danielsjourney seeking, stories, beauty, meaning

How to Talk About Videogames

I recently started “How to Talk About Videogames” by Ian Bogost. I’ve written about Ian Bogost’s work before. In the first chapter, he uses Flappy Bird as a jumping off point for existential exploration:

The games we find ourselves ever more devoted to are often also the ones that care little for our experience of them. This is the devotion of material indifference. To operate despite themselves. What we appreciate about Flappy Bird is not the details of its design but the fact that it embodies them with such unflappable nonchalance…

Let me explain what I mean by way of analogy. The day before I fell prey to the Flappy Bird phenomenon, I spent two hours attempting to fix a bathroom cabinet drawer pull that comes unattached on one side, hanging despondently at the bottom of the vanity. I detached the hardware and confirmed that the handle happily accepted the machine screw into its threads, but somehow the two weren’t meshing when set in the drawer front. I drilled to widen the hole through which the screw passed, noting that the screw seemed to require a precise orthogonal orientation to thread properly. I swapped both orientations and screws, thinking that I’d achieve a more accurate alignment. I deployed penlights and vice grips. My family began receding ever farther into the house, aware of the dark shadow that grew from the bathroom, where an oiled bronze drawer pull siphoned vitality from our residence and, perhaps, from the universe itself…

Emergence is also chaos, and its charm is the beauty of a universe that could have been nothing, but turned out to be something instead. That something is both revolting and divine, and we cheat ourselves when we take the one alone without the other…

Flappy Bird is a condition of the universe, even if it is one that didn’t exist until it was hand-crafted by a Vietnamese man who doesn’t want to talk about it. A condition in the sense of a circumstance, but also in the sense of a blight, a sickness, a stain we cannot scrub out but may in time be willing to accept. A stain like our own miserable, tiny existences as players, which we nevertheless believe are more fundamental than the existence of bird-flapping games or machine screws or the cold fog rising against the melting snow in the morning. Because the game cares so little for your experience of it, you find yourself ever more devoted to it.