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Archive for February, 2011

JOKES AND THEORIES

[This may not be the most coherent post — up since four, fourth flight in a row over three days canceled, back at home.  Thet’s four flights and three cab rides, for those of you keeping score at home.  I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth it to take this trip at all at this late date.  There are more serious concerns in the world, but I’m frustrated.]

When I was quite young, I used to try to make up jokes.  I read a lot of joke books and listened to comedians whenever they were on television.  There’s probably another post on this subject to be had about the why of all of this, but at the moment let’s just say that my own jokes were uniformly terrible.  I lived entirely in my own head, and something that seemed funny to me would just not make any damn sense when I finally translated it into words.  (This is still true.) Mercifully, I don’t really remember any of these self-generated jokes.  Most of them were probably puns.

I told a lot of these to my brother, and I do remember his disgusted reply:  Did you make that up yourself? The implication being, of course, that the verbal fart that I had just let out was too stupid to be anything other than my own work.  No one else would have bothered.

As Ron White would say, I told you that story so I could tell you this one:

At work the other day, I struck up a conversation with the guy who sits next to me about video games and how I don’t like them.   I don’t know if he prompted me with a question or if just I launched into a speech, but here’s my personal theory:   Putting aside all the arguments about violence in games and the social isolation that can come from playing games, I think the most pernicious problem with them is that they tell a lie about how the world is structured.  I’m not an expert (as should be obvious). but I think that all successful games are premised on a rapid series of gratifications, whether from solving puzzles or slaying enemies.  The game sells a world in which the player is able to overcome every obstacle, the tools to overcome the obstacle are always available if the player has done what was asked of him beforehand, and the player is always at exactly the right skill level for the challenge that is presented to him.  Also, you can take ridiculous risks without any fear, because not only is this not you we’re talking about, but some electronic avatar, but also there’s almost always a chance to try again.  Things that do not exist in real life: 1) healing potions, and 2) extra lives. I think this sets up the player – especially the young player – for a lot of frustration when real life is not as easily solved as the game.

My co-worker listened to me politely until I finished.

“Did you make that up yourself?”

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