Friday, September 25, 2009


Why do people, certainly guys, take so fundamentally to computer games? What does it tap and what did people do with that part of themselves before the computer age. Was TV a transitional mode, a passive way of preparing for the shift from attentiveness in the real world to attention to the unreal?

Walking through the woods of Washington DC one winter day, I wondered what Indians would have done during that season. Certainly they would have been warm in their houses while it was cold outside. They would have told stories, sang songs and maybe played games. These stories, songs and games were communal things, passed down over generations, played communally and adding to the cohesiveness of the community. Game software is communal too in that it is created by and part of a context supported by a community and the Internet allows multi-play. But we generally interact with computer games in a solitary way.

Yet we play. Can it be as simple as an urge or need to hunt? Testing oneself against the environment, to damage it or win victory? If this is true, one conclusion to draw might be that it is advantageous for men and boys to play games for recreation. It channels what may be a dangerous, anti-social part of ourselves into safer outlets (since we, as a society, don’t earn our living hunting anymore). In Freudian terms, at least for males, these games – including ones that you don’t actually kill things (like puzzle games) because the urge to do violence may diminish with age as boys become old men – provide for sublimation in the service of culture. And maybe in this age of virtual rather than actual interaction, computer games also provide a service for civilization in providing expertise in interaction via computer that goes well beyond the keyboard or the linear?