McGonigal takes this apocryphal story as evidence of the power of games to sustain people and ease them through troubling times. Yet read ahead in Herodotus and discover a part of the story that McGonigal leaves out: “…In this way they passed eighteen years. Still the affliction continued and even became more grievous.” The story ends with the king exiling half of his people from the country, forcing them out to search for food on their own.
So, McGonigal’s opening story omits the tragic ending. No surprise, really, from a woman who considers games as the solution for energy issues and famine. She is really optimistic about games, and I think it clouds her judgment and prevents her from being realistic.
However, I’d like to discuss the prevailing theme from the article. Games like Phone Story do an excellent job of describing the horrible conditions in outsourced factories and mines, but they really depict the greed of major corporations, willing to overwork and underpay underage workers to save money. It’s not just technological giants that utilize this exploit. Even Nike, who was criticized for its heavy reliance on sweat shops, has reformed. CHINA: At Nike Plant, no Sweatshop, Plenty of Sweat, an article from 2005, describes that Nike plants in China have proper ventilation, running water, and earplugs for the “pounding of rivets.” However, the plant still pays extremely low wages:
Yet the Golden Prene factory, which makes about 25,000 bags a day and generates $80 million in annual revenues, is hardly a carefree place. Assembly workers toil long hours at repetitive jobs. Many of them endure separation from families. Their wages are higher than incomes back on the farm, but meager by U.S. standards at an average of $5 a day, including overtime. Workers’ modest dreams reveal difficult lives.
Even a supposedly reformed corporation still underpays and overworks factory workers, which speaks volumes about the greed of American corporations and business. But it’s not just Nike and Apple. According to the 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Fame, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hanes, Gymboree, Walmart, and other companies all use sweat shops:
Most of the companies listed employ laborers who toil for long hours under dangerous working conditions for poverty wages. When these workers attempt to form a union to voice their collective concerns, they face threats from management and risk being fired or even beaten. Many of this years’ inductees use suppliers that practice illegal tactics to suppress workers’ rights to organize. Some of the companies mentioned weave shame into their clothing by continuing to use cotton sourced from Uzbekistan where harvesting is accomplished through forced child labor.
So, let’s not just focus on the technological giants like Apple, let’s expand our focus and see the big picture. American corporations churn out billions of dollars of revenue, yet refuse to respect human life, underpaying and overworking underage employees just to save money. What can we do to stop it? Certainly, people would rather buy cheap groceries from Walmart than boycott the store, or wear their favorite clothes from Abercrombie and Fitch. If we continue to support these companies, we continue to support the unfair labor they rely on. The public needs to know. We could write to the CEO of Walmart, voicing our disapproval. We could write to the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, sounding our concerns. We could write letters to congress, hoping for change. But they’re just as greedy as the rest of the corporations. America is corrupt, there’s not much we can do about it.