Thursday, August 04, 2005

I'm Trying To Channel Hakim Bey

Videogaming and Newcomer-Media Acceptance

Videogames are the current unwanted stepchild of popular media. Much of the current proponents, myself included, are rushing headlong toward giving it the legitimacy of the television, which until only recently -- and still in some quarters -- is the Rodney Dangerfield of content, no respect gotten -- or given. Precisely how thoroughly television has chewed through sacred meat is directly proportional to the scorn heaped upon it, owing to its "degradation of society" -- simply because it is a more visceral medium, one suitable for eyes-forward predators such as man.

In this way videogames can be an extension of such primitivism, the way the shaman becomes the animal during his hallucinogenic trips, so too can game-players enter virtual worlds seeking answers and guidance, not only titillation and excitement.

The anarcho-socialist communes of online gaming guilds and groups, the ego-driven god-power-trips of hack-and-slash bloodfests, the grit and sinew of shooters, the fanciful psilocybin-esque abstractions of puzzles and platformers -- these are windows and doorways, and like any voyage into the netherworld, one must develop rituals and protections from the tulpas that infest such realms. Thus also, then, the fear from the pacified, from those whose darker natures have been stuffed into trunks of shame and disgust, placated by church and frenzied by automaton-politicians with wind-up backs spouting cliched Billy Sunday aphorisms. The mob always reacts thus to Frankenstein's monster -- because from its first spark of life they have named it monster.

I see -- in a possible future, perhaps -- a strong independent gaming movement based upon underground hip-hop principles, social protest, a crazy punk-funk techno-atavism, smart Code-Vultures picking through whatever offal Microsoft has left out in the desert -- for what little nutrition it might provide -- and building strong wings for soaring from it, Privacy Vodun shaking vials of gris-gris and disks of encryption keys, gender and species morphing Wild Children ("post-Prejudice") frolicking naked in digital Zen gardens.//// Basements filled with expatriate programmers, "legitimate"-work-by-day art designers, chaotic neophiles, mad storytellers, all merging their disparate talents into a squawking, buzzing, flashing program, which they can unleash upon the whole world like a seed of Ice-Nine.//// Viral marketers forgoing the pornography of corporate advertising and designing playable memes of The Golden Rule, crafting the software equivalent of DMT (two-player gaming with the machine elves?), flipping off the reticular filter and slaying some ego-demons with power-glove information-magic.

For all the doomsayers running around like Chicken Littles with their heads cut off, screaming that the sky is "raining sex and violence" -- to this we do bite our thumbs, sir, and then we suggest that we run off and tell the kings of legislation to save their law-making hands the strain of needless carpal tunnel.

though beset with commercial interests, there must be compelling experiences in these videogames to have achieved such stunning impact upon our entire culture. the age of personal license to influence art is replacing -- or at least matching -- the old paradigm of passive observers with mouths agape, waiting for flies. now we are catching those flies.

our videogaming will travel the warp and woof of society, will hit high and low points and all in-between. how natural that a medium that necessitates a level of interaction would explore all aspects of human interactions -- and the idea has been in the language for a long time, since someone first admitted their enjoyment of inciting another person, of "pushing their buttons" -- we all like to push some buttons now and then.

Perhaps some of the resistance to accepting videogames as deserving to be on par with any other creative endeavor (tell the Architects that they aren't artists!) is due to its insistence on allowing the user control. A television remote is a semblance of control, but interaction with it only leads to other slots filled with passive entertainments. A gamepad or joystick or keyboard/mouse allows more influence than a change of channel.

Could the parents and governments be afraid of the controllers? And of the controlled suddenly demanding them?

We should wish for such influence in our government as we exert over the simplest game of Bejeweled!

1 comment:

Patrick Dugan said...

Wow, I have tremendous newfound respect for you. I thought you were just some cynical industry-vet, but T.A.Z. deserves primal attention in understanding paidia and play in general.

Interestingly enough, I've had plans to devise a software platform called DMT based on a memetic content paradigm. Machine elves aren't nessecarily a part of the design.

Good job of channeling Hakim Bey, really well written, you're definetly getting a trackback from me on this.