Sherry Turkle's chapter opens with troubling tension. Should we care about what the games are doing to us? to our children? she seems to ask. "Reflection has given way to domination, ranking, testing, proving oneself" (500) and I think you'll agree, the joy, humanity, childhood, innocence and dare-I-say socialization is gone. In this "Me-against-the-world" false/manipulated reality, I am stunned by how much is missing, regardless of the virtual reality, how real do we want it, discussion of last week. It acts like an addiction, and causes people to forgo food and other social outlets, and risk getting in trouble (my son, when he plays too long or downloads an inappropriately violent game), and what about the pull to return to the game/computer/device that we see even in our relationships to our phones...but I digress.
I really enjoyed Turkle's differentiation between pinball and video games. Funny how we never even think about the improbability of the ball that doesn't obey the law of gravity or the crazy movements we see the "characters" of Wii or other games do. I also love the "dance" she describes although I can say from experience that it is also part of the video games--even though it can not make the slightest difference if you punch that button even harder, we do it, and we jump around, and swing the whole arm when the Wii asks only for wrist. And also the fact that video games could constantly up the ante, making you move from screen to screen always to another opponent, or an obstacle that looked (virtually:) impossible. Do you really have any choice? The computer is manipulating you to think that going up is the goal, that surpassing your last challenge isn't enough. As someone who has never mastered a game and made it to anything approximating a final level, is it ever enough?
Has anyone else played The Dark Crystal--I did love that one (and the movie) and think it was actually better than this clip shows.
"If there is a danger here, it is not the danger of mindless play but of infatuation with the challenge of simulated worlds. In the right circumstances, some people come to prefer them to the real." (508) I would say, that especially the disaffected and dissatisfied person, might prefer the pseudo-freedom of games to the work of being social and engaged in the community, with family and friends. (teenagers are having a hard time with this anyway, so the computer/game just gives them a world that doesn't seem to need interaction and social contact is a gimme). Coercive and destructive? They'll grow out of it? Relentless and aggressive? Promise of perfection in a game? While David (510, 512) thinks that his game-self on a good day is cleansing/recentering/you-against-only-you, I disagree; for me it is all manipulation that somehow compels me to value something of no value. So if I win at a game, I can handle the world, right, on the assumption that my prowess at anything is useful for everything?
Finally, if we go back to Kay/Goldberg and the Dynabook, we are at the point that Terkle says is in her next chapter, children who "are working with computer systems that turn the machines into a medium for self-expression...The excitement here is not in process of deciphering the program (i.e. following the rules set by others), but of making it (the program) in a highly personalized (and creative way." I hope so, but I don't think that. Just as not all students are readers, not all gamers will understand how games could be different, or how their choices are affecting them.
I am at a conference this week, sadly, and will not be present for our Wednesday foray into thoughts of new media. I'll be reading with interest!