Jul 23 2012, 01:30 PM
Hey y'all. I recently saw an amazing presentation on Star Trek and Philosophy which explored philosophical concepts through the original series. Most of the ideas came from the book by the same name - there's a big series of "____ and Philosophy" books - but it was awesome because the presenters were high schoolers and they showed clips and analyzed specific episodes. Anyway, does anyone know if anyone one has done anything similar with a video game? Final Fantasy and philosophy would be easy to do. Just wondering.
Jul 30 2012, 05:30 PM
Well philosophy is in pretty much everything, in some respect.
It depends what field you want to study it from.
I've watched hour long epistemological dissections of Inception, or the political school of thought that Tyler Durden subscribes to.
I haven't watched anything on video games, but I could take a quick crack at it.
I'd say Existentialism plays a huge role, though it takes many forms.
A part of existentialism is facticity. Simply put, your past makes up who you are, but cannot solely decide your future. This could be expressed via multiple choice games. Your past is either written before you, the player, arrive to make decisions, or is written as the game goes on via the absurd (things which happen regardless of your choices) or things which happen because of your choices. These will affect the later choices available to you, but they can't decide the whole game.
Take Mass Effect, as an example. Nothing is stopping you, the player, from playing the majority of the game as a very evil character. Then something negative happens and you attribute it to your actions. You resolve to pick more neutral or positive choices in the future to try and remedy this. Your decision is not what bound by logic or morality, but by your actions and experiences within the game. Equally valid is that the inciting event, if an absurd event, could also turn a 'good' player 'bad' for the same reasons.
Even more interestingly though, is if two separate events cause these two different changes. In which case one player ultimately finishes the game as the bad Shepard and the other as the good.
The player who finished bad could only do so by starting good, and vice versa, but this is purely born of independent experiences and not true of all people who play the game,
In this way, the plot of the game and how it immerses the player is existential.
As games become more and more open ended and immersive, it baffles exactly how existential they could become. The game may tell us to hate a character, but so long as we have the choice not to then the plot does not demand that such a thing be true. How much of the game is absurd and how much is born of our own influence could blur into a seemingly seamless tale.
Going back to Mass Effect, the ending failed because it disregarded the existentialism that the fans had come to love.
The absurd, the plot, was always there within the game, but how the plot was resolved was based on your own actions, and certain actions were only available to you because of previous actions. Even if you played perfectly until the end, there was always the chance you could screw everything up, and vice versa (to an extent).
Nothing about the game's plot was set in stone except what you had already done or absurd elements you had already experienced.
However, the ending of the series had no bearing on your past.
You ceased to have your previous identity as a nexus for your final choice.
The final choice was purely a rational or moral choice, with no appeal to YOU or YOUR shepard. And this is why it failed as an ending.
Two different players playing side by side could go the whole three games and arrive near the end, but if they swapped controllers at any time they'd find themselves in an entirely foreign story, with different characters, it would be like literally switching bodies.
But the end?
There would be no difference.
And there shouldn't be a point within an existentialist system where you can just switch lives with someone and not be out of sorts.
Is this what you had in mind?
Baring in mind that existentialism isn't my strong suit by any means (just the first thing I thought of.)
Aug 1 2012, 10:28 AM
I read all of that, and I think my brain exploded.
Aug 1 2012, 04:38 PM
Brain explosion is an unfortunate side effect of philosophical discussions.
Aug 1 2012, 10:49 PM
Yes, apparently especially when conducted by Sparrowsmith. That was brilliant. I've had some philosophical discussions, but I don't think I've ever actually done anything of that caliber.