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Location: California, United States

Sunday, January 26, 2014

From video games to Ignatian retreats

A post by Giles Fraser - Grand Theft Auto only gives the illusion of freedom. It's someone else's rules - about free will and the video game Grand Theft Auto. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Set in some dystopian version of Los Angeles, the game is an "open world" environment, giving the player the impression of complete agency. Within the game, you can roam free, apparently doing what you want and when you want. Agency is the key word here, and central to the argument of Janet Murray's hugely influential book Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace published back in 1997.

Stories shape how we think and act. And the sorts of stories we tell ourselves are themselves shaped by the technical possibilities available. Just as Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press ushered in one sort of literary revolution, so too computer technology ushers in another. With computer games, one can actually step into the story and determine its course, immerse oneself in the narrative to the exclusion of all else. It feels more like life itself. The possibilities seem endless. The text doesn't control you, you control it. "You can do whatever you want in it, Dad," was my son's unsuccessful pitch.

Oh how Calvin would chuckle. He would love the illustrative potential of GTA. "Wake up!" I imagine him shouting. You are not creating this world. It has been created for you ...

You know that song I posted a few days ago - Sister Golden Hair by America? I noticed that another of their songs, A Horse With No Name, has a second lease on life due to the Grand Theft Auto game soundtrack .....

The idea of the effect of virtual activities upon us, whether they take place in some video game or instead in our imagination on an Ignatian retreat, is pretty interesting. I think ultimately we do freely choose the venue, but we cannot always foresee its transformative results.


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