For Vice Media, accountability takes a back seat to accounts payable: the company’s estimated total value, based on the Murdoch empire’s buy-in, is $1.4 billion. The metric of success is “clicks” over “paper sales”—a clear, and discomfitingly natural, extension of tabloid news values into the digital sphere. Under this logic, nothing matters but the bottom line.
Hey, it’s our play issue, in which David Graeber hopscotches over the robotic universe of contemporary science and winds up inventing a new law of reality. Barbara Ehrenreich calls for a science that can explain why fun is fun. John Summers reports from “The People’s Republic of Zuckerstan”—once known as the liberal community of Cambridge, Massachusetts, now a playground for startup science and tech professionals. Gene Seymour rescues science fiction from the warped real-world utopias of certain plutocratic cybervisionaries. Andrew Bacevich dances on the grave of Tom Clancy, the recently departed hack thriller writer. Ian Bogost analyzes the addiction economy lurking behind cutting-edge free-to-play videogames, while Rhonda Lieberman walks us through the trophy rooms of leisure-class art hoarders.
And that’s only the half of it. Look here for head-spinning salvos by Chris Lehmann, Susan Faludi, William T. Vollmann, George Scialabba, and Heather Havrilesky on history, politics, feminism, and literature. Anne Elizabeth Moore makes sport of Vice magazine. Alex Pareene practices journalism on the New York Times’ DealBook. Fiction by Paul Maliszewski and J. Wagner; short prose by Jaron Lanier, Gabriel Zaid, and Erik Simon; poetry by Thomas Sayers Ellis; and hilarious graphic art by Brad Holland, Mark Dancey, and David McLimans, who gave us the cover. Not to win or lose the game, but to be free of the system of winners and losers—that’s the spirit.
Anybody who grew up in America can tell you it’s a pretty violent country, and every consumer knows that our mass culture was reflecting that fact long before it began spewing the stuff in videogames. So on the surface, it seems strange that special powers should be attributed to games. What gives?