Are illusions all we need?

The player is presented with a seemingly important choice  of choosing a pin with a cage or a bird on it in Bioshock infinite

Choice is alluring, it gives people a sense of control and is in fact seen as one of the greatest forms of interactivity. Through different forms of media we see choices being made constantly though it remains prevalent in it’s rawest form in video-games.  Many who play video-games remember the classic choice in Bioshock infinite  when Elizabeth offers you the  choice of two different buttons. As many others most likely did I took my time and considered the implications either could have, if I took the  cage would I have a bad ending because it represented captivity or maybe it represented protection, I could never decide.  If only I could have known how arbitrary very decision in that game was, every decision seeming as though it had great implications but not delivering on those inferred implications.

This aforementioned story is precisely what came to mind as i read through Marie-Laure Ryan’s article on interactivity. It made me question how interactive games such as Bioshock truly are . Even though you can go throughout the game and make decisions, if those decisions don’t have any meaning to what extent are you interacting with the world of Bioshock?  Then again some believe the illusion of choice is all you need to interact.  In any case I believe  that most video games embody internal-exploratory styles of interactivity as generally speaking you can move around within the worlds, perhaps pop a couple “bad guys” in the skull some bullets, and make some seemingly meaningful decisions but, most of the time are on a pretty linear track to the end.

Are You Hungry For More?

Image result for power hungry
This photo depicts a cookbook cover, which is unique because though the term “book” is in the name, not many would view it as a book due to its lack of a traditional story, which raises the question, what is a book?

Before you ask, no, I am not advertising this cookbook (although, those energy bars do look quite impressive). I’m posting this image because I find the title compelling, “Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook”. I once had a history teacher tell me that the main things that drive this world are greed, money, and the pursuit of power.

Upon reading Marie-Laure Ryan’s work, Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media, power became a recurring thought, almost like a flickering light in my mind. Is power what fuels this world?

Her introduction in, “The Many Forms of Interactivity”, immediately brought me back to my childhood, when I would constantly ask the timeless question, “why?”, for just about everything. Ryan’s work brought to light that, even from a young age, we don’t just want a dictionary or encyclopedia thrown at us, we want different perspectives on numerous topics, so that we may piece things together ourselves. We want to customize certain answers to fit our demands. We want to control what things mean for us and an informational book gives little to no leeway for that to occur. This is an interesting concept, however, because informational books, such as cookbooks, allow for us to skip around the pages in complete control of what we view next. Possibly, these books are so often ridden off due to what seems to be a lack of a creative dialogue, even though their intentional sequence, to some, is quite unique and inspirational.

I was a bit confused differentiating between her ideas of ergodism and interactivity, but I assumed that interactivity related more with face-to-face interactions, while ergodism leaned towards mainly the technological world.

Her article goes on further to mention different types of interactivity and almost all of them related to having control in some way. When she mentions internal versus external interactivity, she discusses how we can either be an actual player in a game and create our own utopia or we can act as a god from a more external point of view.  In my own life, I find that even with external interactivity, though I am like god, I still make the main character myself and I can’t help but wonder if anyone else does that?

No matter how altruistic you may think you are, you are still thinking of yourself, showing that humans are inherently a bit egotistical. We want power because we want things done our way and to make sense in our own minds, just like children.

In my digital studies 101 class, we’re reading the book, Neuromancer, and power keeps popping up as a central theme there, as well. Whoever has control, sets the pace, just like a person flipping a switch on a television screen. You keep flipping because you are impatient and you want your entertainment needs satisfied right away, done “perfectly” your way. Maybe that’s why interactive games are so addicting? And why so many studies have been done on how violent video games affect children?

We were not meant to know or have control over everything, but thanks to the ever-expanding world of technology, we can now pretend that we are a god for however long until our battery dies out (or until our physical needs bring us back to reality).  I can’t help but give in to the researchers curiosity and wonder, how is the pursuit of power really affecting not only our intellect, but also our moral character? Power, in the more literal sense, allows humans to keep on advancing, whether it be with a laptop screen, so they can take online classes, or with a night lamp that keeps them from stubbing their toe at night while walking to the bathroom. We need it, but just like my mama always said, “moderation is key”.

Until next time,

Stay hungry, my friends