A path unwanted: Impossibly realistic games

One of the distinctive criteria of games compared to ‚reality‘ is their loose connection to the latter, a worksafe simplification of rules and goals. This doesn’t mean that these games are simple to play, but that rules and metarules are stated or can at least be relied upon as unchanging background as long as we play the game.

The same two mechanisms, simplification and a stated stable background, are the cornerstones of politics, especially in times of war. Knowing the enemy, recognizing the enemy, destroying the enemy, all executed in an unerring, straightforward mode.


In search of a game’s True Meaning ™…

As with the ongoing ‚Killerspiel‘ debate in Germany, public and politicians are in search of The Meaning of a game. Though it’s understandable that there’s concern over violent, pornographic or propagandistic content, few seem to understand that games can also be created as toys.
To quote Marvin Minsky in his ‚Society of Mind‘,

„A thing with just one meaning has scarcely any meaning at all.“

Games can take the form of paths, labyrinths, and landscapes, and the latter ones are difficult or even impossible to fathom. If seen from a literary point of view, I’d even deny a linear game to be ‚understood‘ in its ‚entirety‘, just by being played from a narrow social, temporal and mental vantage point.

I’m often asking myself, whether this is political actionism, populism, wishful thinking, technological and medial ignorance, or a mix of all these.

There seems to be a strong urge for a world which is deterministic, monocausal, where any one thing has one discrete meaning. Which fits nicely on the description of ‚digital‘, without the analog fuzz surrounding it.
Thus this drive is both very compatible with an information society, but also somehow incompatible with social, cultural, individual reality, diversity, and most of all ambiguity.


Levels of gaming

Where’s the actual interpretation and acting taking place when you’re ‚playing‘?
Games can be used to understand, and to intuitively act upon, the inner workings of a set of rules (e.g. simulation games), or they can show the inner or hidden conflict of a game and reality (e.g. serious newsgaming or ironic gamifications of real events), even criticize the still common notion of a tangible difference between gaming – accepting a set of rules as given by a benevolent gamedesigner – and ‚real life‘ – accepting a set of rules as given by political, social, business, educational ‚reality‘.


Traditional structures and courses

Linearity, finality and causality are ‚traditonal‘ concepts of structure, i.e. they happen in a frame of reference and orientation we’re culturally used to, though this frame is currenty undergoing constant disassembly.

If a project’s course doesn’t follow the line of planning – realisation – finalisation – application, but exists in x versions in a treelike development; if there are networked and synergetic effects from all directions; if the project is never finished or has never started in the first place because of precursing projects it built upon – then it is non-linear, dendritic, hypertextual, rhizomatic, circulary-causal.

This is a starting point for a view on modern systemic depictions, or it’s entertaining sub section of gaming and metagaming.