[Alright, I've got these thoughts in my head, and I need a chance to ramble. I wanted to go over a few talking points, and as I read through this after the fact, I realize that I'm all over the place. Sorry if this is a little unfocused, but it's been driving me crazy thinking about it all, so I just wanted to get it onto the post. My blog, my show. Here we go! - K]
Back during my “film days,” I remember often writing down an adage that seemed rather catchy:
“Each of us is an extra in someone else’s movie, but we get to decide if it’s a speaking part.”
I considered myself rather profound. (My unbelievable modesty notwithstanding.)
But as I’ve gone into games, the medium in my head has shifted. I see games everywhere, and there are a lot of comparisons to be made.
I now see a more clear distinction between different types of “characters” in a game. There’s always the protagonist, whom the player controls. There are supporting characters, who are sometimes there to help, sometimes there to annoy, and sometimes there to even backstab you later on down the line. As you continue on through your quest, this group of yours grows as more and more people shift to your cause for differing reasons.
But throughout games you, as the player, are the motivating factor. Yours are the actions that change the world, save the land, and defeat the great evil threatening everyone. In games, you are the central, pivotal figure in everything that is happening.
That’s why I love this video – Gamers will get it. Even partners of gamers may get it. Others probably won’t, but it’s an awesome video, so I’m going to include it anyway.
Is it any wonder why games often feel so addicting? Who doesn’t see themselves as the center of their own world? Now I’m not talking about the center importance of the world, you understand, but we all contextualize the importance of something by how it affects us. Whether our reaction is to help, to hinder, to hug, to hold, to hurt, or to hassle, we react to the world in very personal ways, with our very personal selves.
We get to choose how our journey continues. We get to choose if we’re going to go out and start gaining XP and get better at skills to eventually take down the dragon, or we get to choose to spend our time just fishing at the pond.
The movie Gamer starring Gerard Butler has been a strange fascination of mine ever since I saw it. The movie has some really interesting things to say once you get deeper into it, especially about our own lives. I don’t want to go too deep, (mostly because others have already done so), but I wanted to discuss a few things that seemed interesting to me.
In the movie, players are controlling these death row convicts for two reasons: 1) It’s the biggest “game” in the world, and 2) If the “avatar” survives 30 rounds, he gets his freedom.
Gerard Butler’s character Kable has, at the beginning of the film, survived 27 matches, which is more than anyone ever has. This has made him, as well as the kid who “plays” him, rather famous. As well, he’s a man who was wrongly convicted, and so has the “not-really-being-a-killer” going for him, which doesn’t mean much in the gunfight, but plays out later in the film With that set-up, here’s the scene (Take note – This is definitely NSFW):
Despite the uber-violence throughout the scene, with all the bullet, explosions, death and destruction, (as well as a gamer-inspired “teabagging” around the :42 mark), I wanted to focus just on a couple of small things.
At the 1:18 mark, you see two people exchanging monopoly money back and forth. This is because, for minor offenders, there is an option for them to act as pre-programmed “NPCs” in the fight (Non-Player Characters). If they survive that round, they are set free. (Hint – They almost never do.)
What’s poignant to me about that little part, though, is the thought that these people are doing this on a gamble for freedom. It’s a risk/reward system to be sure, but at what cost? How often have we, in our lives, stood by while something happened, hoping for no one to notice us, even though the world around us us out-of-control? We see the insanity around us and yet we are still compelled just to keep our heads down, and exchange little pieces of paper like they’re worth something.
What’s most telling to me, though, is when the guy flinches as blood splatters his face, and yet he keeps right on going. He reacts, but doesn’t act, if that makes sense. Do we?
(There is, of course, SO much more to consider in those little situations, but that’s beyond my scope right now.)
At around 1:55, Kable hears glass as it’s stepped on behind him, and he whispers “Turn me around.” Now, in the film, Kable can’t actually talk to the player, so the whisper is more of a plea, but do we do this in our own lives? We get that nagging feeling to “turn around,” to do something, and then we don’t? Perhaps we only write a Facebook post about it. (Or, we write a blog post about it – I’m not above the irony.)
Who is controlling you?
Think back about your own life as a game. In most games, the player controls the main protagonist. As I said before, this individual is the driving force of the game, the mover, the shaker. Nothing occurs except where this person roams, and nothing changes except what this person decides and is able to bring into being. Are you that protagonist in your own life? Or are you simply an NPC, doing only that which you’ve been “programmed” to do – Saying what you’re “supposed” to say, going where you’re “supposed” to go, and being who you’re “supposed” to be?
Are you just an avatar in someone else’s game? Or are you really in control of your own life? Are you a mover and a shaker? Or are you just going along a pre-determined path?
One of the creepiest scenes in Gamer (among several) is a scene starring one of my favorite actors, Terry Crews:
What strikes me here is a correlation between what “freedom” is believed to be, and what “freedom” really is. In this scene, Kable is still scheduled to play another game. In that game, he’s not in control – someone else is dictating his actions. But the killer? The person who is really out to get him? He doesn’t follow the rules. He doesn’t care about the laws. To him – One who already disregards the rules, more rules will not affect him, and he knows it.
In a world where each person is absolutely controlled, fenced, and convinced to do things in a specific way, is the free man really just the one who chooses not to follow the rules anymore? What does it say about a society when the homicidal killer is the one who seems the most “free” in it? Of course, he’s still in the game, and he’s still in the system, but he has no question – when he chooses to move his hand, it’s him who is in control of that decision.
Anyway – Just weird thoughts. Food for thought, I guess, or perhaps just nonsensical ramblings. I guess there’s just one question that it call comes down to, that is really the only thing I wanted to ask all along – In this game of life, as we build up our inventory, gain XP, and strive to “win the game,” there’s just one thing that you need to ask yourself:
Are you the Protagonist? Or Are you an NPC?