Archive for May, 2013

The Meaning of Gaming

May 16, 2013

Avalon in Arthurian legend is the place where the savior King Arthur recovered after his wounding by Mordred. Avalon is what many modern game designers hope to create – it’s a paradise of abundance, a means of resurrection. This abundance can be literal, as in Farmville with endlessly produced crops. It’s the reason for the classic reload function in gaming, allowing players infinite resurrection from death or poor choices. It’s the basis for the empowerment phenomenon in gaming, where main characters run without tiring, don’t need to eat or sleep or have social interactions and are always gaining more power, through levels, skills, money, and equipment.

The metaphor of Avalon took on increased significance at the dawn of modern gaming, with the fall of grace of the West during the Vietnam War. The West was the fallen Arthur, now needing to recover after it’s ego and sense of self-worth were injured. So it turned to the virtual realm, a brave new world of infinite possibility, and sought to both create and be saved by it’s own Avalon.

The fall of the Soviet Union meant that global capital no longer had to be on it’s best behavior. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and global capital now had absolute power, or so they think. Games reflected this dark reality, classicly with the aptly titled Doom, and the rise of FPSes with their personalized murder.

After the 9/11 attack which challenged the hegemony of global capital in the world (however slightly), both the US military machine and gaming moved to the “military shooter”, murder masquerading as war in poor urban (Middle Eastern) environments.

The purpose of gaming is the same as Avalon’s purpose to King Arthur – to rejuvenate him, heal him, and allow him to save the world. Gamers through their very identity believe themselves to be injured, they believe the world to be in need of saving, and they believe that gaming is helping them help the world. Gaming relies on this ideological construct for it’s existence, and in recent years with the rise in “end of days” mythology gaming has gained in relevance. Gaming is popular now since all wealthy people in the world want to live in Avalon. Poor people want to live on earth.

Because it’s fundamental to gamers to believe themselves to be injured (thus victims) and because they are so stricken with despair over the fate of the world, they lack the willingness to self-examine beyond the merely insecure (and utterly false) consideration that they are “escaping” reality.

Avalon is where Excalibur was forged. According to the ideology of gaming, by exploring the virtual realm one gains the power to transform the real world. Gaming will save the world.

David Bowie’s new album

May 8, 2013