10.31.12

Borderlands 2 reduces consumer culture into a game

Borderlands 2 is a shooter where you can collect loot and level up. It's similar to many RPGs in that you can decide to find every single chest/loot holder or bypass some. Ethan Gatch on Medium Difficulty found that he couldn't ignore loot.

I was a loot fiend in the worst kind of way: grabbing useless junk and opening nonsense containers just for the thrill of seeing what was inside. I couldn’t make myself stop. And it was awesome.

Borderlands 2 knows this, taking full advantage of the players at its disposal. It has several endorphin loops layered over top of the other, each dripping with positive feedback. First I was collecting Benjamins, next I was hoarding guns. Then came the uridium, and the hankering for “just one more level-up,” to which I could never mount any substantive resistance.

The game is intensely cyclical, almost transactional, with most of its missions constructed something like the following: Go to A, meet B, find C, take C back to A, go tell B. It is not so different, in fact, from the way that most of our lives, the ones taking place in late capitalism’s West at least, are organized.

The transaction cycle in Borderlands 2 mimics our own cycles through paychecks and payments, only with more exciting methods of production. Instead of escaping daily hassles with a game, are we merely reenacting them in a more interesting context?