Tuesday, June 1, 2010

tetris and philosophy

Last Monday over at 3QuarksDaily, in their weekly "Monday" column which is reserved for special longer essays by various guest writers on a topic of their choice, there was an interesting post by Angus McCullough on the relationships between Tetris and Confucian thought. Since it highlights some of the points I made on a recent post concerning the relationship between videogame architecture and social thought which you can access here, I thought I'd share this much more thoughtful piece on the close relationships between games and social thought.

I'm quoting two excerpts in order to highlight some of the key ideas and give you a taste of this excellent argument. Consider his thesis:
The major difference between Tetris and other games is the simplicity of its construction and complexity of play. Most importantly, it is a game that does not have a goal or end. There is no castle to storm or high score to achieve – the only way to end your game is to lose. The result of this simple and mildly daunting setup is that Tetris affords the user a repetitive task every time he or she picks it up: to play better than the last time. It has also been shown to have beneficial effects outside the game itself, making it a powerful tool for personal development, mirroring certain aspects of Confucian ritual.
Another interesting quote:
This fixity is a bolstering against any pull of temptation or obsessions, which distract from true virtue and reinforce human limitations. This, I would say, is expressed in certain methods of playing Tetris: if one is responsive to the natural structure of the game and plays it with a will to learn rather than overcome, Tetris can be a method of personal cultivation. It is a matter of finding one’s balance and then responding instantaneously to a number of stimuli, letting all affect the outcome for the better.
At any rate, definitely check it out!

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