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Yarnspinning, Sleep Apnea And The Future Of Video Games

Grab a drink. Sit back and relax. This will take a while...

Yung Sing Lim

April 21, 2010

9 Min Read

Nothing imitates life more than games. Every meticulous action we make and take can be accounted for, measured and grafted into a perceived form of reward or punishment. Conscious choices form in our minds as we progress and our actions deliberate that field of possibility, narrowing it down consequence by consequence until we achieve stimuli.

We grow.

I was at a talk recently, which by the way has nothing to do with this topic, and it was so mind numbingly boring that when I was jolted into the present after what might have been a case of mild sleep apnea, I noticed I had dabbed several tiny dots and circles onto the paper I had been given and everything suddenly clicked.

I realized there must be a fundamental base for our mode of consciousness that dictates our primary function for existence in an ecosystem, much like how the main character subject of say, an action game, would question his own drives. Why do I, the character of this game, exist?

On the paper, I saw more than the dots and circles, I saw a cellular universe that exists as the base platform that all life revolved around and then I saw the future. 

Discounting the argument between evolution and intelligent design, we can at least accept that the human body at its base is a composition of chemical compounds and cellular matter. These cells may or may have not been inherently sentient, but they were driven at some point to coalesce into more complex matter, and this is the heart of what I want to share today.

We read about how many of our drives and cultures tend to be built upon an existential habit that grew and evolved from primal times, shaped and nurtured by the dynamism of both our external and internal ecosystems. 

A few years back, I remember coming across a science journal that mentioned how men unconsciously preferred shapelier women for their perceived breeding proficiency. Just recently I read about how modern women, especially those who come from more financially stable backgrounds favor men with more feminine features; a sign of the evolution in our social makeup where physical security is no longer a priority and a new kind of mate, one that is less testosterone driven, is more desirable in the upbringing of the coming generations.

So society is changing, as we speak, and gaming, or more accurately digital gaming too. From the days of basement hits to the social revolution we see today, a pattern begins to emerge. The history of video games is riddled with such cues. But to start from the days of Pong and Tennis for Two is not the best way to begin. To look at this change, we have to consider the origin of physical games and the history behind the recreational form. Better yet, while we're at it, why not consider the drive that pushed us into inventing recreation.

This leads me back to topic of the cell. Cells react to stimuli. The stimuli may change them. Sometimes they adapt and their structure is modified because of that stimuli. This leads to or at least infers that for a cell, stimuli is good. New stimuli may even be necessary. Change is everything for the cell to adapt to the changes in its ecosystem.

Thus we have recreation, borne out of that need for stimuli. Is this the part where art comes in? Maybe Kellee Santiago had a point there and maybe Roger Ebert is just a mean old critic. It doesn't matter. The point is we're still cells at the very core, and we think our behaviors today are the result of our primate ancestors necessities for survival, but our primate ancestors, very much like us now, are just as driven by what's within us. The cells.

No matter how complex we get, we still eventually revolve around a core, and at the very core, we're still very much like the dots and circles that littered the paper on my desk that day at the talk. Cell coalescence is what's going on, and we're watching it happen today.

This brings me back to the point on the introduction of digital games or even more accurately, the induction of the digital age; computers, the internet and probably the upcoming augmented reality everyone keeps harping about these days. Gaming was merely a part of the digital revolution, or so we think.

The digital age became an interface for the human race. Suddenly our physical bodies no longer mattered as much and consciousness could be transferred online. Individuals were no longer constrained by real life constructs that used to bind them in real life. The mute could speak, the lame could run, the dead would live on forever. 

For the first time in millions of years, cells could be cells once more. The years of physical humanity had been rough on the cells. Complex as they were, and as much as they could now reach out of their primordial pools, the organisms then, were subject to the harsh conditions of the environments and the weather. This would be followed by the competition between species to gain dominance over the environment, and eventually the challenge of adhering to self-imposed rules and laws that they created to hold themselves together under the arbitrary concepts of government and society. Even then, there was an unseen drive to coalesce.

Now, with the physical bondage on the ever slow but steady decline, we're going to see a shift in society whether we like it or not. Like the omnipresent force of deliberation, we are being funneled with each action as a whole towards this future, and though I dare not lay claim on it as some others have already come to a similar conclusion, I believe we are headed towards convergence of the human consciousness; a collective. 

In this future, our body parts may no longer be our own. Or minds may no longer be our own, and yet we may still be conscious of ourselves, and yet aware of the greater collective. For the greater part, we would have exhausted all known possible physical stimuli, or at the very worst, have digitized these stimuli and recreated them into the fabric of our digital collective. See where I'm getting here?

All potential physical stimuli would have become obsolete and the drive for new stimuli would have to take to the stars, and possibly at the same time the realm of devised imagination. We build skyscrapers in our minds based on the building blocks that we are aware of. From these skyscrapers, we become aware of new patterns that emerge from the processes and we reapply these patterns with a subsequent set of building blocks and we create something completely new. Something emergent.

And that's where digital gaming comes into the picture. Games won't be an 'art form' in the future. Art form comes from what exists around and within us. You take paint, and you smother it on canvass and you breathe life into the art, but games are the system that revolve around the paint, the canvass and the artist. Games allow (and in most cases today, merely dictate) the procedures that allow paint to go on canvas, and from there, whether we want to derive “art” out of it is up us, simply because the mechanics allow us to.

The point here, and the most important one is, games are systems, and these systems are an extension of life. Each game is a pocket universe in our universe that we live in. Pocket universes that we can enter and come out of simply because we have the technological interface to do so. And we're going to do this because it's a lot more efficient than setting up a paintball match or managing a basket ball court.

Efficiency is the key. Efficiency towards achieving stimulus is the way forwards. We're not exactly robots, but emotions are likely social constructs; a means to an end in the advent of man and to the simpleton cells, efficiency is all that matters.

In the future, we're going to see more and more emphasis on doing away with things that slows down our progress such as physical needs. When physical needs are removed, when we no longer need to concern ourselves with having enough nutrition, air and movement, we'll likely shed our physical components as well. At least the parts that we don't need.

And the parts that we do need, or at least in the foreseeable future that I saw when I stared into the paper on the desk; it will be our brains. The one part we'd preserve when everything else became obsolete would be the brain.. unless they eventually found a way to deconstruct all the thought patterns and thinking mechanics and turn those into algorithms, well, that might take a while longer.

But the games! The games that we call games now, won't just be games in the future. They will become life itself, played out a million times in all the various combinations to the most complex set of indefinite mechanics and seen in true HD (or whatever passes for stimulation of the visual cortex in that time). By then, virtual wouldn't be a term to mass market games, virtual would be real.

So listen closely, game designers, because you stand at the forefront of an incredible future. Who you are today, what you do and the kind of games you decide to create is going to have an effect on the future; adverse or not, consequence by consequence, until we achieve that moment of crux. The climax. The convergence.

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