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Games as Spiritual Experiences
November 11, 2008 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Bill Viola's video game, The Night Journey, is inspired by "the lives and writings of great historical figures including: Rumi, the 13th century Islamic poet and mystic; Ryokan, the 18th century Zen Buddhist poet; St. John of the Cross, the 16th century Spanish mystic and poet; and Plotinus, the 3rd century philosopher" and "attempts to evoke in the player's mind a sense of the archetypal journey of enlightenment through the "mechanics" of the game experience".

The USC Interactive Media Division, where it's being developed, seems to have taken an interest in games dealing with spiritual enlightenment, such as Walden, a Game.

The ritual, karma, death and various ways of rebirth in Cosmology of Kyoto is my personal favorite spiritual experience in game form (the link is a review by Roger Ebert, which is interesting in light of his opinions about games).
posted by pinothefrog (12 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well done, pinothefrog. Good post.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:00 AM on November 11, 2008


I was really hoping the trailer to "Walden, the Game" was a joke, because if not, those folks REALLY don't understand Thoreau.
posted by rikschell at 9:06 AM on November 11, 2008


Walden, a Game.

I'm really looking forward to Not Playing Video Games: The Video Game, as well as Lone Meditative Reflection: Ultimate Combat
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wow. I love Bill Viola. This just might get me to play a video game.

Not a hater, mind you, just an outsider.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:14 AM on November 11, 2008


Walden, a Game.

RIDE THE EXCITEMENT of your own tortuously boring prose! Can you bring your sentences to their MAXIMUM AMBLING LENGTH?

It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins aes alienum, another's brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other's brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offenses; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old
chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.


LITERARY STAR POWER ACHIEVED
posted by Greg Nog at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


Hey, what's with the hating on Thoreau? I just meant the whole thesis of Walden was, pretty muuch, "Go outside!"
posted by rikschell at 10:31 AM on November 11, 2008


Sorry, rikschell; between being raised as a New Englander and as a UU, I was given a massive overdose of Thoreau in my formative years, and have subsequently -- and perhaps unfairly -- become a hater. I will back off and return to quiet contemplation of the interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:57 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping the trailer to "Walden, the Game" was a joke, because if not, those folks REALLY don't understand Thoreau.

Not only that, they don't seem to understand what constitutes a "game". I saw this all the time in school, artists thinking that simply because it uses the same medium as video games, it's a video game. No, it's a virtual space, or possibly an interactive environment, but without rules or goal states, it's simply not a game.

It's like conflating books and newspapers. It's this sort of misunderstanding that hampers the "games as art" debate.

The closest thing to Walden in a video game is that point in any open-world game where the player abandons their assigned goal and just enjoys their surroundings. Like watching the sun set in a GTA game, or exploring the forests of Azeroth. I can't judge much from the trailers, but both the Bill Viola piece and Walden seem to be simply virtual environments, or didactic tools.

Still, it is interesting to see high profile artists using interactive spaces as a medium, even if the terminology is off. They are indeed "interactive media" as the divisions name says.
posted by Durhey at 12:32 PM on November 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


To be fair, Greg Nog, Thoreau would probably say the same thing to anyone who spent too much time reading Walden. "GO OUTSIDE!" He really was the ultimate slacker.
posted by rikschell at 4:28 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The closest thing to Walden in a video game is that point in any open-world game where the player abandons their assigned goal and just enjoys their surroundings. Like watching the sun set in a GTA game, or exploring the forests of Azeroth.

Or just mining in Eve for a month.
posted by empath at 5:13 PM on November 11, 2008


Wow. Bill Viola has come up twice today in my daily surf. Kismet.
posted by shoepal at 8:51 PM on November 11, 2008


me: well that's nice, i guess, but how on earth did he get from home renovation to this?
me: bill viola, not bob vila, you cretin.
me: oh.
me: didn't you help teach a course on time-based media? Like just last year?
me: i think it's time for bed.
posted by wreckingball at 10:13 PM on November 11, 2008


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