Capitalist Hegemony at its Finest.
By Alex Jackson
Throughout time different societies have seen their respective take on pop culture. Pop culture is not simply a culture that has suddenly sprung from the ground in the last 20 years and wormed its way into text books, periodicals and university debates; it is a culture built around a defined group of ideas, perspectives and attitudes. Pop culture in its evolutionary path has seen many changes from Roman sculpture to Baroque paintings to post-war Abstract expressionism, all amounting to what we know today to be our pop culture. However, the pop culture that we experience on a day-to-day basis in the 21st century is one unparalleled by the pop culture already seen and past. Today we are surrounded by the ever-expanding mass media. Since the invention of the Internet in the 1980’s, mass media has spread like wildfire and with it the furthering evolution of the 21st century’s pop culture. With the growth of mass media in our pop culture we see new trends and patterns. As we all know, North America was built on a firm foundation of capitalism. This capitalism is the foundation not only for businesses and corporations, but for our developing culture as well. A growing notion and potential fear amidst this evolving foundation is the existence of capitalist hegemony. For one to understand this term one must know the definition of the two words individually. Mirriam Webster’s dictionary defines capitalism as ‘an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, prices, production and the distribution of goods…’ Hegemony, defined also by Webster’s dictionary is ‘the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.’ In combination, the two represent a power exerting itself over a group in attempts to feed and control consumerism. Capitalist hegemony can be seen on the television, in advertisements, film and video games. The method by which capitalist hegemony is spread, that we will consider in this essay, is the video game. Video games contribute to the spread of capitalist hegemony in two ways: through the easily-accepted method of suggestion of consumerist narratives; and through the extremist method of exerting complacency on a populous.
From an early age, all of us have been bombarded with a consumer culture. We have been taught by mass media always to want, look for and buy the next big thing. Video games have taken up this torch in that easily-accepted, subtle way. There’s no need to tell a person to buy, the task is more indirect. Gamers play through a story, the narrative more often than not being all about consumerism of one form or another. As masked as the consumerist plot may be, it is more than likely there. Take for example a game such as Dead Space 2. This game involves the main character Isaac Clarke fighting his way through the Sprawl in attempts to destroy a giant relic called the Marker, which is responsible for an alien infestation. At first glance, the story line of Dead Space 2 gives no evidence of capitalist tendencies; however the player need only kill one of the creatures in the game and pick up the loot to enter currency into the game. Money and power nodes allow the player to upgrade Isaac’s abilities and buy weapons and suits, and additional ammo and med packs. The gamer thereby is subliminally being taught the values of capitalism, make money buy new things. In other approaches to video games the developers don’t go to such length to mask consumerism. In games such as Need for Speed Underground the player races for money so as to purchase upgrades for already purchased cars, and to buy new ones. In Digital Games and Cultural Studies by Garry Crawford and Jason Rutter, this point is explained: “Numerous games are based upon the...