Video Game Logic Wins This Round

Allison Guy
March 1st 2011

Adapting video games to real life has become a fairly common, jokey way of exploring the games' surreal aspects.  I saw kids with balloons playing Mario Kart on my college campus, and costumed Pac-Man re-enactors running around New York.  What seems perfectly rational in video games is absurd when removed from its virtual context.  Rooster Teeth's series Immersion, played for laughs, does a better job than most of exposing the ruptures between real and virtual logic.

Some of their experiments have unremarkable results.  An actual soldier can't carry dozens of weapons in his inventory; stale food left lying around on castle floors doesn't have miraculous healing effects.  More interesting is their research that alters their subjects'proprioceptive or kinesthetic senses.  These senses regulate the body's feeling of place, motion, and the relation of body parts to one another.  Proprioception is why you can still touch your toes in a pitch-black room.

In one Immersion episode, the 'scientists' rig up special glasses so that the participants can only see themselves and their environment from the perspective of a side-scrolling game.  The test subjects stumble around an obstacle course that would be comically simple for even the most inexperienced Mario Brothers player.  In real life, four-inch platform is terrifying.  A fast-moving Bullet Bill completely catches a player off guard.  The experimenters get similar results forcing drivers to see their car from the third-person viewpoint of games like Grand Theft Auto.

A side-scroller using your own body or an actual car, should be more, not less, intuitive than using a controller.  The controller's buttons only represent the notion of movement, the body actually experiences movement.  No doubt the subjects would get better with practice, but what is unremarkable for the projected body, the avatar, is extraordinary for the situated body.  We instantly grasp that in side-scrollers, going right equals going forward, whereas in real life, going right means turning in circles.

The logic of Homo Ludens is not the logic of Homo Sapiens.  When we try to merge the natural and the virtual body, the results are disorientating.   Two methods of interacting with physical spaces, both logical on their own terms, are shown in the end to be non-complimentary systems.

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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