When we play video games we are usually still aware of our reality. We still hunger, we see the edges of the screen in our peripheral, we feel the controller/keyboard with our hands. The good games are the ones that draw you in and make you forget about your reality, even hunger (at least for a while) and I can personally attest to that.
One of these games is the Dead Space series. A science fiction horror story that has you on the edge of your seat. The fun thing about Dead Space is that they include hallucinations. You, or the character, sees things that aren’t real. But lets think about that statement for a moment. A not real character seeing things that aren’t real? Well that’s any video game isn’t it, because they aren’t real. Yet we find ourselves needing to differentiate what is and isn’t real within something that we believe is not real. So perhaps games are real in a sense the same way a story can be. But back to Dead Space, these hallucinations are believed to be real by the character until proven otherwise. There is one cutscene where an enemy appears and tries to stab your character in the eye with a syringe. When you succeed in stopping them though they disappears and your character is the one holding syringe (pictures below). Even though it was a hallucination and not real and was likely not believed by the character even, it still had real consequences and was real enough that it needed to be fought off.
In the first game you search for your lover, find her, and then attempt to escape with her. Nearing the end of the escape you learn she died before you even arrived. She was another hallucination the whole time. Yet she seemed so real that this reveal shocked even you the player who is disconnected from their world. Games like these can pull you in and the better they are the less disconnected you feel, and therefore the more real it feels.
In video games we generally enter a new world and experience it through a character that we control. It’s not real, just a game. We know that, but the characters that live in that world don’t. These characters are living their lives in this world without our knowledge that they and their world is not “real”. That their actions are often controlled by us. Does that truly make their world less real or does that just make us a god in their world unknown to them? A god certainly would view the world differently than those living in it. A god could choose to be merciful or cruel and they would curse their fate or bad luck. Each video game a new world with a possibly different god.
For all we know our world could be a game or simulation similar to the Matrix. If we knew, would that change anything? For some they would likely believe that life has lost all meaning but each person gets to choose what meaning is for themselves. The man talked about below believes that life has no inherent meaning and that this leaves us free to give it meaning in ways we choose whether or not others would agree.
There is no longer a demarcation between gamer and game.
There is no controller you hold in your hand, there is no keyboard and mouse at the mercy of your finger tips; there is no screen, no pixellated window you look through into the “game”.
markiplier [Youtube user], “STORE CLERK BLUES | Job Simulator – VIVE” Youtube video, 22:00, posted on April 25, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvnT3AQcRM
With Oculus Rift, the gamer and the game are amalgamated, similarly to how the subject matter – the art/artist itself – is no longer separate from the viewer in the form of a canvas on a wall or a statue on a pedestal, but shares the same space as the viewer (see the Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece Post). With Oculus Rift, the game is no longer displayed virtually on a screen, but in the viewer’s space; The game itself is brought into and exists in the gamer’s world, the gamer’s reality. The game itself transcends boundaries of where and how it takes place. It is no longer in the digital sphere, but right in the gamer’s living room. Talk about utterly dismantling categories and distinctions.
Virtual reality has been brought over from its complicated existence in the digital sphere, and is now very much in our space. The fascinating thing with Oculus Rift is that its premise is totally reliant on human eyes: you essentially wear glasses, and these glasses present you a whole new reality. You put on the glasses, you look through the lens, and automatically you are transported to an entirely different world, while still staying in your living room, but what’s more is that your living room is the setting for the game.
You are in your living room and in the game at the same time: alternate reality is no longer so alternate, it exists together with “real reality”. The game alters and manipulates the space you are in. The living room is still there, but you as the gamer are being transported to a whole other place while still in your living room. But you can’t see your living room, as soon as you put on the headset, you exist in an entirely different world. Both the living room you are playing in and the game you are playing exist, but the gamer easily moves through these two spheres, as the fragmented line which separates them is porous.We can walk into a different reality by putting on glasses. The glasses show us what we are looking at, and as soon as we take off the glasses, we are immediately transported back into our living room. Oculus Rift really emphasizes the use of sight as an empirical sense receptor. It places heavy import on the use of the human eyes as a way of making us believe we are actually in an alternative dimension. What about those who are blind then? But by putting on the headset, the gamer in a way, is blinding themselves from the real world. Those in the actual real world who are blind, are not allowed the opportunity to delve into alternative realities.
But this raises the question: what is the actual real world? If a fake world is being brought into the dimension of the real world, how do we distinguish between the two? Will there come a time when we can’t, when the two become inseparable to the point where we all just have Oculus Rift headsets on, and see and look and view the way the Oculus Rift wants us to? Glasses can be tinted, their glass or plastic can get distorted or bent out of shape, altering our entire perception of reality? What about digital glasses? It’s scary to think that technocratic powers may allow these headsets to be easily subject to manipulation and distortion on a mass scale, altering humanity’s perception of reality itself, altogether.
Watch Wired’s review of OC and its relation to VR, and see what you think.
WIRED, “Oculus Rift: The Age of VR Has Begun”, video via WIRED posted 28 Mar. 2016. Web. Mar 2017. <https://www.wried.com/2016/03/oculus-rift-review-virtual-reality/>
A couple fascinating points Wired’s review touches on:
You can buy alternative realities. You can purchase reality itself. Isn’t that the weirdest concept you can possibly wrap your mind around? But these certainly are expensive realities, and therefore esoteric. Not everyone can afford to experience VR. Hmmmmmm. Perhaps a little of the technocratic paradigm at work here? Who knows.
“It’s not like you don’t know you’re looking at a screen, but all that visual stuff is just one small element in a whole constellation of technologies that works together to enable presence. That phenomenon when your brain actually reacts to a virtual experience as though you’re really there”. So what about those who are blind? How are they able to experience alternative reality, this new future of technological advancement, if the technology used to transport us there can only be done through sight? What does this say about sight and the human eyes? Are they implying that all our knowledge, or experience is founded in our sight?
The advanced technology is used with the sole objective of making your experience as real as possible. Technology is capable of turning representation into reality. While ontological philosophers and their theories are solely focused on the discernment between reality and appearance, focused on finding the line between what is real and what are the shadows projected on the wall of the cave, Oculus Rift does something radical: It’s whole premise is to not discern what is real and what is mere appearance, but rather, it fuses them so that they are not two individual things to be separated. Reality and appearance are mushed together, they are indivisible, and there’s no need to distinguish between what is true and what are the shadows, for reality and appearance are one in the same thing. You put on the head set, you step into another world, you take off the headset, you’re back in your living room. The line between the two has never been so fluid and porous. What does this say about the concept of reality?
“If you lean forward in the real world, you lean forward in VR as well” What is VR? The catchy abbreviation for virtual reality. Whatever happens in the “real world” happens in the virtual one, so that the gamer is being stretched across both spheres, and exists in both worlds. Now the phrase “Can’t be in two places at once” no longer applies.
“You may want to run out and join the VR revolution. This is not a fad, I repeat this is not a fad. This is a very real first step into the future”. The term revolution is certainly a loaded word. Also what’s humorous is the use of the word “real”. What marks real and unreal then if Oculus Rift is real, is a real step, a real advancement, what then is an unreal one?
There is a sense of controlling your character or avatar as if they are a puppet on a string, and you their master.
But by controlling them, they in turn are embodying you as the player and immersing you in the game with them.
Are you truly in control?
In the video game, Inside, not only are you as the player NOT in control of the character, though seemingly you are the one pressing buttons for the main character’s actions. You are playing a game, a game that is governed with input and output, a game that no matter what you do, will end and culminate inevitably in one way.
Tamburro, Paul. “Inside’s Ending Explained: Our Theory On The Limbo Sequel’s Brain-Bending Conclusion”. CraveOnline. July 1, 2016. Web. May 2017. <www.craveonline.ca/entertainment/1005759-insides-ending-explained-theory-limbo-sequels-brain-bending-conclusion>
Hoggins, Tom. “Playdead’s Inside is fiercely intelligent, exquisitely grotesque – and one of the best video games of the year .” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 30 June 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.
More so, there is some discussion among fans that the boy himself (and so too along with the player) is also being controlled to the same level as the zombified humans surrounding him: that the gamer isn’t in control of him at all, but that the character’s fate, his inevitable destiny within the game, is in fact, inevitable. No matter what the gamer does with the character, no matter where the gamer takes the character, it is pre-destined that he will end up exactly where the game itself wants him.