Jun. 1st, 2017

spirit_zone: (anna)
I've been listening to a lot of Eisel Mazard (a-bas-le-ciel on youtube.) He's an engaging (if rambling) storyteller, has many fantastic ideas and original insights, and is in some sense a kindred spirit re: politics, veganism, and atheism.

And in other senses we couldn't be more different. He's very anti-hedonism and anti-escapism; my impression of him is that he's what you'd call a reality devotee, with a distaste for popular culture (video games in particular) and an aversion to imagination and fantasy for their own sake. A quick look at my interests will tell you that I don't take that view. To me, imagination is not a distraction, or an obstacle to living a meaningful life. On the contrary, I think that imagination is not only meaningful, but that it's at the heart of what meaning means. It's where meaning comes from when we have an experience, and where meaning goes back to when we process and reflect on those experiences. All meanings, all values, are created in the imagination. And that process of meaning-making is inherent to being human.

Pop culture and mass media have a tendency to go up themselves, because it's safe to do so and people have come to expect it. Just today, I saw a poster for an emoji movie. >_> Most entertainment media is nebulous, irrelevant to our lives, and communicates nothing of value. And a lot of "geek culture" just validates the worst of these tendencies. Critics will fall over themselves to praise something with no real merit, other than a certain kind of arch humor and superficial coolness (Guardians Of The Galaxy, I'm looking in your direction.) So yeah, I can understand hating video games, movies, TV, comic books, ect. These mediums are badly abused. But they don't have to be, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Per video games: look at how many indie games subvert the player's expectations of their own agency, and use this as a means of social commentary. e.g., how Undertale punishes the "collect-em-all" mentality in its players, becoming a criticism of a life based on acquisition. Or how The Beginner's Guide abandons conventional game rules entirely, becoming an examination of an abusive relationship through the medium of game playing. We don't even have to go indie: just look at how Metal Slug, through its Mad Magazine aesthetics, takes the piss out of war and jingoism, and subverts the entire run-and-gun genre in doing so. Waves of enemies who each have some kind of individual personality; who have their own hopes, ambitions, and fears; and who die in pathetic and tragic ways. And this is all handled so light-heartedly as to go completely under the radar. It wouldn't work in a non-interactive medium; you have to be the one committing the violence to understand how absurd Metal Slug makes violence look. Of course, Metal Slug also makes violence fun; it's a great stress ball, and one of my go-to games when I'm in an arcade. But the underlying message is there, sweetened by the addictive game design and baked into every player-NPC interaction.

The point I'm getting at is that media isn't inherently a trivial, escapist thing. Even if it's primarily used to escape. There is something that is pure and necessary in works of imagination. If you can communicate the contents of your imagination, you are in a sense telepathic. And we can't live without that kind of intimate connection, or at least it wouldn't be much of a life.

There is not so much imagination in the world that we can afford not to love it. And there's just enough imagination in the world that, if we don't invest our love and goodness into it, we put ourselves in terrible danger.


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August 2017


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