Feel free to finish those lyrics yourself…
Lately, I’ve been wondering what the boundaries between game and real life are. As we saw with MP’s demonstration in class with the game Two Dots, we see how games can become an integral part of a player’s daily routine. With the ability to buy dots in real-world currency (or items in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood), the boundary between in-game purchases and real-life spending becomes blurred.
My biggest fascination is with “life simulation” games that attempt to make play out of the most mundane elements of daily life. These games are the ones I’m referring to when I speak about the lines being blurred. For instance, the Animal Crossing series allows the player to become a villager inside of a town comprised of anthropomorphic neighbors. The game itself is meant to emulate the everyday grind of life: and has in-game events that mirror holidays (ie: Festivale occurs the same day as the real-life Mardi Gras: and features candy and celebration like its virtual counterpart) In addition, the player can catch fish, run after bugs, earn money (“bells”) and decorate their homes: all of the routine events of life are transformed into gameplay.
This worries me.
Coming from an Animal Crossing: City Folk fanatic (I played the game daily for an entire year), I can say that this game mimics real-life so well; it becomes a part of your identity. You begin to integrate the game into your non-playing life: and it becomes so ingrained that you make sure to water your flowers everyday and celebrate your animals’ birthdays like their your own real friends. This kind of embedment into reality is what drives games like The Sims to be so successful. It gives the player agency to create their own story and life within the confounds of “reality.” I am able to have the control I lack in real life. The scariest kind of fantasy is the one that is a slight permutation of truth: and that is what “life simulations” are.
Games have always been an attempt to spice up the mundanity of life, with titles like Uncharted and Tomb Raider. But these “life simulations” are trying to (and succeeding at) making every aspect of life a spectacle.
With even more invasive things like the Oculus Rift and Google Glass allowing real-life space to become a new gaming platform, you have to ask yourself: is there a boundary between reality and game anymore?