The Human Need for Control
From the moment we enter this world, gasping for breath, bombarded by the sensations of an environment so new, we struggle for some tenuous sense of control. Our first words, our first steps, our first feelings of love and rage, all are manifestations of a desire to feel as though we have some type of handle on the enormous idea that is life.
In a manner counter to all intuition, as we age we seem to lose more and more the idea that empowerment and control are within our reach. Despite our constant longing and yearning for peace and happiness in our terms, with the passing of time comes the realization that these ideals come only as an extension of a rote third party definition. As the weight of this reality increases with each passing year, so fades the will to struggle against it. The strength and utter determination to master all obstacles within our path that we showed when we were pulled kicking and screaming into this world truncated and beaten down by the view of a society so thoroughly drenched in regulation, nary a speck of freedom shines through.
These ideas recently burned deeper into my psyche when I read a piece done by an enlightened colleague on the evils of big box corporations, more specifically that of their godfather, Walmart. His work fanned the flames and ran the idea of control once more up the flag pole of my mind, cultivating initial outrage and culminating in a greater appreciation of those moments in which I feel control enter into my life.
A portion of these moments involve my time gaming and, as I see the ideas of freedom and control begin to slip further and further from our grasp, the feelings garnered by said gaming will become ever more important to our survival.
Disclaimer: ALL THINGS IN MODERATION!
Ironically, I am playing through Assassin's Creed III right now, a game series that hinges upon the very subject of freedom vs. control, played out in dramatic fashion in a war between Assassins and Templars. Unfortunately, while that epic storyline signifies much of the overarching characteristics we are discussing, it must be left for another time.
There are certain concepts elicited by gaming. These ideas are the reason that gaming has become so pervasive over the years, and how it has come to be respected as a viable form of artistic expression. For our purposes, there are three main concepts that we will focus on, important because they are intricate to gaming and are steadily being extracted from our daily lives.
I've written previously on the death of imagination and its many sources, so I will spare you another diatribe. What I do know deals exclusively with immersive fiction...both the ability to generate it and experience it. There is no better way of creating said fiction that the video game platform. Now, I'm not saying it is the best form of immersive fiction (I still prefer a good novel), but you can not deny that actual immersion into the fantasy isn't absolutely amazing.
This immersion is critical in cultivating imagination in all who game. This form of imagination may not be the same form it was before the onset of mass media, but it is imagination none the less. When I read the imaginings of a ten year old child in regards to a zombie apocalypse and come away genuinely scared...I'm happy as hell. Previous generations may have frowned upon the use of violence and gore in these childhood scenarios, but it's time to wake them up to a reality of their making.
If you didn't want to see this happen to your youth, maybe you shouldn't have perpetrated violence across the globe while playing "World Cop" with human lives. Stop yelling at your kids for being extreme and start teaching them to channel that imagination. Start teaching them that their portrayal of violence could one day effect someone's life. Broaden their scope so that your limited view of the worlds ends with you.
Reward is the more obvious reason for gaming's success. You accomplish a goal and you are rewarded with a tangible product that makes your character inherently better.
" But E.M., we get paid to work!"
Really? You get paid to work and that makes you an inherently better person? Really?
I tell you now, I have yet to see money make anyone a better person. What I have seen is a pat on the back, a whisper of encouragement, a speech of acknowledgement; I have seen these things elevate the very essence of a person, seen them enhance the very life being lived. I have seen all these things, and I didn't even have to ask the government's permission.
This sense of metaphysical reward is surely lacking in our society. We need to quickly come to the realization that an A+ and a paycheck don't make "full" people, they create superficial shells devoid of humanity. You want to reward someone? Appreciate them and their work...
This is it, dear reader. This is the mountain top, the pinnacle, the zenith. Control is what gaming is all about. We spend hours upon hours under the thumb of bosses, bills, taxes, prices, meetings, advertisements, and roads traveled far too often...all created to organize the human condition, an inherently disorganized beast in itself.
We thirst for control, we hunger for it because it is so far removed from our daily lives. Gaming gives you that control. It allows you to take a breath and step into a world full of possibilities, full of opportunities, full of people willing to give you a pat on the back for using your imagination to solve problems.
You will never be able to control this life, but you can control your perception of your own. Take a step back from the world you know and see those things that will bring you peace and happiness. See them and seize them. A lesson well taught dear gamer...a lesson well taught.