Closed-World Game: Are Western societies and Western RPGs actually free?

Vaclav Havel, the Czechoslovakian politician who presided over the country during its breakup, died on Sunday, but left behind his sharp critiques of Western society.  

Politicians seem to have turned into puppets that only look human and move in a giant, rather inhuman theatre; they appear to have become merely cogs in a huge machine, objects of a major automatism of civilization which has gotten out of control and for which no one is responsible.

His words ring true not only of Western political systems, which are based on “the arrogant belief that the world is merely a puzzle to be solved,” but also of the literal-mindedness of the West in general. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his criticisms sound similar to Kill Screen editor Ryan Kuo’s critique of Western approaches to videogames in his essay “How Will Videogames Pass Go?”.

The gameplay you fathom is first statistical in preparation, then neurological in action, and finally psychoanalytical in retrospect; an experience like scanning a page of shrink’s notes from inside a straitjacket. At the point of your becoming, you notice that you are netted in the algorithms that have pulled you here.

Both perspectives raise the concern that an overly systematic approach results in strife and anxiety. Now allow me to get back to my daily existential crisis, in which I reenact the scene from Edvard Munch’s The Scream every hour, on the hour.

[The Atlantic, img

-Jason Johnson