Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Games People play

Video gameplay is the topic of the day. The video game is a microcosm of a greater reality. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought with the technnology developed by game designers. Predator Drones fire missiles at targets in Iraq from stations in Nevada. That is, in the parlance of today's youth: "Like, Totally Freakin' Awesome, Dude."

I have had the pleasure of talking to a young man named Daniel. (College-girl's love interest.) A student of architecture at a Florida university, Daniel's fear is being stuck in a cubicle designing strip malls and housing developments. So he works on designing computer games.

While I have never met Daniel face to face, I am struck by his depth of thought and his concern for the wider world around him. He incorporates all this thoughtfulness into his games. From the plot and narrative, to the characters and the environment which they inhabit. He is their Creator. He cares about his stories and outcomes. And he creates them to be guided by players to do their bidding.

Some games are witty and clever. Others are mindlessly vulgar and violent. Daniel's games have unexpected thrills and turns. Danger lurks in corners, possible death can leap out at any time. Through it all, his games are architectural in nature. They have foundation, scope and open spaces. Depth and breadth. Every angle is covered in his game creations. He includes many variables in the kinds of choices a player may make. So not only must he be a writer and artist, a sculptor and architect...he must be psychologist as well. He must anticipate the mindset of every kind of player.

Now having said that, I don't think anyone can anticipate every possibility, because to do so is to be omniscient, and no matter how gifted Daniel is, he knows he is not God, and he respects his place a little lower than the angels.

There are constants in video game reality, and one of them is this: If you kill someone, no matter how much blood gets splattered, no matter how gruesome the death, the body of your kill will simply melt away and leave behind a present, usually a life extending potion, or a highpowered assault weapon (or gun clip). Death is not realistic. It isn't the same as looking at the carnage of Columbine, or Auschwitz or a Jerusalem bus bombing. There is no grief or tragedy. No horrors. So when you kill someone in a game, it has no tang of conscience. You are not attached to the virtual participants as you would be your own life. Killing is an easy thing, then. Racking up the kills is easy as well. When you run out of lives, you simply restart. Your existance is limited to the reality in the computer screen.

I am the only one in my family who doesn't play the sorts of interactive video games that my husband and children play. I prefer puzzles and solitaire games. Mahjjong, Collapse, Tetris and card games.

Not my husband or kids. Much too lame for them. Take the husband, for example. He enjoys slaughtering aliens. And Nazis. Even better, is if the Nazis are Aliens With Many tentacles. His favorite weapon of choice is the Super High Powered Magnetic Object Retriever and High Velocity Thrower Gun. With this beaut you can magnetize heavy objects made of mostly metal, and hurl them against an enemy at high speed. Great for knocking advancing alien Nazi soldiers down a flight of stairs with a hurtling footlocker or conference table. Paint cans are handy weapons as well. And when they die, they leave you lots of useful presents, like an extra life, or handgrenades.

College Girl likes the Midieval games with Elizabethan speech and hijinks. Her plots usually involve stealing gold and trying not to get caught. These games are story intensive, with lots of characters and dialogues. No Nazis.

College Girl's Twin likes the Japanese Realm of gaming, and that usually involves samurai or ghosts and Japanese School Girl With Annoyingry High Pitched Voice Armed Onry with Camera and Rittle Boy Ghost. The music tracks in the Japanese games alone, are worth it.

Sweet Rachel likes all things harmless and pretty. Like this happy place of eternal cuteness. Her favorite games involve...Barbie! in her perpetual quest for cuteness and ponies. Barbie rides happily along wide, uncluttered trails with only the Giant Floating Gold Coins to Collect On the Way to the PONY! The only dangers she faces in Barbie World are the occasional skunks that cross her path or else the pony's depression meter might get too high, and then it will need a bath and a carrot or a pat on the nose. Barbie's only agonisme consists of choosing her pony's colors and saddles, and whatnot.
Occasionally, Sweet Rachel will play Star Wars, but that involves shooting things and mostly running, and since Rachel doesn't like to actually be mean, she simply runs around in circles and jumps over things til the clock runs out.

Then there is Mary....(to be continued)

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