Sunday, April 17, 2011

What is the equation for an interactive experience that sends you flying?

This screen grab from

I was reading this article about an iphone game whose sole draw is that once the character dies, he is dead forever. Not even just for the game, but for the life of the application. The argument in favor of this kind of experience is that contemporary video games have become too easy and that having more at stake will induce real-life emotion in the player and so be more rewarding.

It's a compelling argument. The primary idea behind video gaming is catharsis, a purging of your troubles through a heightened emotional experience, like fear. Video games also provide sublimation by diverting pent-up emotions into an activity with no real repercussions (i.e. punching a robot in the face onscreen because you can't afford to raise your voice to your boss at work). 

On the other hand, one could argue that, especially in a time of such widespread economic uncertainty, the safety and "slap on the wrist" mentality of other video games provides exactly what people really want: a fantasy world in which no decision induces actual, stomach-curdling panic. At a time when a master's degree barely earns its recipient a place in line at the temping office, and mid-level expectations like yearly raises and vacation time—not to mention eventual retirement—are no sure thing for most of us, who needs contrived fear?

What do you think? Should entertainment involve your emotions or separate you from them?


  1. I believe it should do both. I'm like a video game super nerd, and I am very happy that both types of entertainment are increasingly available. Not to sound like a cop out, but really, I think both are needed, often by the same people.

  2. Good point. This idea hasn't cornered any market. Interestingly, it's the complete opposite of the addicting emotional high provided in legion by purveyors of MMORPGs.