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Escaping the Hyperreal

I think the problem I was trying to address when I first started building alternative controllers, which is what they’re called now, is to move beyond the pre-packaged experience that video game consoles give us. But, the problem that I quickly encountered was that an alternative controller didn’t address the entire problem. It only addressed a third of it — the controller. But there’s still the screen, and there’s still the game console. So you’re not really breaking out of the box when two-thirds of it are still controlled by someone else.

And what I think, or what I’ve come to realize, over time is that I wasn’t really fighting against the nature of consoles necessarily, but the nature of everything. That is to say, our current problem with consoles is really just a microcosm for the problem of everything: we’re using things that we don’t have control over, and that we don’t understand how they work, and as a result everything around us is magic, and nobody knows how anything works.

And when that happens, when you move away from objects being real objects, things that you use… then you move away from the real. You shift away from the tangible. Everything becomes, in a sense, ephemeral. This is the hyperreal. The hyperreal doesn’t just exist because of screens and virtual reality, although certainly that’s part of the problem. The hyperreal exists because we’re unable to determine what is real because we don’t know how things work.

And to break out of the hyperreal, it’s not enough to change the nature of an interface, and it’s not enough to change the console and way of injesting information. You must make the player a participant in the creation of the game. They must tinker with the game in order to understand it. They need to construct it, if not in whole, in part.

By doing that, I think you begin to break away from the hyperreal.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

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