People who like computer games are probably not going to like this. I don’t really like computer games all that much. For me, they don’t take me on the imaginative journeys I like to go on, when I have free time. Compared to daydreaming, they don’t cut it at all, for me.
I understand that they’re an emotional release, where you get to do things you aren’t allowed to do in real life. I get that. It’s just that the things they mostly let you do are not things I would want to do, even if allowed. You see, so many computer games are based on the premise of having an enemy or adversary and you have to destroy them (or beat them), before they destroy you (or beat you). That tends to cast the entire world into a conflict of one sort of another. They invite you to disregard your moral compass. That’s not a world I want to inhabit, or even dream of inhabiting.
My ideal computer game would be one where you could collectively construct an artwork. Not one that evaporates at the end of the game, either; a real artwork that would last. I don’t care if it is in digital form. I just don’t want it to vanish when the game is done.
I don’t find games for sale where you make music together. I know there are games where you make music against somebody else, where you have to be the best to win, but real music isn’t like that and winning, in the real world of music, is when the whole is better than the individual parts. That’s not how Guitar Hero is. And the music doesn’t last. There is no music produced during the game play that stands as a monument to the time spent making it. Any music made is wasted. What a waste!
Wouldn’t it be good if there was a game you could play that let you collaborate to discover the cure for a disease? Even if that only had you going through the motions, if the game were realistic enough to be fun, then you’d learn how to research such cures in the real world. You would have gotten something of use for the time you spent playing the game.
There are no games that I am aware of that let you go on a voyage to discover a lost continent, with the immersive, realistic feel of what it must have been like to spend six months on a leaky boat, eating weevil infested ship’s biscuits and salt beef, to discover lands filled with creatures so exotic and unexpected, that you could barely believe your eyes. Instead, I am offered games of sea battles, conflict, destruction, piracy and all the nastiest of human traits. I don’t want nastiness, in my leisure time. I get enough of that in the real world.
How about a game where you get to be one of the Marx Brothers, earning points for wise cracks, witticisms, musical talent or anarchic, but funny behaviour? Last time I looked, there was no such computer game available, even for the best consoles.
Too many games indulge your blood lust, without reminding you of the price you would pay, if you indulged in this way in the real world. Imagine that your friend could never, ever play the multiplayer game you were both in, if you happened to shoot them by accident in the game? Would it make you less trigger happy? Would you find your guns such a benefit, or a bit of a burden, knowing that whoever you shot would be permanently barred from playing this game with you. It would get pretty lonely, wouldn’t it?
Or how about this? Let’s say that if you were shot, in a computer game, you had to wait a realistic recovery time, doing basically nothing, until you could resume your position in the game – just like real warriors involuntarily have to, when they are hit. Say you were suspended for months and all you could do is watch daytime television while you waited to recover. What if, when you returned to game play, you had a permanent impairment, just like real soldiers have, when they get shot in wars? How would it be to spend the rest of the game as a sitting duck for fitter, unimpaired players, because you were shot in the earlier episodes or levels?
Imagine that destroying a car, or a city, in a computer game cost you real points to reconstruct. Imagine that you cannot find enough game play points to complete the reconstruction. What then?
Life isn’t really like it is in the computer games, is it? Perhaps even less so than in the movies. Yet, insidiously, the more we believe in the computer game world, the more likely we are to believe the real world conforms to that imaginary construct. We get less concerned about waging war, less cognisant of the consequences, more certain that we can win a gunfight and the more likely to ignore the fallen and maimed – just like we have begun to do in actuality.
There are games that let you play God, but who, in real life, is a God? I’m not. Neither are you. Computer games rarely allow you to explore inter-personal, human relationships. They all start from the premise of “every man for themselves” and that we are individually disconnected from others, the world, the environment and the consequences of our actions. We’re not.
If the range of story lines, plots, dialogue and premises were as wafer thin, trite, repetitive, unbelievable, mindless and exaggerated in the world of novel writing, as they are in computer games, people would have stopped reading novels long ago. Sure, the scenery changes, but the basic premise does not. They’re all out to get you, so you have to kill them first. What a world!
Imagine a library full of books that were only about that. Not much of a library, is it? Not much of a culture, to be more exact. How would we feel if we discovered an ancient, yet until now hidden, backup copy of the lost library of Alexandria and found it contained only scrolls about how to defeat an enemy? What would it be like if our motion picture heritage only consisted of movies about war and conflict (maybe it already does)?
If life begins to imitate computer games, it’s going to be a horrible actual reality and not one I would like to have to live within, yet I can see our real world and people’s attitudes to each other becoming more and more detached, brutal, uncaring, unfeeling and cavalier. Are the two things connected? Do those kinds of games get made because we buy them or do we buy them, because they’re the only kind of games being made? If they are the only games funded, why is that? In whose interest is it to inculcate a culture of gun fights, battles, destruction, outrunning the law, killing and walking away as if none of it mattered? Think about that.
What we rehearse is what we get good at doing. The mental states we inhabit in our imaginations tend to drive our conscious behaviour. That’s how artists do what they do. It’s in our minds where culture is created. Artists rehearse their art and thereby perfect their skills. They imagine what they want to happen and it enables those things to become real. If you spend your time rehearsing wanton killing and imagine a world of “us against them”, what do you think will be the result in your daily consciousness, world view and the society you manifest? Is that the one you really want? The inescapable, real-life one?
So until computer games allow me to exercise the sorts of things that I daydream about doing, I’m out. They’re not for me. I don’t care how clever the programming is, how realistic the character animation rendering or how good the soundtrack is. I’m not interested.
For computer gamers that tell me I just don’t understand computer games, that it’s all just a harmless, meaningless, fantasy and that I just don’t get the culture of gaming, I respond that you just don’t understand me. I’m wired differently. It alarms me that you are not. Sorry.