Freedom, Perfection, and Control in a Rule-Governed Environment

Although I was not planning to blog for Sherry Turkle’s “Video Games and Computer Holding Power” as it is my seminar presentation, I have found the whole process of blogging very helpful in reflecting on the reading and gathering my thoughts.

First off, it is important to note that Turkle frames the chapter by establishing the culture of computers as “a culture of rules and simulation” (501).  This is a defining theme throughout because somehow, through the underlying programming of a video game, which although is highly rule-governed (by the programmer), anything is possible.  Users revel in the endless possibilities because they can somehow make sense of this rule-governed world.  How can sense be made in an environment of infinite possibilities?  An environment of infinite human thought?  The games require so much attention and concentration, that users are able to lose themselves in the action of it all.  So lost that the user doesn’t even realize how big their imagination is at the time.  I could not accurately call this process a “mindless addiction” but more of a “holding power.”  Now the only thing left to the reader is to determine if it is healthy…

This freedom is because video games are a simulation of the real-world, and with this simulation comes freedom through the idea of control.  Ironic as it sounds, it is common for people to strive for control and perfection in their lives.  The real-world makes this practically unattainable due to the existence of outside, unforeseen, uncontrollable variables.  However, in video games, just as David describes, the circumstances are “fixed, invariant” (513).

The fact that users find peace in games which enable them to feel “close to the edge” is hard to grasp at first but the video game is a “perfect mirror” or a “perfect contest” as it tests the user and only the user.  The obsession to do well in these games is not merely for the purpose of getting the highest score, it is to provide a sense of self-worth and competence.  I wonder if this interactive media we call a video game is a reflection of our culture which calls for perfection.  Turkle relates it to how we use our bodies and our money to establish control and measure perfection and therefore success…so the only answer is yes, this is a reflection of a somewhat oppressive culture that only accepts perfection.  Video games then, must be humanity’s way of reacting to the loss of control which has been imposed by social norms.  Each story (Jarish, Jimmy, David) conveys this idea.

Back to the idea of the healthiness of video games and their holding power…I see them as a means to an end.  An end that must be met because the alternatives to video games could take many unhealthy forms, such as violence or constant self-disappointment.  Whether these games are an extension of self, an entirely different personae, or just a way of re-centering, they can help us to develop identification and  a sense of self.


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