William P. Wend
Position Paper #9
Celia Pearce, in her essay Toward A Game Theory Of Game, argues that games focus on the aspect of play. Literature, she argues, focuses on the story aspect. This leads to her discussion of mimesis and agency later in the essay. Pearce uses the example of a game of chess as an example. Chess, she argues, uses “strategic conflict” between whoever is playing instead of empathy like in Macbeth for example. In chess, there is no dialog to portray the King or Queen. You could place the characters from Macbeth on a chess board, but it is hardly Macbeth anymore without dialog or a previous close reading of the play. Without this previous encounter, the reader or player cannot have empathy with, for example, the plight of Lady Macbeth.
An example from the gaming world could come from sports. In the old days of Nintendo, before major sports leagues licensed out their intellectual property to game makers, a baseball game would have make believe teams. Baseball Stars has teams made up of fictional and historical characters. Even if you're at bat with “Frankenstein” it is hard to emphasize with his situation because it is absurd to believe he would ever be placed in a situation like that. However, when playing MVP Baseball 2005 for my Playstation II I can emphasize with Randy Johnson striking out David Ortiz when the Yankees play the Red Sox because there is a story there. Even in a fictional video game there is still a back story to their rivalry that has heated up in the past ten years. If a gamer went back to Baseball Stars and created two teams, called them the Red Sox and Yankees, and created all of the current players like Ortiz, Derek Jeter, etc, and then had them play a best of seven playoff there could be empathy.
Mimesis reflects reality. I can emphasize with Derek Jeter as he tries to drive in a run to beat the hated Red Sox. When Curt Shilling strikes me out to end a rally I am enraged because I think Shilling is an idiot. When playing Baseball Stars, while I do get upset and disappointed when I lose, losing with “Larry” the pitcher the game automatically created for me doesn't quite have the emotional background that losing to Shilling would.
However, even without Jeter there, I think there can still be empathy. If I create a team in Baseball Stars, or MVP even, I can project onto them a bit of back story and intrigue so that the game is enjoyable. Their winning or losing, while pleasurable if the former, isn't quite the emotionally high stake roller coaster that losing to the Red Sox would ever be.