasing decisions are not funding wars in Africa.

      That’s the media’s job to do that. And I appriciate this article, but on further inspection, I am starting to become suspect of the political agenda at play here. For all I know this could have been a rumor drummed up by other countries trying to compete for said mineral business (I highly doubt it, but I have no way of certifying this news on my own).

      “Huge corporations like Microsoft and Sony do not want people to think about what they buy, or the consequences their purchases might have, people who do make for bad consumers from their standpoint. They have marketing divisions that are paid very well to make sure they dictate what gaming is and is not, case in point being the “Kevin Butler” pep talk in Sony’s E3 presser.”

      ORLLY NOW? Sony doesn’t want you to consider the years of research and development they put into the CELL CPU when you consider buying a Xbox 360 or PS3? You are saying MS couldn’t care less if Xbox live was robust and satisfactory to their customers? Basically their marketing and PR departments are evil villainous lairs that utilize mind control devices to force their will?

      Seriously for a minute, think about what you are proposing here. Sure your average gamer with ADHD could care less where something comes from, but to suggest that the modern consumer is asleep at the wheel is ludicrous! People are more engaged with commerce than ever. How many millions of blogs have sprung up over the past 10 years that are dedicated to news and reviews of gadgets and technology? I’d say MILLIONS. These are not the MIND NUMBED ROBOTS you make us out to be, these are passionate individuals that have something to share.

      Gamers dictate what gaming is, they always have. Gamers are not the most politically active bunch but if proper awareness is given to a situation they will not ignore it.

      “None of these companies, and everyone is guilty of it, want anyone to be faced with the fact that the products we buy are made in the modern equivalent of slave camps, and that the countries responsible for providing the resources for these products see almost no profit at all from their sale (in some cases, entire countries have gone into inescapable debt to international banking outfits, as they take out loan after loan to support their mining/production endeavors).”

      You are trying to say China has seen no benefit from iPhone or the smart phone revolution? Does everyone just listen to you and accept what you say to be fact? Sure working conditions suck in other countries, but that is a result of the global economy. With technologies components coming from all corners of the world now, I am afraid political strife is going to be apart of our electronics future for quite some time. The Consoles and iPhone don’t cause these conditions, the leadership of these countries do.

      These countries will need to modernize and they will need to become less hostile to workers. Removing the flow of money will have the opposite effect, especially in China, if everyone stopped buying electronics from China, they would likely go back to hard labor.

      In the case with Africa, you are talking about a war torn nation below plmko made a very good point about this.

      “Gamers think how they are told to think, as a whole. It is the reason why these same gamers defend the industry charging more and more for their products, despite being the most profitable entertainment medium in the history of this planet. It is the reason why gamers defend sequel after sequel, shooter after shooter, as we are told that thats what it means to be “hardcore”. It is why these gamers defend these huge corporations right to profit, even if it means untold millions suffer because of it. Consumerism and denial, they make for huge profits…”

      I’d love to sit down and have a conversation with you over dinner, you have a warped way of thinking of things and it sounds like you are ready to join the communist party if you have not already done so (ironically your name is Red).

      I’d suggest to you that Communism has resulted in much more suffering that Free Markets ever has. While free markets and consumerism may be shallow and skin deep Communism denies people their very identities and ultimately their soul. The suffering that is displaced due to free markets is a temporary thing as long as free markets are allowed to be free, people will prosper (by their own definition of success and not rely on the state).

      Conversely free-markets have given you the platform to speak your commie-pinko garbage here on this website today. Funny how you damn the free market system but have no problems utilizing the tools that benefit from it.

  3. Well there’s some serious shit you don’t find everyday on the GAMING site. I’d be glad to help. Then again this might end up (if won) as the end of consoles. Which in truth would only make people engage in some other lazy shit so, please, do show the way or link to the petition good sir.

  4. plmko /

    Stopping the funding of those involved with the conflict and thinking that’ll stop their aggression is rediculous. The fact that Brian Concrete (Man of 0 credibility) has raised the issue furthers my point.

    Think about North Korea and how they reacted to more sanctions (funding), we got threats of war. Now think about Congo, if these war lords were to receive cuts in their funding the natural thing for them would be to pillage and plunder villages harder to replace what was lost, oh course this would induce more foreign aid, but this aid would do nothing but fund these war lords, replacing their lost mineral funding.

    Basically a lack of funding pushes the conflict into great violence, although at the same time funding these places would go against ethical considerations. What to do? Nothing I’d say, it’s a basket case that gamers have little connection to, a problem that would be better solved with more foreign peacekeepers.

    • DarthDiggler /

      @plmko

      Yes but you forget, if we say we care and we do a little something that takes 5 minutes out of our day we can all feel better!

      And isn’t how YOU feel the most important thing! 🙂

      (I am being sarcastic, I am not a symbolism over substance guy)

      I applaud the few critical thinkers on these comments, I was starting to think we have all died off and replaced with Sheep. What else could explain the sales of Call of Duty? 🙂

  5. Forman /

    Well said Red.

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