The medium is the message

Inevitably my time management all went to heck in April, so here’s a belated post regarding Turkell and video games. I feel that we have touched many interesting areas on Tuesday. My main concern about Turkell’s article is that I’m not sure I see video games as a unique media to achieve the altered state Turkell was implying. Now, I don’t think Turkell was claiming directly that video games were uniquely special in that regard, but I think the fact that she wrote a whole article about it makes me think that at the very least she thought about this uniqueness. She does, however, mentioned table-top role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. There is a good reason why table-top RPG like D&D hasn’t disappeared yet, it is because video games cannot come near to replicating the experience of playing such a game (or, so I’m told. I know I know, it’s surprising how I have not ever played this because it seems like it is right up my alley. But I grew up in China so reading 15 rule books written in English would be difficult for us given the language barrier). I feel like the altered state Turkel mentioned in the article can be interpreted broadly. She talks about how playing slightly less complex games like Asteroids or Pac-man lead to a state similar to transcendent meditation. That is one kind of altered state. However, immersing yourself in WWII via Call of Duty seemed to me to be another kind of altered state. Isn’t participating in a game of D&D another form of altered state as well? It is through this line of thought that I feel that the “altered state” described by Turkell is hardly unique to video games. Video games, after all, is really just a media. There is increasingly more video games that were created with less “game” in mind and more “art-piece” in mind (some good example include “The Shadow of the Colossus”, and “Journey”). The medium is the message. Video games is unique in its ability to create almost whatever kind of world (like a novel) the author wants in a very visual way (like a movie) but has the intrinsic characteristic that it is interactive (unlike a novel or a movie); players MUST participate in that game. It is this interactive aspect in a addition to the visual aspect that truly makes video games, as a media, unique.

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