Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog

The meaning of life

The mother of all blogposts

I'm just back from a week's holiday in Spain which is a bit silly as I'm right in the middle of a 20-hour Portuguese-course. Anyway, as I was enjoying some time off from work and the chores of daily life under the Andalusian sun my mind found time to ponder that question: "What is the meaning of life?"

What's not to like?

I consider myself the kind of guy who "work to live" rather than "live to work". Despite this I feel best about myself when I actually do something creative. About now you might be asking "where the heck is this post going?" but bear with me I'm almost there. The thing is that while I find I enjoy the "good life" - relaxing, eating and drinking well under the sun, I quickly start to feel guilty as I could be using my valuable time for something more profound.

Not alone

I'm certain I'm not alone in this feeling but I'm equally certain that this feeling is far from universal. I know several people that want nothing more from life than the "buena vida" leaving the creative endeavours to the next gal or guy. This is not in any way meant to be derogative to those who have the ability to simply enjoy the comforts in life. It could well be that my "problem" is due to some kind of psychological miss-adjustment. Or it could be due to the fact that my day-job doesn't let me pursue my creative passions.

Most of all though it is probably just evidence that I've had way too much time to let my mind wander during my Spanish holiday...


Games - is there a greater point?


"Super Mario Galaxy!" The jolly voice of the grand-old-man of game-characters always brings a smile to my face. The game with the same name has proven to be one of the best gaming-experiences I've ever had. Now, Mario has always been about gaming with a capital G. The latest iteration is an incredible collection of creative playfullness when it comes to game-mechanics and I'm thrilled with how the developers at Nintendo have managed to constantly surprise me with new ways to play the game without ever breaking the internal logics. As a "game for the fun of it" this is about as good as it gets.

But can games be more than pure entertainment? And should they be more? Now, in some respects they already are. Improved eye to hand coordination is a well known positive effect and a recent study from the University of Toronto indicates improved spatial skills from gaming as well. But this is not what I'm looking for. I'm awaiting the moment where games can truly be considered great art. Now "art" is a fairly elusive subject, I know. The "certified-art" stamp on it's own isn't necessarily worth a lot. Obviously games already have a lot of artistic elements about them, but I'm still awaiting that one clearly defined moment where a game changes our understanding of society.

Most(?) people have probably had experiences with art that have changed their outlook on life and/or society. Perhaps a book, a film, a painting or any of the other clearly defined artforms. Even more impressively a handfull of artworks can actually be said to have transformed society itself. But a game? I've had my share of "wow this is great"-experiences but none that could be said to have changed my outlook on the world. How often do games put you in a truly moral dilema? I believe part of the problem comes from the nature of games. You play to win. People don't care why they have to kill the aliens as long as the action provides the necessary rush. I am not requesting optional paths for the player to choose in mechanical fashion. No, it could be as simple as changing the perceived reality a bit during the span of a game. What if you start out as a butch alien-killer only to find out that the aliens you have been killing are friendly creatures with families. This might seem cruel but if games never provokes us to think like this they'll for always be the funny, but shallow, cousin of the art-family.

Hopefully I'll be able to experience the La Guernica of gaming in my lifetime...

* Yes I know there are female gamers as well, it's just the way I write...