Micro-Essay: A Capitalist Game

Andres Estrada

Video Games as Literature

Carolyn Jong

February 11, 2017

A Capitalist Game

            The structure of capitalism has surrounded our society for a long time. We have created social classes because of it, making some people more powerful over the media we consume on a daily basis. Capitalism is so strong, that even in games such as The Last of Us, were humanity is almost extinct, we cannot but resist to have a certain hierarchy of people who have more capital power than the rest (in this case, more food, medicines, among others). This phenomenon is present also in simple games such as Flappy Bird. These games are prone to be manipulated by greater forces that stomp on indie games; hence, creating a market where developers are not able to shape the games they want to make, but capitalism is.

It is a bold statement to make. Some optimistic people may think that we actually have a say on this matter, that we can create the game we want to. True, but not true. The problem is not developing the game we want to make; the real trouble is keeping it alive. This is exactly what happened with our feathered character. Brice says, “they [the people at the top of the pyramid] are unwilling to see the effects of capitalism on their hiring and creation practices.” This is extremely evidenced when we analyze the market, which is filled with games that look the same (Call of Duty and Battlefield, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, and many more). Why? Because they sell a huge amount of units. So, when an indie developer wants to make the next new thing on soccer games, he is devoured by a market ran by capitalism.

Now, once in a while the opposite happens. A tiny game makes a big impact in our culture, making those at the top of ladder angry because they are not making money out of it. This is exactly what happened with Dong Nguyen, who managed to create the “biggest-small game” in a few years. “The conversation of what is and isn’t a game is often, intentionally or not, used to assign value to already established gaming conventions that benefit the established system,” Brice comments. The latter is what put Flappy Bird in trouble. It infuriated those that felt the townspeople were overthrowing them, so they made it their mission to end that game; and that is exactly what happened. The beginning of a revolution that Nguyen started was easily avoided because he was never under control of his game, capitalism was.

It is a pessimistic kind of view, but that does not mean that developers should stop making games. Creators should open their little wings a tap the touch screen themselves in order to flap all the way to the future they want for the gaming industry. What they need is the right moment and the right game, and how can they know when the right time arrives if they are not making the right games?


Brice, Mattie. “Our Flappy Dystopia.” Alternate Ending. 10 February 2014. Web. 11 Feb, 2017.

Flappy Bird (Nguyen Hà Đông [Dong Nguyen] 2013)

Micro-Essay: A Capitalist Game

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