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Game Transcendence

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being." In this article, I suggest that, "The unexamined game is not worth playing for a human being." It all has to do with immersion and transcendence.

Kent NORMAN, Blogger

May 2, 2011

2 Min Read

We normally  want a game to be immersive, be totally absorbed by it.  My research on video game immersion identifies both characteristics of the game  and attributes of the player that affect the extent to which a person can be immersed, "jacked" into a game, or descend, metaphorically speaking, into a game. The goal is immersion. This what every game designer wants of their game.

The weird thing in contrast is that in "real" life, in which we are already inherently immersed, we often seek to transcend it.  We want to elevate ourselves up out of it. People use a number of techniques from transcendental meditation, to centering prayer, etc.  And it is a good idea to extract yourself at times and reflect on life. Socrates said, "The unexamined 
Iife is not worth living for a human being."

And of course, we often want to escape the pressures and stresses of life or  escape the boredom or routine of life.  So we seek a different immersion in entertainment, fantasy, and game.

So what's going on here?  Sometimes we want to transcend up out of real worlds. Sometimes we want to drop into virtual worlds and escape the "real" world.   Where do we really want to be?  What do we really want to be aware of?  Cassandra even talks about "the mass exodus to virtual worlds."

While we often desire immersion into the virtual worlds of gaming, I would argue that we also need to be transcendent players.  To spin Socrates around, I would say, "The unexamined game is not worth playing." 

Delightfully, I find a large sample of gamers who do exactly this.  They evaluate games, review games, critique games, and analyze them in every way and more than is done for literature, theater, and film.  But oddly, there are yet to appear required college courses in game analysis or game appreciation. But stay tuned.  Such courses are in the minds of forward thinking departments of digital humanities (e.g., MITH, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities).

So where is this going?  Ultimately, we come to the end of every game or at minimum leave the game and get on with life.  GAME OVER! What about life?  Same thing. Ultimately, we all die.  But just as I believe in life after game, I believe in life after death.  Maybe I just think that life is really one big totally immersive game that can only be played once, that was created by the first/prime game designer, and that was meant to be an educational.  Well, the immersive part worked, but maybe not the educational part. That's what we need to solve. Learning from gaming.

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