Guys, I’m taking the rest of the day off from the day job, and from here. I hope you won’t mind. Consider this a requests thread. I promise, for once, to honor 100 percent of them.
Tom Bissell’s piece about his addiction to video games is a worthwhile read in and of itself, but it’s also a very good meditation on how different kinds of art work on people’s brains. On literature, he notes:
Writing and reading allow one consciousness to find and take shelter in another. When the minds of the reader and writer perfectly and inimitably connect, objects, events and emotions become doubly vivid – more real, somehow, than real things. I have spent most of my life seeking out these connections and attempting to create my own. Today, however, the pleasures of literary connection seem leftover and familiar. Today the most consistently pleasurable pursuit in my life is playing video games. Unfortunately, the least useful and financially solvent pursuit in my life is also playing video games.
Vice City’s sequel, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, was several magnitudes larger – so large, in fact, I never finished the game. San Andreas gave gamers not one city to explore but three, all of them set in the hip-hop demimonde of California in the early 1990s (though one of the cities is a Vegas clone). It also added dozens of diversions, the most needless of which was the ability of your controlled character, a young man named CJ, to get fat from eating health-restoring pizza and burgers – fat that could be burned off only by hauling CJ’s porky ass down to the gym to ride a stationary bike and lift weights. This resulted in a lot of soul-scouring questions as to why a) it even mattered to me that CJ was fat and why b) CJ was getting more physical exercise than I was. Because I could not answer either question satisfactorily, I stopped playing.
Many children who want to believe their tastes are adult will bravely try coffee, find it to be undeniably awful, but recognise something that could one day, conceivably, be enjoyed. Once our tastes as adults are fully developed, it is easy to forget the effort that went into them. Adult taste can be demanding work – so hard, in fact, that some of us, when we become adults, selectively take up a few childish things, as though in defeated acknowledgment that adult taste, with its many bewilderments, is frequently more trouble than it is worth. Few games have more to tell us about this adult retreat into childishness than the Grand Theft Auto series.