Editorial: The Thorny Approach

Video games are an impossibility. Subverted by and tied to arbitrarily twisting technological pathways dictated by demand, perceived demand, and a false narrative of progression, video game objects are difficult enough to discern, even given otherwise clear conditions.

While not often enough to be considered frequent, my Vita had decided to require a hard system reset enough times to make me wary of using it. This was compounded by the fact that it is a system that I designated largely for large-scale games, especially considering that my beloved PSP Go is currently without a working charger. My most recent (arduous, punishing) complete playthrough of Final Fantasy X was on my Vita and I had made earnest attempts at Final Fantasy X-2, Persona 4 Golden, World of Final Fantasy, and a number of others before the system stopped recognizing the software.

Top 10 worst fathers in gaming, go!

I suppose Final Fantasy X is a worthy simulator of the torture of having Jecht as a father.

Internet research led me to believe that disabling the Vita’s wireless capabilities (except when downloading software) would help this issue. So far it has held true. After my most recent hard reset, I only downloaded two pieces of software and I am currently the furthest into a Persona 4 Golden playthrough than I have ever been before.

Video games are not unique when it comes to the aforementioned clear conditions required to ideally consume them although perhaps they are unique when it comes to breadth. Time, mental alertness, and a relative lack of distractions are preferred when reading a book. Picture size and quality, sound volume and quality, and quality of company are important factors for consuming a film. Money is necessary as well.

When I have played games that would become my long-standing favourites, often – but not always – aligning with the games I would come to most respect, I had unreasonably favourable conditions. While extremely hesitant to allow video games in our house, once they broke through the borders and I proved I still otherwise played outside and with my siblings, my Mother imposed very few restrictions on my play sessions. My brothers would either leave me be or watch in a supportive and engaging way. My sister read books in the basement. Once living on my own, for years I had the ability, the time, and the lack of other responsibilities to go into my room after work and recreate the conditions of my youth.

Now that my Vita’s lust for total breakdown appears to be satiated (knock on wood), I am doing my best to once again find that quality in approach.

Sad Naoto is sad.

Naoto-kun is sick of Ethos’ long-winded self-indulgence

So much of a video game’s story-telling (at least in the Japanese video game story-telling tradition) is how it looks as a complete work and from a distance. So much more is its ability as an interactive medium to gave back to a player what she puts into it as a remarkable extension of story. Making mistakes and not finding every secret, not yielding to backseat gaming, or doing thing or spending time in areas just because it feels right, the best games are built to meet its players halfway. The most effective parts of the games that have stuck longest with me are not the minutia of each battle in a RPG, they are not the rigorous exploration of a certain areas, they are not a single cutscene, but they are how all these things feel from a distance. Time and experience cast new lights on complicated emotional objects.

Even if we lived in a vastly rearranged society, there would not be enough time to properly give to each game. Shorthand must be applied with aesthetic preferences (visually, narratively, sonically, mechanically) to sort out which games should be given a chance in a busy schedule. This is a practical necessity. This necessity, however, has begun to tie itself to the process of relating to judgment of the quality of a game when they are ultimately unrelated.

For me it has been a relief to allow myself the freedom to not have to play every game, it has also been a relief to not have to complete every game I begin, but perhaps the biggest relief has been to strip myself the need to have formed a judgment of any game I have not given the time I know it takes to actually get to know a game. Otherwise, I feel, how can I claim to respect the form? How can I claim to love the games I love? It is a relief to let go and I feel like my appreciation, respect, and love for video games as a form is stronger than it has been in a long time.

I am grateful that my Vita has held strong this long through my Persona 4 Golden playthrough (sixty hours and counting). I am grateful that I have been able to set aside time to play it both in terms of frequency and length. I am enjoying my time with the game. I love being able to talk about my feelings about it and reactions to it with others who have played it. I feel happily and peacefully far away from feeling like I know and can judge its true form.

6 comments on “Editorial: The Thorny Approach”

  1. “Even if we lived in a vastly rearranged society, there would not be enough time to properly give to each game. Shorthand must be applied with aesthetic preferences (visually, narratively, sonically, mechanically) to sort out which games should be given a chance in a busy schedule. This is a practical necessity. “

    Absolutely. Two or three decades ago, playing every major Western-released video game was a possibility if a somewhat difficult one. That ship has long since sailed. And, as one ages, there is a diminishing amount of time available to spend on the ever-increasing field, so selecting the best options are more important than ever.

    “For me it has been a relief to allow myself the freedom to not have to play every game, it has also been a relief to not have to complete every game I begin, but perhaps the biggest relief has been to strip myself the need to have formed a judgment of any game I have not given the time I know it takes to actually get to know a game.”

    This makes sense up until the judgement portion, which seems to proceed from the notion that one’s reasons for not giving a game time comes from unknowable or random premises, or that such premises are not generalisable. Neither of these positions is the case. Moreover, a game failing to interest one insufficiently within a certain time is absolutely grounds for objective critique (otherwise, the original argument scales upwards and renders all judgement effectively impossible on the grounds that ‘insufficient time/experience has been invested’). Kant’s third critique makes it clear that, although subjective, true judgements of taste do exist insofar as they are manifest in those exercising properly their judgements of taste, and that the results can identify what are tantamount to objective qualities with regard to beauty, etc. Games are no less subject to those same principles by virtue of the fact that they aren’t movies or books: they are still objects which can be appreciably evaluated on aesthetic grounds, provided the conditions of their evaluation are relatively (albeit incompletely) clear.

  2. I suppose I should have made a more clear distinction. I feel the same way about other works (movies, books, television, humans, etc). My point that you refute ties to the point you agree with in that I support the development and execution of shorthand. The rejection of a game (or other work) and generalization thereof is something that makes sense to me. I just have enough experience to know that there is a distinction between that process and becoming more intimate with a work (even if one pushes through what feels uncomfortable at first). Sometimes the latter confirms the former and sometimes it rejects it. The formation of opinions and judgments from an incomplete experience and the articulations of reactions, while I agree are reasonable and legitimate and complete in one sense, are – to me – far too quickly and easily equated with a more complex and intimate relationship. Being aware of confirmation bias does very little to actually get one’s mind past it. The idea that one becomes more adept at quickly judging the actual form of a work (which is different than the totally legitimate and reasonable process of deciding to not like it and never approach it again) is farcical to me and is in inverse proportion to the reality of the matter. I have no issues being at odds with Kant over this if I am at all.

  3. As my time (and enthusiasm) for playing games diminishes, I still find myself buying every game I have an interest in. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s hard to resist the temptation. It’s why I complete fewer games than I used to, but I feel satisfied even if I play them for a short while.

  4. An Editorial article done by Ethos? This feels like 2008. Am I living in the year 2008? no one knows the answer to these questions but it is nice to see Ethos words again on the internet.

    I have found myself playing some games and not completing all of them unless I happen to love the game to insane levels (disgaea 5 on pc).

Post a Comment