Thursday, March 22, 2012

Handwriting on the Cyberspace Wall

It worries me that consumers are complaining about the newest iPad.  Reports are that it heats up, becoming too warm to handle after prolonged use. 

That’s right.  Too warm to handle.  My fragile constitution cannot withstand the warmth.  Help me!  Help me!  It’s so warm!  I can hardly fling another bird. 

That’s what we’re coming to!  What would John Wayne think?  Or Amelia Earhart? 

It puts me in mind of “Wall-E,” the futuristic 2008 Academy Award winner for Best Animated feature.  Finding earth’s environment toxic from the overflowing refuse of hyper-consumerism, humans have abandoned the planet.  Once evacuated, they live out their years aboard the star liner Axiom, circling, waiting for their home to become habitable again.   

They’ve been in outer space so long, with every need attended to, that they never stand upright, never leave their recliners.  Meals and drinks and light and darkness, entertainment, all provided without exertion or effort.  

They’re obese, of course, but in a cute way.  They all have such amiable dispositions after all.  Nothing ever becomes too warm, so what’s to get upset about?   

As the story unfolds, we see an x-ray of the captain of the ship and discover that his bones, like those of all the recumbent residents of the Axiom, have become disjointed and float like so many pretzels suspended in jell-o.  All this the result of generations of life reliant on the screen. 

Recoiling from the warmth of the new iPad, we’re taking another step toward this dystopian utopia, you and I.  It’s all good and all bad all at the same time.  It pampers us.  It gives us everything we ask for and takes away everything we need, step by imperceptible step. 

Oh yes, the iPad is too warm.  How will we ever Draw Something?  

Our chubbiness is not so cute as it is in the movies; but we press on, exerting less, demanding more.  Next logical increment – elevate our preoccupation!  That’s right; make it respectable:  Video games aren’t just games any more.  We'll call them art!  And right on cue, according to CBS News/Sunday Morning, the newest exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum is "The Art of Video Games." 

The Smithsonian!  Case closed.  No argument.  Video games are art. 

“I’m engaged in a cultural expression, Honey.” 

Forget about the decline of humankind, I can tell you it won’t play well with my husband.  He already exhibits a persistent skepticism about how I spend my afternoons.  “Retirement, schmretirement!” he’s been known to mutter, shaking his head, carrying dishes to the sink in demonstration of how he does everything around here. 

For that reason I quit Bejeweled cold turkey.  He came down the hall and found me too many times, mesmerized, mindlessly matching purple gems .  My credibility sagged.  I had to reestablish trust.  But now I have the Smithsonian on my side. 

Our national archive extolls video games’ images as reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts and compares them to the work of M.C. Escher.  Why I’m deepening my appreciation of fine art by staring at it on the screen, moving my mouse over it, cursing at it, throwing up my hands in triumph!   

And it's not just how video games look that makes them works of art, says the venerable museum; it's also how they engage the imagination and stimulate players to think about what moves to make.  

Yeah!  That’s it!  Imagination!  Moves!  I hardly even notice that my joints are stiffening and my back is curved.

"[Video games] can help us find connections with deeper questions we may have inside ourselves," says game developer Chris Melissinos, who curated the show.  Huh?  Deeper questions?  I must be playing the wrong game.   

"We're able to create worlds and environments that just don't exist in the real world.  We're able to open our imagination, and it's boundless, it's limitless.”  Melissinos again.  I think he’s feeling pretty important.  Curator and Champion Rationalizer. 

Pandering to our passive personalities it’s certain they’ll develop an iPad potholder.  They’ll create an award for the most Asteroids smashed, or Grand Autos stolen.  Partying with Mario will be tantamount to an inaugural ball at the White House. 

We’ll lean in closer.  And when it hurts our eyes, they’ll make that OK too.  No need for distance vision any more anyway.  Crow’s feet will be the craze.  

Mark my words.  And pack for a long trip.