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MCluhan and Computer Games

Society has become so accelerated now that any real-world experience is exploited almost immediately, given the commercial imperative ...

This sentence set me thinking. It would set anyone thinking, especially after two weeks of intensive dissection of the highly esoteric texts of one Marshall MCLuhan, one of the most famous media critics and philosophers that the sixties have brought forth- ut my private surveys on the Berlin U and S bahn have shown that, even though people seem to be fundamentally aware of what he has said (the medium is the message...), no-one seems to actually kow the man. Which is fine by me.

The two weeks I spent with marshall were very interesting. They forced me to actually dig very deep into his texts to understand what the man was writing, but once I had understood what he had written, it became a process of reaffirming my position on this planet and towards other people, the media and the world in general.

During that time, I held a short talk about online games and how his ideas of global village were starting to be integrated into our new real time world. I postulated that the culture devolopping online was a deeply oral one, as the eye takes virtually every function that other senses have- it becomes you fingers, your ears, your feet, your sense of smell.... and in it's funtion as an ear, it cannot protect itself against things it does not want to read, the messages by other players, the description of a smell or sound.... thus the eye is an ear, just as the ear become more of an eye in theese games, with sound (other than the ambient background chitter of whatever...) being highly directional, forcing the ear to focus and the eye to become a spherical, all- encompasing organ. The nature of the messages is more oral than it is written, as, other than the basic grammar used in spoken language, grammatical structures, such as the ones I am applying to this blog, are virtually non- existant, are replaced by a deeper, more personal grammar, which the individua may use in his or her daily spoken communications with other people. An the fact that you do get an instant response makes it even more so.

But I did not start out wanting to write about online games.... I actually wanted to comment on the fact that so many wargames are made. Look at it: Shellshock: Nam 67; WWII; Americas Army; Conflict Vietnam, even Rome: Total war... what is this strange fascination that our species, our armchair generals and mouse soldiers, has with war?

We are sturated, to the point of melting with the imagery of war: Iraq, Iraq, Daafour, Chechnia, Pakistan, Egypt... images of explosions, terrorist attacks, fights between armies have provened to the General Public from those hotspots in world war X in the last two weeks. If you go back further, you'll find that no country has passed without being mentioned at least once in the news in connection with sme form of war or killing.

Now come the computer game developpers, trying to cash in on this kind of scenario. Unlike Hollywood, which at times has made some very horrible films reflecting the nature of the conflict, making it either a glorious battle or depicting it as a conflict that was unnecessary and caused too much bloodshed, in a computer game, your objective is usually the Following:

You are somewhere in the military heirachy between Grunt and commanding officer. You recieve order, which either you have to excecute youself or order your men to do so. You are the direct cause of the bloodshed. It makes you feel good to have killed your enemy, the enemy of your virtual patria. You are decorated with high honours, with virtual medals and a high score.

Even more so in the case of first person shooters. In-game shots from shellshock are simply amzing in the detail thay provide you with. The light, even though from what I could see, it looked slightly overdone, is glorious, like an epiphany on LSD. The smoke looks so real, you want to cough, the blood looks so realistic, along with the dead, armless and headless bodies of you opponent.... aren't you proud to be a soldier?

Ever since the detective Novel, we are aware that we seek some form of escapism into voyeuristic, or vicarious, as a professor of mine once called it, world of murder and sadistic deeds. The genre has developped, maybe not directly, into the wargame. In victorian crimes, wars were far away and murders were close, newswise, at least. Today, wars are erupting every day in our living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and other rooms we may have installed a TV or radio in. And then we take ourselves online to escape all this, into a computer game. And what do some people do?

Thay have a little war of their own. Against people from all over the world.And interstingly enough, yu can play operation Desert Storm (Iraq, 1991) and you can play watever the US Army called their more recent picnic in iraq.. Of course the bias is that of the patriotic American, you don't get to play one of the Iraqui freedom fighters (though that is a term I cannot completely agree to- they're somewhere between a terrorist and a freedom fighter... they are the resisting forces.). So the media bias is one of propaganda.

And you become so numb to the bloodshed on TV... what's a quick overview of a bombed building whan you've just used your wit and agility to kill twenty people? Do you even watch TV? Or do you react to events by playing them?

More to follow....


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