15 July, 2010

Video Games Are Comforting

When life gets filled up with all sorts of worries and requirements, I find that video games can be a comforting distraction from all of that. In a video game (even as they continue becoming more and more complex), all of existence is based on a relatively simple set of parameters. In most games you don't have to worry about eating or going to the bathroom or other niggling concerns like that. Your goal is usually very clear (in general if not the specifics), and anyhow there is a pretty straightforward path towards accomplishing it. Even when you have options, they aren't as plentiful as in real life. Deciding that you're going to kill the Great Evil Sorceror and save the Kingdom isn't accompanied by the kind of doubts you get with wondering whether you should switch jobs, or go back to school, or anything like that. There's no question of what the "right" path is. There is just a path, and you follow it. And you usually have a lot of fun along the way.

Another thing I intended to mention is that when you get hurt, healing is as simple as stepping on a medpack. And there are always extra lives in store (or barring that, continues, and barring that, retries) if you seriously mess things up.

I was playing Shadow of the Colossus (again), which is a really great game. Every time I play that or Ico (also a really great game), I get the impulse to play the other one, too. They're both awesome, and I really don't know which one I like better. They both have a great adventure element, and where Shadow of the Colossus has an amazing action element (which is practically adventure and puzzle solving all-in-one - climbing over the Colossi and trying to figure out their weaknesses and how to exploit them), Ico involves guiding and protecting a helpless girl of light - and I can't help but melt at the idea of having to guide and protect a helpless girl of light.

I was exploring one of the forests in Shadow of the Colossus, and if there's one downside to the adventure aspect of that game, it's that there's not a whole lot of interactivity with the environment. It's beautiful, and there are a few things you can do - like hunt for lizard tails and eat fruit from the trees to boost your stats - but it seems more like pretty scenery to pass the time on your way to the next huge arena which hosts the next Colossus on your checklist, than an aspect of the game to *do* something with. Also, it's pretty empty, so it's kind of lonely. But I'll say it again, it's stunningly gorgeous. Ok, I was gonna say "it's beautiful" again but at the last moment chose to use different words...

So...getting back to what I was about to say...I strolled into a beautiful forest, and the light dimmed under the canopy of trees, and I saw the sunbeams shining through periodic openings in the forest ceiling, and I thought how beautiful it all was, and I felt like there should be some elves there, or something similar. Pretty girls to complement the pretty scenery. You know, there's a girl in that game, but all she does throughout the entire game is lie unconscious on the altar, in her robe of light. Even though she never does anything, she's still beautiful, and I catch myself staring at her frequently. There should be more pretty girls in games, especially games with beautiful natural scenery. But then I feel like if anybody tried to do that, they'd be accused of having a perverted motive (a feeling that would likely prevent them from doing it in the first place).

But what if we went all the way and actually introduced sex into a game like this. Is it really so bad? To have naked elves frollicking in the forest, and you could interact with them in naughty ways? What's wrong with that? You say it's not art, it's smut - but that's only because when people make things like this, they make it smutty and not arty. If you applied the same standards this game was made under to the sex parts, you wouldn't have smut, you'd have high class artistic interactive pornography. Yet people would still look down on it because it's "preoccupied" with sex. Sex negativity much?

It's really cliche to bring this comparison up, but it comes up so often because it's really a good comparison. We have violent games that are made with very high standards, but sex games are trash. If you want to go indulge your impulse to murder, maim, and torture, you have plenty of glossy options to choose from. So how come you can't do the same when you're feeling like expelling some pent up sexual desire? And don't say "sex" is better than "sex games", because games introduce an element of fantasy - eliminating the negative sides of real sex (just like fantasy violence versus real violence) while introducing all sorts of imaginative flourishes that wouldn't even be possible in reality.

That's one of the reasons I like Second Life so much - there's so much sex. But the graphics aren't exactly top-of-the-line, and the "game" is so open-ended that you end up standing around a lot, wondering what to do (imagine if you had a "fuck quota" or something, at least it'd give you some direction, and a sense of accomplishment), and since it's a massively multiplayer environment, lag's a bitch. So, it's got the sex, but it's missing a lot of what other games have. I want the best of both worlds.

[So yeah, even in a geeky writeup about video games I end up discussing sex...]


  1. I use TV for the same purpose. When things get too complicated or depressing there's always X-Men or Scrubs where good and evil are clearly defined and good always wins in the end...

    It's no wonder violence is glorified and sex shunned... what world would you rather live in... a world where everybody's making love.... or a world where everybody's sadistically dismembering people and things?

    The only kind of sex that is okay is violent sex (esp. sadistic rape) because it affirms the government's chosen mandate of apocalyptic rage which keeps us too flustered to attain the wisdom necessary to drop out of the game.

  2. I have to admit I don't really follow your logic here. "It's no wonder" because a violent world makes people not want to live? (I would sure rather live in a world of love). And that's what the powers that be want? Are the powers that be the government? But the government wants you to be too confused to take your own life? Or does "drop out of the game" refer to something else? I'm quite confused.

    Still, "the sexual act, successfully performed, is rebellion." Down with Big Brother!

  3. Also: Yeah, TV can work for that, too. But I find there's a unique appeal to the interactivity of video games - the ability to control the character on the screen, and drive the action. I'm already passive and voyeuristic in real life, video games give me an environment where I can be active without the associated anxiety. The presence of (and by extension, fear of judgment by) actual people is the main strike for me against massively multiplayer environments.