Friday, January 29, 2010

Violence Is A Game Mechanic(?)

[written a month ago]
As I stand in a room with my two aging grandmothers, I find that I haven't cared to listen to their discussion of family events for the last 30 seconds. I verbalize the source of my attentive apathy with tactless honestly:

Cos: Yeah... I've been killing people for eight hours.
Grandma1: ...
Grandma2: what?
Cos: I spent all night on my computer trying to kill other people.
Grandma2: [My name], don't do that, it'll get into your blood.
Cos: It already has.

*A woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's seems to look at me for the first time in awhile*

Cos: I was playing computer games. [I explain Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]
Grandma2: It'll make you want to kill people!
Cos: I don't want to really kill people, I just want to... I dunno. I guess it's in my blood.
Grandma1: I hope you can keep those games separate from reality...
Cos: I think I can... at least see it happening. Most guys playing don't.

A buddy's "squad" (team of 5 or 6) showed me around Call of Duty last night. They are very good, very angry and play a lot. Hours.

Sounds silly if you haven't been there, but our society needs an outlet for aggression, for conflict. We find it fun, compelling, intoxicating.

I want to play!

Nighthawk: Hey, what are you doing?
Cos: trying to blog about why I want to play this goddamn game.
Nighthawk: That should be easy.

Myst and Math Blaster don't get in my blood like killing does. Yeah, I said it. The first person perspective, the near-realistic atmosphere of violence...

Here's a guess: It's impossible to design a nonviolent game that is compellingly "fun" in the same way this is. Yes, it's is a huge problem that I'm wired to enjoy the mechanics of combat.

Is nonviolence possible, or is a simulation the safest place we can keep killing?

Let's see if I can get a post a day before I let myself blow up.


[forgot to post it]

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ignorance of Their Law

Today I got a ticket for parking on the street past 12am.

On weekdays you can park there till 2am, when the library closes.

It takes a certain kind of stupid to raze my nerves, and I'm straight up infuriated by the concept that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Of course its an excuse, you just have to enforce your law regardless or enforcement would fail completely.

If you want me to play along with your system of arbitrarily selected rules, update me. Inform me. Who in their right mind would willingly choose to be ignorant?

Maybe a lot of people.

In court, ignorance of fact IS usually treated as an excuse. They only really cite the IOTL rule in regard to criminal offenses (I swear I didn't know I couldn't burn you!). The difference between criminal and non-criminal is one of degree... whatever.

I just want the day to come when the parking space I use can alert me to it's limits just like any other well designed machine or application. A parking spot is a piece of social technology; I shouldn't have to pay a fine just to be handed its instruction manual.

(the parking schedule was printed on the ticket. thanks guys.)

I would like to be informed of the law before I act, and AR might help dynamically prevent "ignorance of the law" in future situations. This guy has the right idea. (Concerning bad ideas)

Two things, tho:

1) Giving law enforcement info-tracking tech in the real world could lead to some serious privacy issues and eliminate those instances when we can harmlessly break rules.

2)All of this really boils down to the fact that the Officer waited till 12:05 to give me the ticket. I'm outside a college library, you know what I'm doing. C'mon.

Is his ignorance of the library's hours an excuse?

Everybody's got their rule-book. If we every human was aware of everyone else's rules we wouldn't need to have language.

Perhaps creativity is just a crutch for ignorance.


3D Adrenaline Makes It Hard To Remember.

From: Dr. Pepper
To: Dr. Cosmos
Subject: Avatar

Is awesome because that technology will make virtual experiences more visually and imaginatively pleasurable than real life and will keep getting better. And the movie could be all about affirming the imaginary or fictional world because the guy chooses pandora over humanity, and the pandoran world is depicted as being so much better. So, we should embrace upcoming virtual realities? But they can't last indefinitely because humans will come back?? So its better but not??? Cos??? What's it all mean??!? ahhhagdvbhd I've been $#@%%^$ all day. miss everyone, movie was good

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

From: Dr. Cos
To: Dr. Pepper
Subject: Re: Avatar

I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner man; but you're dead on. There's quite a lot going on in Avatar. In the end the marine chooses to stay in his Pandora game-world and live a life of avatar-pleasure rather than remain faithful to his physical human past... So it seems like they're saying "HEY, VIDEO GAMES ARE BETTER THAN REALITY!, WORLD OF WARCRAFT FOREVER!"

But I think that Cameron was going for something different. In the last moment of the movie the hero opens his eyes in a new avatar body and the lights in the theater flash on. After hallucinating for 2.5 hours, anyone really watching that movie feels a shock, a jarring sensation of being thrown back into their human bodies. I personally believe that my reality is fictitious to a degree (I'm the author), and so any subjective perception of "reality" is by definition just as invented as Avatar 3D was.

Thing is, when you get thrown back into your physical body at the end of the movie, your world is a bit different because you've been subtly handed a new set of shiny goal structures within which to live (/play):

Hi, I'm James Cameron. Uhh, Spirituality, conservationism and harmony with nature, you know? Down with capitalism, $#@% Iraq and long live collectivism! Don't pirate movies.

No? There are some very seriously confusing messages about how we should return to earth following this movie. Sure every film/game/novel/dream has its messages. Problem here is: this pamphlet is making a billion dollars cash. It is itself the greatest mass-exodus of escapist citizens ever executed within our capitalist system, and they pull it off by deriding the very system that pays for it! The popcorn bags used to watch this thing worldwide probably leveled half the trees in New Guinea.

Our way of dealing with scarcity is very confused right now; it seems to be commenting on itself by selling a simulation of its opposite, ie, "Pandora." Avatar: 3D Technology allows a top media tycoon to show you a world where technology helps a public servant enter a media-free paradise and defeat technology-wielding mineral tycoons by blowing up their technology with technology.

We're confused. We can't decide whether or not to embrace virtual reality (technology-enhanced-existence) or live in a tree. I say: Embrace the alternate realities that are presented to you with every moment, sure, but there's an underlooked aspect of Avatars' hero: he was crippled. His avatar grants him the ability to move again and escape suffering.

By entering nature. Ready for some high theory? Deep breath.

Nature is change over time, dynamism. Self-aware (intelligent) systems that are forced to stagnate (not-change), experience suffering. Humanity, given the ability to remember, experiences suffering in the preservation of one personality throughout a lifetime of change. Because nature is in a constant state of change, and we are not, we revere it. It is everything our hard-drives are not. Computers and archives and facebook pages attempt to protect our fictions against the onslaughts of time and change. At the same time, we are afraid of getting stuck on a planet that has "killed its mother," forgotten all reverence to change and fully embraced mechanization as g_d.

An intelligence fully stuck is the saddest thing in the world. Don't leave your computer on.

Anyway.... those of us playing Halo, World of Warcraft and all the other immersive virtual realities we have today cripple ourselves in order to escape to our avatars. We can't move or walk or smell or make out with our fictional worlds, yet. We play because we're handed systems of challenges that we know we can accomplish and enjoy the visual and social rewards that have been meticulously created to seem more attractive than those we would receive with equal effort in the real world. Blizzard makes 80 million dollars a month through subscriptions to their desktop-pandora, and everyone plays it sitting down.

Games don't change unless you let them.

So Cameron is telling us to get out of the movie theater and rediscover mobility, nature, change, whatever(?) Whether we can get the same awesome visuals and subject-enhancing super-powers that you'd find in Pandora laid over our comparatively drab WalMart landscape is really... the question. The future is gonna be whacky.

Pepper, once we can step away from the desktop/Imax theater and get the same visual gusto in a fully mobile, 3D glasses-type mobile device, the question will indeed be : "should we embrace it?"

But by that point I think we already will have done so. We want to be entertained, and whatever makes people happy, in the end, is what they will/should(?) do.

I've seen avatar a few times. Half of the planet shares a secret existence with me in that world. We've all mind melded that Na'vii princess.

And we want to go back.