Earlier today I was watching a short lecture clip discussing media’s impact on sexual fantasy. The hosts were discussing how the advent of images and film changed how we think about sex. One of the hosts pointed out that our very language is stuck on the technology: “The movie in my head” or “the sex tape.”
I’m not exactly sure how my brain made the transition, but this got me thinking about how computer games, along with movies, affect how I view the world. It didn’t take long for me to think of all the instances in which games and movies directly affect the way I think. This isn’t surprising. I grew up with video games. The first video game I ever got seriously into was Age of Empires. I was in the 4th grade and I became addicted to this real-time empire building strategy game. I played it constantly. When I wasn’t playing it I was imagining I was playing it. I distinctly remember having dreams that I was playing, only to wake up and realize I was simply dreaming…and I was doing so well! It was not until the second Age of Empires game came out, Age of Kings, that my life was changed. Age of Kings was set in the medieval era. I fell in love with the time period, joined a medieval re-enactment group at age 12, built a trebuchet, my own suit of armor, learned how to fight with a longsword, and went to college to major in history…all because of a game. (Well, no, the game was the gateway, I became interested in everything despite the game, but still, the game was the gate way)
Those strategy games influenced how I thought about the world. I guess I was frustrated at times growing up because the world’s mechanics didn’t match the game’s.
At the same time I was discovering games, I was discovering film. Throughout my teen years my friends and I were constantly working on film projects. I started to think of life like a movie. I started to look at things as “scenes” and people as actors. I wanted my life to be a perfect script. This was most evident in my romantic life. I my dates to be picture perfect. I’d work for hours before she came over to fix up the house, to make sure everything was set just right. I wanted what I said in romantic moments to be movie perfect too, like I was reading from a script, yet genuinely felt what I was saying.
For the longest time I viewed myself as an actor in a play. I was very upset because I felt that the story of my life was being told as if I was a secondary character in someone else’s story. I always felt everything was about other people, never me; that they were all staring in their own movies and I was just an extra. I felt powerless to change this. I didn’t know how to wrestle the spotlight away from them so my life could be about me for a change. (I don’t mean that I wanted attention, I’ve never liked being the center of attention; I just felt I was always doing things for others, never for myself. I never did anything because I wanted to do it. Whenever I was in a group with my friends, we always did what my friends wanted to do.) Thankfully I’ve grown out of both this and the romantic movie scripting, but games and movies still affect my life in other ways.
One of the perhaps more normal ways they affect my life is with music. I love going places or doing things with my ipod. My ipod allows me to put a soundtract to my life. In fact, when I think back through the history of my life, I have a play list with a song for each period of struggle or triumph. My ipod lets me pick a soundtrack depending on my mood. When I don’t have it with me, I still play songs in my head.
I had a restaurant job as a teenager clearing tables and bringing waiters their food. I absolutely hated it, but one of the ways I made it somewhat fun was to imagine it as a game, or a movie. As dorky as this sounds, I used to imagine that we, the staff of the restaurant, were fighter pilots locked in deadly combat with the food and customers. We were constantly rushing around, weaving in and out of tables, swooping down to clear tables, running to refill drinks. Sometimes a waiter would be overwhelmed and would call for backup, at which point we would dive in to the rescue. Set to a high-energy soundtrack in my head, it was actually thrilling.
This fighter pilot game imagery carries over to other aspects of my life. Growing up in a navy town, on a street full of fighter pilots, I really wanted to be one as a kid, but my fear of heights, the falling sensation in my stomach, and my poor eyesight means the closet I will ever get is driving my car.
Driving is another activity that has really been affected by movies and games for me. Again, this might sound really dorky, but sometimes I like to imagine a fighter jet/terminator style HUD display when driving. Instead of a weapons targeting system, I’m tracking the curves of the road, the other cars, people on the sidewalk. When I come to a yellow light and I can make it in time, I imagine Peppy Hare from Star Fox telling me “Use the boost to get through!” (I know it’s silly, but it’s the little things in life…)
I also like to think of the car as an extension of my body, just like a character in a video game is an extension of myself. If you think about it, it’s just another layer for your brain to transmit information through. Normally when moving your body your brain sends the signal to the muscles which move you. In a game or driving you simply add the layer of physical controls, be it the mouse, controller, or steering wheel. When you are really in tuned with a game, or driving, you lose sense of your limbs interacting with the controls to make the character do something. You become that character or that car. You think and it moves, just like your body normally would. It’s an amazing feeling, especially in a car on the highway. To have the car as your body, to pull out into a lane, hit the accelerator, feel the thrust as you lunge past another car, it’s exhilarating.
The last way gaming really effects how I think deals with objects and interacting with people. ( I know that sounds really vague, I’ll explain)
I think about things I have the same way I think of a role playing equipment list. Picking equipment has always been a favorite activity of mine since I first played Oregon Trail as a kid, having to pick what supplies to buy for the journey. I always like to be prepared. In college I viewed my dorm room as a colony from my home. I wanted to be self-sufficient, so I brought a lot of things with me. Whenever my housemates needed something that they didn’t think to bring, I usually had 3 of it. (You’re not going for a weekend sleep-over, you’re living there!)
In my car I would pack a variety of equipment I might need: an extra pair of clothes, a towel, a crow bar, 50ft of rope, a flash light, medical supplies, blankets, a fire extinguisher, emergency food rations, and my longsword. (I don’t know what events I had in mind, but I wanted to be ready for anything)
I also like to think of things in terms of abilities and spheres of influence the same way a character in an RPG would have abilities and spheres of influence. Again, it might sound silly to use game terms to describe it, but I have a repair ability, a research ability, a cooking ability, and a longsword ability. ~_^ (among others) I like to think of other people’s talents and skills in the same way you would an RPG character.
As for spheres of influence: Your sphere of influence is you immediate surroundings along with as far as you can travel. For example, if I saw a stranger being attacked I’d help them in a heartbeat. My ability to help is obviously limited to my immediate line of sight, or sphere of influence. The people who I see while walking on the street don’t know that while they’re in my sphere of influence I would come to their aid if they were in distress, but nonetheless they would be helped. My secondary sphere of influence is as far as I can get in my car with the money I have for gas.
I realize I’ve kinda meandered all over the place. I hope this makes sense. Does anyone do something similar? Or should I check myself into a mental hospital? ^_^