An interesting quote

I was reading an editorial by the former publisher of the National Review endorsing Barack Obama. It was interesting. But this is not a political post.

He quoted someone I must admit I’d never previously heard of (but has an interesting Wikipedia entry):

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

That struck a cord with me. I don’t know if it’s true, but my gut suspects that it is. I’ve seen the “great cause” of independent role-playing games go from a movement to a business. Is there any way to fight human nature and the lessons of history and stop it from becoming a racket?

10 thoughts on “An interesting quote

  1. Anytime a single product or company becomes a Business and Makes Money, it runs the risk of becoming a Racket.
    Keep new blood, both creative and consuming, coming into the “industry” – keep the ideas new and make sure each new “generation” views the “movement” as their own – suffer gladly when they wave it around as though they are, in fact, inventing the wheel.

    • Some Possible Cynical Answers
      1) There’s no need to worry, since they aren’t really a great cause.
      2) There’s no need to worry, because they aren’t really a business.
      3) There’s no need to worry, because truly vibrant communities, whatever activity they surround, can contain all of these stages (and many more) at once, each in their own ecological niches, each provoking reaction and evolution in the other, and the more such activity, the more product gets made, and the more variety of product, and the more of it that you (whatever your tastes) would enjoy.

      • Re: Some Possible Cynical Answers
        I think that was a slightly … bitchier version of exactly what I said.
        One SINGLE game or company might become a racket. But the chances of the whole genre/industry/movement becoming a racket, and there being no new blood following behind to freshen the pool? Unlikely.

  2. Anytime a single product or company becomes a Business and Makes Money, it runs the risk of becoming a Racket.
    Keep new blood, both creative and consuming, coming into the “industry” – keep the ideas new and make sure each new “generation” views the “movement” as their own – suffer gladly when they wave it around as though they are, in fact, inventing the wheel.

  3. Things becoming a business I don’t mind, so long as its a business with a soul. Partly, I think, because in that step between business and racket is a place where the business shifts within itself.
    In Indie Land I think things like Jonathan’s move to make games free is something that could help, but the question is if it’ll be something that gets pull, due to the status given to published for money products, and the problems with investment (time and self) and the capitalist systems logic that those be returned (with money, of course).
    The Ashcan front often seems to get right into this tricky kind of ground, with the intent heavily towards movement, but the sheer logistics of the actuality necessitating some level of business. As folks point out, if you give away a physical ashcan it costs you money, and if you give it away physically or electronically it may mean that fewer people play it because it didn’t cost them.
    And really, that’s the rub. If you make distributing games a movement in modern North America you may have problems getting people to actually play your games, where those who are doing it as a business will have folks with money in hand lined up at their booth.

  4. I think it’s not “Great causes”, it’s funny.
    See, things go like this:
    You’re small and don’t do what other people do, so you have to kick up noise, you have to kick things up, you have to do something worthy of attention.
    Then you become an average guy (on average), and you become complacent.
    And if you don’t go up, or renew, eventually you’ll decline.
    One reason for complacency is fear. When you had nothing, you didn’t fear losing it. Now that you perceive yourself to have something, you fear losing it.

  5. Things becoming a business I don’t mind, so long as its a business with a soul. Partly, I think, because in that step between business and racket is a place where the business shifts within itself.
    In Indie Land I think things like Jonathan’s move to make games free is something that could help, but the question is if it’ll be something that gets pull, due to the status given to published for money products, and the problems with investment (time and self) and the capitalist systems logic that those be returned (with money, of course).
    The Ashcan front often seems to get right into this tricky kind of ground, with the intent heavily towards movement, but the sheer logistics of the actuality necessitating some level of business. As folks point out, if you give away a physical ashcan it costs you money, and if you give it away physically or electronically it may mean that fewer people play it because it didn’t cost them.
    And really, that’s the rub. If you make distributing games a movement in modern North America you may have problems getting people to actually play your games, where those who are doing it as a business will have folks with money in hand lined up at their booth.

  6. Some Possible Cynical Answers
    1) There’s no need to worry, since they aren’t really a great cause.
    2) There’s no need to worry, because they aren’t really a business.
    3) There’s no need to worry, because truly vibrant communities, whatever activity they surround, can contain all of these stages (and many more) at once, each in their own ecological niches, each provoking reaction and evolution in the other, and the more such activity, the more product gets made, and the more variety of product, and the more of it that you (whatever your tastes) would enjoy.

  7. Re: Some Possible Cynical Answers
    I think that was a slightly … bitchier version of exactly what I said.
    One SINGLE game or company might become a racket. But the chances of the whole genre/industry/movement becoming a racket, and there being no new blood following behind to freshen the pool? Unlikely.

  8. I think it’s not “Great causes”, it’s funny.
    See, things go like this:
    You’re small and don’t do what other people do, so you have to kick up noise, you have to kick things up, you have to do something worthy of attention.
    Then you become an average guy (on average), and you become complacent.
    And if you don’t go up, or renew, eventually you’ll decline.
    One reason for complacency is fear. When you had nothing, you didn’t fear losing it. Now that you perceive yourself to have something, you fear losing it.

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