Sometimes, in my dreams and certainly not reality, I hear video game makers say the most fundamental part of a video game is code. It’s all just math really, they might say when you ask them what a video game is. There are others that say that games are just a set of rules that people play by. Designers. Learn how to manipulate these rules and you’re golden. According to them, these semi-imaginary people, most video games that come out don’t have any unique rule sets that do interesting things and are pretty worthless. Their eyes roll into infinity (I just stole this phrase from someone) when they see yet another video game without any new mechanic being brought to the table. All the story, all the characters, all that ‘whatever’, is just merely a primitive qualitative layer on top of the mechanical skeleton. Like chocolate-covered grasshoppers. Like chasing silkworm larvae down with a shot of soju. Like yyyyyonly wanting to watch you bathe in the Purple Rain.
Oh my god, this art is, like, so deep!
But let’s step away from video games for just un momento. Would a painter say that the most important part of the painting is the chemical composition of the paint? A painter would, wouldn’t they?! Painters!
This person, if there ever was one that said this, is the equivalent of the “game as just math” person. Sure a painter knows how to manipulate paint, but does he or she claim that their painting is just… well, paint? Is the color burnt umber simply SiO2+Al2O3+Fe2O3+Fe3O4? Is The Color Purple just a bunch of lies made up by Alice Walker? Or, would a film director claim, “Meh, these movies I make, they are just a bunch of celluloid”? No, because people don’t make analog films anymore, right? Its all digital… “Meh, these movies I make, they’re just a bunch of lonely electrons looking to make an atomic connection”… Again, some director out there, some contrarian dingle-slapper, said that too, …and they are probably still alive actually… but we won’t listen to him/her because…
Because artists don’t tend to be materialists, they less often utter such odd-sounding explanations of their works in the language of ‘hard science’, yet video game makers, SOME -and I don’t know any FYI, so take everything I say as a giant grain of salt – see the world from a materialist view point, or from the mythological vantage point of objective mathematics. They went through the -and I realize right now that I’m repeating a lot of what Chris Crawford has said a zillion times – gauntlet of learning discrete mathematics (whatever that is), computer science, which indeed is hard shit, and the underlying objectivisticallistical philosophies that underswaddleboot them. Its like joining the army, it reworks their minds to think that anything produced on a computer is somehow less art and more mechano-electrical-mathsy engineering. But the line between illusion and reality, between meaningless mechanics and artsy-poopsy meaninfullity aren’t so simple. Firsthumously, because Morgan Freeman is narrating the universe into existence.
Sure the characters in video games are like puppets and have no life to them. They move their arms, often times like robots do… and yes, the ‘uncanny valley’ is strong in a ton of video games. Yet us plebs keep playing. Seeing it as a conglomeration of a bunch of lifeless automatons is a sure way to make you feel like a dupe. And from this point you can triumphantly return your keyboard to its full functionality and have the self-serving attitude that the swath of humanity that play games are all just a bunch of ignormauses -ignoramii?- if you’re that much of a meany. “Look at them foolishly spending their time with inert lifeless objects. They should get out there and do something with their life, like read a book or something!”
Yet, if you claim that video games are just silly frivolity without any magic or the capacity for meaningfulness to them because its all just chemicals and math, then the same has to apply to all the arts. Even your favorite band! Its all just molecules in the air bouncing off each other. Sorry, not sorry. When you watch a Pixar movie, you are watching silly, digitally-created, lifeless, extremely cute puppets rigged to appear like they have anthropomorphic qualities to them, and “live action” films are a bunch of overpaid actors, pretending to be people they aren’t, with shots and scenes sewn together to give the appearance of continuity.
According to this view, in the above picture, that you should give careful attention to, Morgan Freeman is not gently appreciating the shape of your soul. Its just zero’s and ones, zero and one-ing. Its a digital reproduction of a photograph, which is just the reaction of photo-paper to the exposure of certain pattern of light for a set amount of time before it receives its final chemical bath that stops it from being receptive to photoplasmatrons.
“Look at these brushstrokes. Not real. Sad.”
So if art is just stupid trickery… why do we cling to it? Someone who thinks they have pulled the curtain back and started to make art through a medium built upon objective mathematics and code might believe they are justified in thinking digital art is just a bunch of algorithmics playing the same old song on repeat. “Sweet memes are made of these…”, but if you look at Morgan Freeman’s picture, I mean really look into it, you are having a real experience, of a strange kind of intimacy, whether you like it or not. Its like his eyes are massaging your soul with the warming comfort of a stove. Paintings create profound and real experiences via so-called illusions no less equitably than computer screens, and they can be just as stirring.
Stir your spirit with babalities!
If a bird builds its nest inside a computer case, is it less alive?… and when people nest within digital worlds, no matter the attitude of their creators, aren’t they still living? Surely you can pull out the old escapism axe and start chopping away at poor people’s non-stoic coping strategies, but you have to admit, the world does tend to suck sometimes, for billions and billions of people… so why not have a little refuge? Quoth the description of the forthcoming book by Alfie Brown, The PlayStation Dreamworld: “We can no longer escape our fantasies but rather live inside their digital reality.” Yummmm, food for thought!
Nothing like a walk in the wasteland to get the blood pumping!
I can imagine that some people, back when paintings weren’t simply made of paint, when people could suspend their disbelief still, …they looked into them and saw a place that they wanted to be. They could sit there for hours, dreaming of what it would be like… like I sat for a great deal of hours gleefully wandering, picking and poking around in the dust and grime of the worlds of the Fallout series.
Three cheers for apocalypse! Three, two, one!