Wednesday, April 7, 2010

never escaping, never leaving

I got kind of stuck playing Diner Dash in lab this week - if the timer on the demo hadn't run out, I'm not sure I would have left until asked to do so. I have this tendency with games generally - to hold on a little too long and play with a little too much intensity, and I was thinking about why this is on my way home. For one, unlike television, there is no obvious exit point to the game, unless you win. When McPherson writes about the transition from the flow of television to the scan-and-search experience of web searching, she identifies precisely the factor that kept me from hitting 'quit' when I was playing Diner Dash - "the fear of missing the next experience or the next piece of data." I usually keep watching television in order to not miss a key plot point or upcoming feature, but eventually the show ends and I have an opportunity to move on with my life. With Diner Dash, not only was I stuck within each shift out of the fear of failing to seat someone or making someone wait too long, I was stuck within the game as a whole out of a feat of missing out on the next upgrade or the next progression to a new venue. Every progression within Diner Dash is part of the same narrative of Flo's rise to the top, and that made it difficult to escape from the game.

I'd like to complicate Soderman's analysis of Diner Dash as an "allegory for our post-industrial experience where continuous multi-tasking leads to the erosion of concentration," however. My personal experience with the game marks anything but an erosion of concentration - I was concentrating very hard. I think the new methods of engaging with media - the scan-and-search experience - marks not so much the end of concentration, but its redefinition. Diner Dash, like the structure web media as a whole, asks the user to focus on many things, and thus to concentrate in a decentralized way.

No comments: