With the intriguing title "Will Video Games become better than life?" Brett posted a blog entry with a link to a deeply engaging TED video on games. I commented, then realized that the question more than likely refers to the possibility that electronic games could be more fulfilling than, well, not electronic games. I hesitate to say real life, because a life spent playing games is very real. I edited my comment, but thought this might be the place to expand on my original, more discipline specific, answer.

My original comment was this:

The question about being better than life is an odd one- similar to "what's infinity plus one." It reminds me of a story... Pliny tells a tale in Natural History of a contest in 400BCE between two artists trying to paint the most realistic painting. On the day of judging, one artist, Zeuxis, pulled the drapes from his painting to reveal grapes that were painted so realistically that birds flew down to peck at them. Everyone was, of course, amazed. The judges told the second artist, Parhasius, to pull back the drapes from his painting. and—drum roll please—he couldn't because the drapes were the painting. The paintings no longer exist, but looking at similar trompe l'oeil paintings from the era, one wonders about the development of perception. Over fifteen hundred years later, around 1290, Giotto began introducing styles that enabled painters to mimic three dimensions. His pupils developed accurate shading, but they all had to wait for Brunelleschi to nail down the mechanics of perspective. Each era thought their own painting styles were the most vivid and lifelike.

So can games be better than life? Impossible. But they can give people a glimpse of life that many didn't know existed but a few visionaries have been able to realize and expose.

(This is by Giotto- work once considered "eye-foolingly real". )

So I'm thinking about games and their place in society. I'm thinking that digital games are the direct descendants of classic painting. Paintings tried to emulate life while engaging the viewer in a sensory experience that could challenge, teach, and uplift among other things. Break a game apart and you'd find the link in its mitochondria, I'm sure. Painting was the tool of the shaman, and wal paintings were once as engaging as Halo3… and with that, I am just too damned frustrated with words and typing to continue. Sorry there's so much to read and no illustrations. It makes me crazy, too.

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April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
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