Hello lovely people,
I’m a little late reporting this here, but last week I published my second article for my Haywire column, on SOMA. It’s called Human Machines and… it’s not terrible?
Some background info after the break.
First of all, my column is called Storyplay, obviously in contrast to “gameplay”, since we don’t have a good word to mean “playing a game for its story, atmosphere, philosophical themes” etc. It’s not that I will never be talking about gameplay, but if I mention it it’ll only be in relation to the game’s overarching themes. That’s just the way I relate to games.
The article you see is actually a salvaged version of a much more ambitious idea that got out of hand and wasn’t fit for the column. Maybe that’s also why I don’t like it as much: because it doesn’t compare well with what I had in my head. I feel like the article ended up being fairly mediocre and banal as a result. Then again, not being able to play and replay games and do enough research before writing about them (like I used to do when I was writing for my own blog – and most importantly when i didn’t have university) really affects how much I have to say, purely in terms of raw amount of ideas driving the article, and how certain I am about what I’d like to say.
Here are some of the points that didn’t make it, as well as some other thoughts surrounding that article:
- SOMA can be read almost entirely self-reflexively, as a game about the experience of playing a game, of inhabiting an Avatar. I feel like it’s a fertile line of inquiry, and
- is very relevant to a lot of the things that happen in it.
- I actually went through some important changes concerning how I relate to my body during the time that I was writing that piece. I’ve always felt, like a sort of extreme Carthesian dualism, that my body didn’t matter, it was just this appendix to my actual self, which I’d gladly get rid of if I could. Instead, I understood the importance of taking care of my body, and that my ‘interface with the world’ is more than just a tool and a core part of my identity. It’d be naive to attribute an important role to SOMA in triggering those changes, but it’s a neat coincidence.
- On the other hand, I don’t actually understand that attachment to one’s specific body that I described in the article. And I mean ‘understand’ in an instinctive, deeply-felt way. If we had the technology of Ghost in the Shell, I’d swap into a better body right away.
- If you know me at least a little bit (e.g. if you follow my personal blog) you’ll know I often have problems with giving too much importance to obligations and ‘musts’ and ignoring my desires, my ‘wants’. There’s a lot of that in the human vs machine setup I described.
- The human vs machine theme can also be read self-reflexively, about games themselves and how to play them. Maybe I’ll develop this in a future article, and I definitely hinted at this before. I have the sensation that an extreme focus on gameplay systems can be dehumanizing – and that games feel more human when they can sell you an illusion, instead of a bundle of systems to unpack (With Those We Love Alive) – and also when they give the player an overabundance of ways to interact with the world, of being in the world, especially when those actions are useless in gameplay terms (The “Flourish” action in Transistor)
That’s pretty much it.
I’m still adjusting to university and the new rhythm that comes with it, but I should be able to organize my time a little more effectively over the next month or so, which would also mean more writing. I hope at least.
Have a lovely day, and take care. Meow ❤