"Do You Want to Play a Game?"The Contrarian: Why We Fight"Do You Want to Play a Game?" - RSS 2.0
The professor was overjoyed. Finally, a student saw the point of the exercise: making comprehensible what looks incomprehensible when viewed through the media, understanding how Papa Doc and Pol Pot and all their ilk come to power and why they make the decisions they do.
My friend figured it out. He played the scenario and won. He saved the Kobayashi Maru. It should come as no surprise that he was a hardcore gamer.
When we play these kinds of games, when we step into the role of the soldier, the spy, the conspirator, the operative, we are in every case taking the place of the hypothetical politicians who have failed us. If politicians did their jobs better, Sam Fisher would be out of work. Rainbow Six would run a gas station. Soldiers would stay home. But these games begin at the point where politics has failed, where the will of the state to survive can only be expressed through violence.
At this point, it's up to us. We are exceptional in every way: moral, compassionate, clear-headed, deadly. People face the world with the tools they hold in their hands, and in these games those tools are weapons. The joystick only lets us interact with people by killing them. The game only lets us solve problems with violence.
EA's Medal of Honor encouraged us to find out: What would I have done at Pearl Harbor? The answer is gratifying: I would have been smarter, tougher and better than the 2,403 soldiers who lost their lives that day because I lived and I killed approximately a metric shit-ton of Japanese airmen in the process. I'm the hero! Keep this up and I'll program a combo into my turbo controller and take down Tojo in a cage match.
I used to joke: How can they call it the History Channel when they never have shows on the history of cheese? But that's the deal. The popular conception of history is military history. Washington at Yorktown, the flag-raisers at Iwo Jima. Every second show on that channel is something like History's Hitlery Mysteries. Hardcore gamers don't buy games where the goal is to compromise. They buy games where the goal is to save the world - by force.
I believe humans have a deep longing for authority, to possess it or to obey it. It is tempered by our empathy, our ability to view another's situation and project it onto ourselves. But our games know nothing of empathy. We optimize our play to reach the solution in the most direct way possible. When you watch a video of someone completing the entirety of Half-Life in 45 minutes, you have to think: That guy could make the trains run on time. There is no pause for conversation or exploration. There is merely the fanatical implementation of an optimal result.
A final solution.
Somebody has to save the world. And that means somebody has to rule it. We gamers have had the training. We've learned the mindset. We know the score. We are efficient, deadly, methodical. If only we were in charge - then, oh then, we could show the world how much we care about it. We could wrap our arms around all that suffering and whisper of our speed runs, our fervent smashing of crates, the countless times we've saved them all already. And if any of them talked back or questioned our wisdom we could show them exactly what we've learned.
Press the button.
John Tynes has been a game designer and writer for fifteen years, and is a columnist for the Stranger, X360 UK, and The Escapist. His most recent book is Wiser Children, a collection of his film criticism.