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Preliminary Thoughts – Life as a Game

July 25, 2011

Just some thoughts I was having, and I figured I may as well write a rough draft of a future preface (for any philosophy nerds out there, it’s like looking at one of Wittgenstein’s journals, except I don’t pretend to be entirely brilliant or original myself).

Life itself is a game. Regardless of the culture one is born into, the experience of life boils down to a starting point, understand one’s objective, learning the rules required to obtain said objective, and striving towards that end. The obstacles encountered along that journey necessarily occur as a result. Though an analysis of one’s life from a personal, rose-tinted perspective will not bring about such a conclusion, these are the building blocks of a life, whether it is the struggle for survival in a vast wilderness, or maintaining the rigors and trials of a small business.

Over time, one’s desires and incentives change and mold to the situation; the objective of the game might change and move, and perhaps even the rules change and turn (at least from our perception). The unexpected occurs, leaving people to conclude they never really knew the rules of the game at all. This lack of predictability, the inherent chaos of human life, yearns for a kind of order and structure that maintains its shape without variability. Some mights say, of course, that variety is the spice of life, but what of “bad” variety? The loss of a loved one unexpectedly? The terrors of a natural disaster, leaving decades of heartache in its wake? Variety itself remains a very tenuous idea, a fair weather friend with no allegiance but to its own whims.

As a result, human cultures have tried to create order. We do this through governments and social structures, attempting to bring stability to the seeming chaos of the natural order. We seek order in our own lives, attempting to compartmentalize relationships, keep up with friends, create a schedule, and set goals for our own desires. Even the entertainment industries have locked onto this instinctual movement: American culture has created a universal goal, the desire for celebrity, that fills the hole in many a person eager to place a goal ahead of themselves.

However, the “game of life” finds its perfect encapsulation in the video game. In fact, the video game medium exists as a microcosm of human life, both attempting to create rules, objectives, and order, but also failing to do so because of the same human failings. These imaginary worlds capture the imagination, but aesthetics do not a great game make; such games require specific mechanics that underlie the experience. These lend themselves directly to the quality of the game: Why are some games “fun”, and others are not? What makes a game “great”, rather than merely mediocre, or perhaps even “bad”? One, as well, might say the same of human life – what makes a life “satisfying” or not? Why are some lives great and well-lived, while others are not? It is in discovering the rules and obstacles underlying the game, whether in the digital world or the real world, which determine these aspects. Obviously, criteria exist to draft the ideal “game”, but the tools are certainly there. The perfect game has already been set in place at the beginning, but humans still strive for this idealized structure without realizing it. Some have come close, others have not, but one thing remains certain – the search will continue.

I only ask to put my mark in this exploration of the Game. As I am most familiar with the Video Game, this is where the examination will rest. Rest assured, the answers are not left to personal experience, but clearly defined terms and definitions. The question of “meaning”, as it were, is irrelevant; we imbue meaning into games, and they do not exist as things in themselves. Rather, games are played for PLEASURE in all cases. This might seem ambiguous, but on the contrary, the most pleasurable games receive top honors, word-of-mouth and praise; those that do not are swept into the scrap-heap of the short-lived history of video games. Thus, an analytical study is required.

If this sounds hilariously pretentious, it’s not meant to be, but I do honestly think video games are a weird clue, at least in my life, to how the world works. The way our brains are wired obviously has an effect on how we have “fun”, and I think it’s worthwhile to examine. Plus, I’m frustrated with Blazblue combos at the moment, so why not?


From → Life, Video Games

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