Life in the Problem Machine

As I’ve been maintaining this blog, the focus of my posts seem to have shifted a bit. I’ve been drifting further and further away from the study of what games express, how they express it, and the limitations of our approaches to achieving those expressions, and further towards personal diatribes about how I’m feeling at the time or about systemic problems of the world we live in. I have mixed feelings about this: On one side, these recent posts aren’t really what I had intended this blog to be about, and I worry that they may seem uninteresting and self-indulgent to the audience I had originally hoped to hold – and, on the opposing side, I still believe them to be genuine, reasonably well-written and insightful, and of interest to some audience, if not necessarily the one I had originally perceived myself to have.

Reflecting more on these posts, though, I am beginning to see them as a natural progression from where I started. I began by examining the systems we implement in games and how those affect the player experience, how we as players are in turn affected by the systems design decisions of others: Is it at all strange, really, that at some point the posts stopped being about games? That, after a certain point, it became inevitable that I would begin to explore how we design real-world systems to affect others, and how we in turn are affected by those systems?

We are all part of the machine.

But wanting to see the forest is no justification for losing sight of the trees. Wanting to see the ocean is no reason to get carried away by the river. I still care about games – if anything, the realization that exploring games critically has lead me naturally into dissecting other systems, those which oversee and regulate our lives, leaves me more convinced than ever that there is worth in exploring what and how games express. I also have no desire to stop writing about systemic interactions in our waking world and how they affect me and others: Not only are these fun, interesting, and challenging ideas to explore, but, as trite and self-important as it may sound, I believe that doing something, however insignificant, to spread understanding and empathy, may contribute to a better world for everyone.

This is not a dilemma. I will not choose one or the other. I have never been interested in being only one entity, but prefer to shatter, to fall into the cracks like water, to soak into the world bit by bit and find, as I spread out and evaporate, places that no one else has touched. A fork in the road doesn’t mean having to choose between left or right: There is still an infinite set of available paths, radiating out from where you stand, roads waiting to be made and paved. The existing roads are fine, they have their place – but they are only useful for as long as they’re taking you where you want to go.

Therefore: On Monday, I will post these philosophical ramblings, exploring our lives, the systems which contribute to and comprise them, and on Wednesday I will explore games, the miniature sub-lives we craft to explore lives otherwise inaccessible to us. I will walk both paths, and likely many more. I hope we can find something new and something meaningful.

Together.

We are all part of the Problem Machine.

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