For the uninitiated, Rooster Teeth is a multi-channel network juggernaut of gaming devotees, podcasters and LP achievement hunters. It’s also an allusion to Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould’s work Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History – a compendium of evolutionary biology tales. Through the lens of Gould, let’s take a journey down the evolutionary path of Achievement Hunter podcasters Gus, Blaine, Miles and Jordan as they attempt to play soccer with cars in Let’s Play Rocket League – The Rooster Teeth Podcast Crew:
Since its release on July 7th, Psyonix’s Rocket League has been downloaded over 5 million times, and boasts up to 179,000 concurrent players. Suffice to say, its mitotic index is off the charts. And for good reason — look what this game does to four reasonably seasoned, professional LPers:[Commentary starting at 31:06]
Wooo! Wo ho ho ho!
Get in there, get in there!
Oh my God, what happened!?!
Ohhh, Gggg, Ohhh!
Get it over here!
Wooo hoo hoo hoo!
Ohh, I hit too hard! I hit too…
Ugh, what am I doing!?!
Was it good for youuuuuuu?
Like our achievement hunters, Gould doesn’t put any particular premium on the prized human traits of speech, cognition, or even sentience. He sees these as randomly developed adaptations, rated only by their value in assuring species survival and propagation. Any claims that humans might make to ‘superiority’ are brushed off by Gould. A bacterium, he says, could make the same claim — it has a population exponentially larger than humans, it can survive in a much wider range of climates and geological strata, it is vastly more ancient than the human species and will likely far outlive it.
In the ‘world’ of Rocket League, humans appear to have been disposed of long ago. The stadium throng seems to be full of amorphous spheres, cheering on the classic cars (the last vestige of human civilization) as they ritualistically beat and torture one of their own (the massive soccer ball) in an automotive Running Man (or Hunger Games, if you prefer the derivative version).
One can’t say exactly when the decline of human civilization began to make way for that of the Spheres. Gould pioneered a concept called ‘Punctuated Equilibrium,” the notion that a species will remain in relative stasis for most of its existence, rather than be constantly adapting and changing. These periods of stasis are punctuated by rapid change — to the point of cladogenesis, when a species branches off completely from its ancestors and forges its path into a new existence.
Perhaps we’re on the verge of a cladogenesis of our own. Eschewing the need to communicate, the need to read, the need to manage the resources necessary for our species’ survival, we seem to be ready to surrender the mantle of our civilization, so long as our PS4 games are cross-compatible with our PC games, allow for 8-player online multiplayer, and have fully customizable skins, we’ll leave the matters of governance and planetary management to the Spheres. They ask little of us.