Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Lum gets mad

Scott Jennings perfected the art of rant blogging at a point in time where the word "blog" wasn't even invented yet. And while I don't always agree with his opinions, I certainly respect the man, and in expressing my disagreement try to remain as factual as possible, and not attack him personally. Greedy Goblin Gevlon obviously had no idea who Scott is, and anyway isn't the type of person who'd express himself carefully to not be insulting. So he basically called Scott a crybaby, and of course Scott replied in his usual masterful style. The discussion is already at the Godwin stage, and makes for an interesting read.

I'll try to stay neutral, because both sides have their good points. Gevlon calling any form of social mechanism an "ape sub-routine" doesn't especially come over as a nice person. But then Gevlon is looking at the issue from a cold capitalist point of view, which doesn't justify, but explain, how layoffs happen. Scott is talking about business ethics and how things *should* be, and the problems of regular people caught up in that cold capitalist system. No wonder the two don't find much common ground.

In a way, both of them are right. Recessions have a way to bring out the nastier sides of the capitalist system. I know the inside of game companies only from various videos, but it always struck me how young the people working there are on average. Ever see any people over 50 in these places? You can't expect lifelong employment in a company that obviously has no use for older people. On the other hand few people really consider their long-term future when applying for a job somewhere, especially if its the first job. A game company certainly sounds like a cool place to work at, and if the salary is right and the atmosphere is great, I can understand that people want to work there. Whoever you talk to at such a company probably tells you how great their prospects are, and one would have to be exceptionally cool-headed to realize that many game studios depend on the success of one or two games. The developers at Vanguard who are said to have been fired collectively on the companies parking lot lost their job two years ago, without any recession or financial crisis involved. Getting fired is nearly always a personal tragedy, however much those layoffs appear inevitable in hindsight. And even if a wiser person might have chosen to work for something offering safer employment, lets say an investment bank for example, he could still end up in the same unemployment line. Economic theory is macroscopic, it might be able to explain the percentage of unemployment, but is completely unable to deal with individual suffering from the consequences. So while Gevlon's explanation of the capitalist system aren't wrong, Scott certainly is right in saying that these explanations aren't helpful. At least not to the people involved and their friends.

I'd also like to offer my apologies to anyone who felt offended by my earlier post on how layoffs aren't a betrayal. I tried to keep it respectful, but of course the same logic applies: Even if an explanation is correct, it isn't necessarily a good justification, and often doesn't help at all.
"And even if a wiser person might have chosen to work for something offering safer employment, lets say an investment bank for example, he could still end up in the same unemployment line."

Aren't you glad that there are thousands of unwise people out there developing the games you like to play?
As for the rest, i completely disregard both yours and gevlon arguments: they denote a mindset that helped bring the world economy to it's knees... Free market yes, unbridled free market, no. And, yes, human beings should no be disposable as they are now. Specially when lives are ruined just for the quarter balance look a some points better.

But i'm to naive...
I cannot say I am too fond of either Gevlon's or Lum's argumentation...
Gevlon does seem like a typical internet libertarian type of troll, who goes for the appearance of hard nosed economic truth but often misses important information about how things work. His arguments about laid off workers does seem to miss a lot of information about what makes workers productive and useful, or how certain decisions effect profits (Not to mention the missed emotional stuff.)
A lot of the active players of MMORPGs are too young to have had to support a family through a recession and don't really appreciate what it means to lose your job where alternative employment isn't plentiful. I can't help thinking Gevlon might be among them.

To re-work an old saying of the right: "a socialist is a libertarian who's lost his job in a recession"
I think you have the measure of Gevlon, Dillon. I am not given to making ad hominem attacks but I am increasingly frustrated by anonymous individuals online, like Gevlon, who espouse bits of unreflective, "objectivist" and libertarian philosophy. His frequent use of such terms as "ape sub-routine" only betrays his superficial grasp of the sorts of ideas he is trying to wield in his flawed arguments. If I had to guess, Gevlon has not had to deal with personal tragedy in any meaningful way and thus feels at liberty to write about the misfortunes of others so dispassionately. The economy might be cold and unfeeling but it is a construction of human beings who are generally neither. And when the two conflict, I do not think we should look to idealizations of the "market" for justification; perhaps some empathy for others is required.
A good friend of mine has been working in the CGI field for about 15 years now (both gaming and movie industry). I was surprised when he told me that he has had over a dozen employers in the that time. He's not bitter about it, for him its just the nature of the industry. People get hired/fired as projects come and go. Companies get merged or go under. The economy goes up and down. He also pointed out that when times are good its the employees that are 'evil': dropping employers in a heartbeat if another employer offers them a more attractive job.
"Gevlon has not had to deal with personal tragedy in any meaningful way and thus feels at liberty to write about the misfortunes of others so dispassionately"

Surely the application of logic and pragmatic sense in particular situations is not only the more efficient way of approaching things but also has priority to override emotional contexts?

I don't read any of Gevlon's writings (I read far too many blogs as it is) but if he's stating things in say, a matter of fact fashion, whilst applying his understanding of the (I presume in this case financial) setting then surely he's obliged to ignore/disregard emotions/feelings because he deems them (again I presume) irrelevant?

There's a question in the air if he's breaking things down correctly and answering things precisely but I see nothing wrong in stating what he thinks in the setting if he's applying said mentioned contexts to his writing. He doesn't have a need/desire to connect to the people who suffer from these situations and truthfully he has no need to. Sometimes cold hard numbers and facts are what drives things on rather than the social scene and the personal feelings of those involved. Some people either don't work in that way or feel no need to.

I mean if we take this idea of dealing with a 'tragedy in any meaningful way' we have to start looking at what way is meaningful. To you? To me? To a group of people? Hows its meaning has an impact on every psychological/sensory level? It appears Gevlon is disregarding the impact bad situations have upon people because he sees them as (another presumption) self-indulgent conflictions. At least that's what I've gathered from the multitude of posts from Tobold and others on this blog.

Long story cut short: I see nothing wrong in removing emotional contexts from situations as long as the numbers/facts/theories being brought forward are concrete in their foundations and lack flaws within their writing.

| Shamutanti
This comment has been removed by the author.
Long story cut short: I see nothing wrong in removing emotional contexts from situations as long as the numbers/facts/theories being brought forward are concrete in their foundations and lack flaws within their writing.

On some other forums I've been on, there have been many Gevlon types, who tended to make libertarian/free market type arguments in an assholish/insulting kind of way. Other libertarians/free market types simply thought of themselves as perfectly rational people uninfluenced, with free market ideas being proven correct by logic. The problems with a lot of these people, as I've argued with Gevlon, is that they seem (probably unconsciously) to go more for an appearance of rationality, toughness, and lack of emotion, and consistently miss information that logically suggests cooperation, some government involvement, etc. would be the smart things to do in particular situations.

Gevlon's other posts seem to have the same problem, where he misses logical arguments and information that suggests cooperation is a useful way to go, even with a hard nosed, logical analysis.
The trouble with idealizing "the market" or "the economy" along purely capitalistic or "free market" ideals is that people aren't rational, and they don't operate from perfect information. Misunderstanding the "soft sciences" of psychology and sociology will inevitably mean misapplication of the pragmatic core of such idealized arguments.
I don't really understand Lum's argument. Yeah, laying off people sucks, but it's pretty clear that WAR didn't meet its revenue targets. So how does he expect Mythic to pay these people? I mean, we're not talking Jack Welch-style "cut the bottom 10% every year" cuts here.
In my exit interview (layed off 3 weeks ago), there was nothing to cry about. Employment is an economic partnership, when one party or the other no longer needs the partnership, it dissolves. This idea of loyalty and honesty in (capitalistic) free enterprise is childish at best. No wonder people don't know or care who Lum is anymore, he's still telling everyone that combustion engines should be called steam engines (wrong on many levels).
@Gevlon, your blog can be entertaining sometimes but somehow your stance as a hard nosed Capitalist doesn't entirely ring true. Wow is not a game for real hard nosed Capitalist - The most important stuff in the game cannot be bought for money so it is little wonder that many players don't pay too much attention to financial issues. In such an environment it is easy to amass a fortune if focus on it - because most players couldn't be bothered. The WoW economy is a kindergarten economy in gaming terms - with no real risks and no real rewards.
I think Gevlon has a good point. Having worked during the internet boom and bust, I'd say that when you take a job you know in advance how risky you think your company's future and it's main business propositions are. It may or may not be the only job on offer but there's no reason not to have views on how likely a business is to prosper and to know what the result of the business going under might be.

What do people think businesses do when they have to cut costs?
@ Dillin

Ah k. Gotcha :)
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