Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wed. Section, Time and Illusion

In Soderberg’s chapter on Diner Dash, what seemed the most interesting concept was the contradictory or simultaneous nature of the way in which the game works. With reference to time, Soderberg argues:
“I’ve got too much time on my hands.” When what we have on our hands is time, it is time that manages us, pulling us into the abyss of our own boredom, forcing us to feel the draft of its endless passing which is out of our control; when it is other things than time on our hands, it is we that must manage time in order to control these things. Gameplay elements in time management games engage our pleasure in being able to manage a multiplicity of events that demand our attention, but these games are often ridiculed in the popular press as insignificant games that are played because we have too much time on our hands and need to kill it.

This comes up again when Flo reaches her nirvana-like state, while at the same time, “it means more things to balance at once, an intensification of the multitasking form of gameplay.”

Perhaps these contradictions that are found within the games point towards an adaption to the new multitasking environment, the “change” or “transformation” that is discussed in the beginning of the chapter, and also in MacPherson’s chapter that talks about a “convergence” of TV and Web, in that it changes the “flow” of information. The Web is streamlined and we “feel we help create or impact it,” (204). This kind of agency is very linchpin to why videogames are entertaining. There is an empowerment inherent in “killing time,” as it suggests a direct action on the part of the person—action is required. Thus, action presents itself as something to be prized in the work world, yet also in one’s leisure time—the convergence of the two modes of time reflects the convergence of media.

Or, does this contradiction speak more to the “illusory status of the promises of transformation” on the Web (McPherson, 205)? Flo is in a “meditative” state, transcending the hassle and stress of her job, but really, she has more to do, and, in truth, we, the players, are not in this meditative state, but rather will have more to manage, more to multitask. Additionally, Soderberg suggests that Flo leaving a corporation to work at a restaurant, to “wait” on people, is a regression of the role of the woman, a step back, so is the feeling of exuberance Flo feels at running a restaurant enforcing the illusion of transformation, and are simply old norms being dressed up as something new and exciting? In a sense, a parallel could be drawn to McPherson’s argument that the Web does not promise as much choice as we would believe.

Of course, at the end, I was tempted to say “it’s just a game!” but I think what’s more important than the game itself is why people play the game. The way our culture divides time, and, particularly, what I find most interesting is the hint at nostalgia that a game like this implies. One is tempted to feel that running restaurant, waiting on customers, is a simpler life, a form of escapism. While multitasking within the game, one is singly focused on the game.

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