First world problems. Huh. I’ve heard that term so many times before, it’s become trite to me. A trite saying that’s even become an internet meme. I never stop to consider how terrible that really is, saying it’s a first-world problem that I have too many things I would like to spend my day doing, or that I have too much homework to do. I complain when I can’t get through a level in a video game, that it’s just too hard. There are people in the world that barely exist for all the poverty and suffering they endure, and here I am, complaining about my abundance of options.
Like Sample pointed out, it is easier to just ignore all the suffering in the world, to ignore my own selfishness in life. He’s right when when he writes, “we would prefer not to think about who assembled the consoles and phones we play our games on, or who mined the rare minerals that are essential to modern electronics”. In fact, I had never even considered it before. I like to think of myself as a humanist, one who puts the prime value of life in the lives of others, but… perhaps I am not so.
This is a hard problem to think about. Many people chose not to think about it because it’s easier than trying to figure out something to solve it. Really, what can we, the players, the consumers, do to stop these horrible conditions? How can I, an eighteen year old girl in America, stop child slave labor and mass suicides? It seems impossible. It seems unimaginably difficult. There seems to be no way to stop anything from my position. That’s why so many people ignore obvious problems like this, because the task seems insurmountable. While McGonigal may have said humans like to fail in games, we don’t like to fail in reality. So taking on a task like changing a huge industry or taking down child slavery wouldn’t even be considered by most, because the only thing worse than seeing suffering is trying and failing to help those suffering. Many people just do not want or can not handle that kind of responsiblity. Of course, this is all my own opinions.
Sample tells the reader to be “careful and balanced, not rushing to judgment but unflinchingly considering what others have assumed or ignored”. He asks us to simply think about what we are doing. And we can do that. Thinking about these painful subjects in regards to commodities that we consume almost non-stop is hard, but never as hard as actually doing something about it. And Sample doesn’t have any delusions on the matter. He knows people will not simply give up things that they have become accustomed such as phones and ipads. For now, in any case. He hopes that with increased, careful thought into the matter, it could actually start to change the world. I think that is optimistically hopeful, and that maybe I can hope for that too.
Speaking of optimists, Sample referenced McGonigal in his article. More specifically, he relates her twist on a Herodotus tale of the ancient Lydians surviving though the use of video games. When I read that in Reality is Broken, I felt a sense of pride in the fact that I too played games, and in a sense was a part of history that has been handed down through mankind. I had never heard this tale before, but I had no reason to doubt her on it. To my surprise (or maybe not so much), Sample reveals that McGonigal left out a key component to the story, and that it really wasn’t as hopeful or uplifting as she made it out to be. That was her intent, I’m sure, only looking at what agreed with own ideals and cutting out the rest. I hate that. I truly hate when I see or hear of this happening in books, documentaries, anything of the sort. I feel this way even more so when I had felt a connection to the material. I had felt a bit of apprehension at the gun-ho optimism McGonigal presented, but now I face serious doubt to everything she said. How can I take her word for it if she twisted the truth to meet her own needs? Not only is that bad ethics, in academia it has no place.