I read a story last week about a video games convention about new products. Actually, I didn’t read it, I looked at the pictures. Actually I only looked at one picture. It showed a young man playing a game where he wore a huge mask over his eyes, a little like a welder’s mask without the window. This mask apparently displayed a full-field-of-vision animated landscape of exciting stuff. In his hands he clutched a control panel.
This is the type of situation that couldn’t look more different from the inside than the outside. Inside was no doubt a breathtaking immersive experience of excitement and adventure. From the outside? Pathetic.
It looked altogether too much like one step away from the sci-fi future where we lie in a broth of fluid and passively receive nourishment and artificial experiences. In one sense this is unfair. How something looks from the outside doesn’t necessarily tell you anything conclusive about the value of what’s going on Inside. But it’s an old calculation. It’s like when you see a photo of a junkie lying on a filthy floor in his state of stupefaction. Horrifying. But it could feel absolutely splendid to him.
I’m not saying video games are the moral or behavioral equivalent of hard drugs. Just worth a pause from time to time to wonder about.