Clive Thompson is a very smart man

If you didn’t already know, Clive Thompson writes video game reviews and commentary for Wired, and his work is always an interesting read. His latest article is about how the social structure of Halo 3 multiplayer mimics that of economically polarized developing nation. Specifically, there are two groups – those who have the time to spend honing their Halo skills (read: school-age children and adults that are too busy playing teh Haloz to have a job), and those of us with jobs, families, etc. Thompson falls into the later group. Consequently, he’s not very good at Halo.

This is turn has led him to adopt the tactics of a suicide bomber. That is, when he realizes that he is about to be killed by a superior player he runs at them and sticks them with a grenade right before he’s killed.

I know I’m the underdog; I know I’m probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I’m poor.

Specifically, I’m poor in time. The best players have dozens of free hours a week to hone their talents, and I don’t have that luxury. This changes the relative meaning of death for the two of us. For me, dying will not penalize me in the way it penalizes them, because I have almost no chance of improving my state. I might as well take people down with me.


Mr. Thompson isn’t trying to equate what is happening in Iraq or anywhere else where suicide bombings regularly occur with the inconsequential happenings in the virtual world. Feeling like you’ve nothing to lose in a virtual world is inconsequential to a certain extent. Rather, he suggests that it’s very small example of the kinds of helpless feelings that drive people to blow themselves up.

I mean, it’s hard to imagine the kind of hopelessness it would take for me to strap a bomb to my chest.


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November 2007
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