Michaël Samyn, June 13, 2012
One of the great aspects of the videogame medium is that it can liberate us from the terror of storytelling. After a century of dominant linear media, humans have become storivores to an unprecedented extent. The relentless manipulation by movies, advertising, scientific discourse and propaganda has made us virtually blind for any sort of reality that cannot be framed in a neat, satisfying narrative with beginning, middle and end and a clear and simple distinction between causes and effects.
We’re addicted to linearity. Not even just to happy endings, but to endings as such. Combined with our aesthetic taste for destruction, it’s no surprise that our media are filled with apocalyptic visions. We love linearity so much that we are willing to accept predestination. Clinging to religion or darwinism, we are willing to accept complete disaster, simply because it’s a logical consequence of “the nature of man”.
Thankfully the techno-commercial complex is now offering us a way to escape the tyranny of story.
Videogames allow us to portray realities in non-linear ways. Certainly time forces the experience of the game by the player to be sequential, but it doesn’t need to be built like that. In my experience, videogames are built like little creatures. You poke them one way and they respond in some way, you poke them another way and they respond in some other way. You don’t poke them at all, and they simply do whatever they like.
And all the while the player takes as much or as little time as they want with the game. Unlike with a book or a movie, even when the player pauses, the game goes on, and the player continues to experience its emotional effects.
It strikes me that such a non-linear presentation offers a much fairer depiction of reality, of existence on this planet. The ticking clock may sometimes give us the illusion that our lives are chains of events. But when you sit down calmly, and listen to the world, and watch it happening, you realize that existence is both far more complex and much simpler.
Things happen and they happen again. Some things have happened millions of times. And we’re here to watch a few of them. Our own bodies have existed before and will exist after. With slight variations, all utterly meaningless. But beautiful nonetheless.
Things don’t have to make sense to be beautiful. Our reason is not the only connection we have to existence. And there’s many ways of thinking. Our intellect is a toy that we can play with, not a cage to reduce reality to.
My skin is covered with antennae, reaching out to take it all in. I want to see with my eyes closed, feel the sound of the ocean, touch the untouchable landscapes continuously forming in my imagination. There is no separation between me and the world. The notion of cause and effect trivializes our relationship. There’s no story here. There’s so much more. So much more.