Ultimately, the whole of the universe that we experience is inside us. The “world” as we understand it is really only a collection of information that we have received, saved, analyzed, categorized. It arrives into our minds mysteriously via the input streams of our senses, senses that we assume are interacting with something external to ourselves, with some “world” out there. But we can’t really know, since to explore what our senses are, we would have to use those very faculties that we are in the dark about. There is an inconceivable, impenetrable barrier between ourselves and the external world.
It may very well be that all the thoughts and feelings that occur “within us” are sourced from the very same place as the supposed “external world”. In fact, that is exactly what our model tells us, that we are “in” the world, and so anything that originates within us originates “in” the world. My joy or sadness comes from the very same place as a kiss on the mouth . . . or a punch in the mouth.
The processes of receiving and saving the information we receive is autonomic. We have very little control over what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, etc. except by interacting with a specific set of output streams, some of which move my hands, some of which move my feet, some of which open or close my eyelids, some of which can make a loud auditory phenomenon, “NO!” or “YES!”. I send a pattern of signals to my hand -> It closes. -> Outcome successful? Y/N -> If Y, repeat; Else, halt. -> Change.
It is a strictly limited way of interacting with the world.
Companion to the strict limitations of “physical” and “real” interaction with “world” is our use of imagination. In this mode, we can change the variables of a scenario without respect to the causal -> effectual relationship that strictly limits “real” interaction. We can make a rainbow without all the sogginess and cold of rain. Or we can just make it rain . . . without all the sogginess and cold of rain. In this way, we can fight a lion without dying. We can do it over and over again until we are successful, and then affect that action in “reality” with a better preparedness than if we could not imagine. We can practice meeting someone we love so that when we do eventually encounter such a scenario in “real” mode, we don’t fall and shatter into a million pieces.
But there are dangers in this imagined, “virtual” world. If we can control the variables, then what is to stop us from vanquishing the lion on the first try, with the first shot, from high above and far away? What is stopping us from having who we want, how we want, when we want, if we want, over and over, forever, or at least until the “real” us is rendered into such a state as we can no longer imagine anything at all? And without ever the obligation to love them back in any other way than how we desire?
Perhaps more subtle than the above is the danger that while we are cycling endlessly through positive outcomes of our own machination, in the “real” world, we are acting out in ways that are “real”. After all, if I sit and imagine a rainbow all day, I might not realize that I’m getting wet. If I imagine defeating the lion easily, I am not imagining the more realistic scenario of several lions or of being attacked by another human. If I imagine the woman of my dreams in great detail and cling to the idea that she is out there, I may not be in a prepared state to receive and respond to “real” signals from a potentially “real” partner.
Nature seems to have come up with a very clever way to surmount these potential misalignments between “reality” and “virtuality”: game. In games, we receive and send signals in “real” mode, but the scenario is not “real”. In games, we “play” with various objects, within various rule sets and environments, and sometimes with “other” players. Unlike “real” mode, in “game” mode, we are not strictly limited in our interactions. For instance, in EVE Online, we are not constrained by silly things like gravity. In chess, we are not forced to confront the possibility that a pawn might be a physically more powerful unit on the battlefield than any king or queen ever was. In Pac Man, we can eat and eat and eat and eat and never get fat or malnourished.
However, unlike “virtual” mode, “game” mode requires us to harmonize our inputs and outputs and especially our game model, our “self”, according to an external, unyielding logic that in many ways prepares us generally for “real” interaction. Boxers and wrestlers are really learning to fight. Polo “players” ride “real” horses and learn to do so “in” reality. EVE Online’s “leaders” are leaders.
In this way, in “game” mode, we have greater control over the variables than in “real” mode, but the inputs and outcomes are still mated to processes that we must confront and master, which ultimately forces us to confront ourselves, unlike in “virtual” mode. An animal that gets stuck in “virtual” mode dies because its behavior becomes incoherent with reality. An animal that only operates in “real” mode dies because its behavior never gets the chance to become coherent with reality. An animal that plays “game” must reconcile these two aspects of being and in so doing becomes more fit. It learns to use the tools of “realization” and “virtualization” responsibly.
If we look at our “self” as our fundamental tool for interacting with the world, it becomes apparent that games are a way that we play with ourselves without risking everything as we must in “real” interactions, but if we don’t risk anything at all, then we are not playing a “game”.
Would you like to play a game? Y/N