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Is It Still a Game If You Don’t Play It?

Tim Poon | 31 May 2012 09:00
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Each distinct piece that forms the entirety of Asura's Wrath is what makes it Asura's Wrath. The old sails may catch the winds in strange ways or pour out of the sides a bit too often, but that is a part of what identifies this particular ship. There may be an imbalance with how much playing and how much watching is involved with Asura's Wrath, but that is what identifies this particular game. It is a part of this game's identity.

The qualities of success and failure are not part of an object's identity but rather its relation to the rest of its reality.

Which flows into a continuation of Plutarch's original question: Does the ship need to remain a ship? Could it not serve just as well as a monument to its conquests sans restorations? If so, would this mean there is a way it could change without altering any of its corporeal pieces?

Perdurance theory would suggest yes. Instead of an object existing purely as a conglomerate of spatial elements, perdurantism suggests that it is also comprised of a temporal component. Every moment in time that you can currently perceive (and, as a matter of fact, those that you can't) is actually a three-dimensional slice of a four-dimensional object, so changes from each 3D slice don't matter to the identity of the overall object since it is still the same 4D object.

For instance, the You of right now is different from the You of five minutes ago. You didn't know what perdurantism was then, but you do know what it is now. You are five minutes older, five minutes wiser, and five minutes further into this article than before and yet you are still the same person.

Bam. Temporal differences.

This, however, is what makes Asura's Wrath and videogames in general unique. Paintings can fade, people can change, and rivers can erode, but videogames are a completely digital medium. Code and art are represented wholly by ones and zeros and, barring patches and updates, duplicates are quite literally bit for bit the same as the original (theoretically speaking; drives and tapes do still wear down). The finished product across all four-dimensional chunks is the same, which leads to the question how can it change without any spatial permutation altering its fundamental essence as Asura's Wrath?

Simple: It doesn't. The temporal components that are changing in this case occur within the player and not the game. If that same ship is found centuries later in the same state as when it was built, it ceases to be a seafaring vessel and instead becomes a historical relic. Nothing intrinsic to the boat has actually changed and yet it has become something else entirely. The player's time with Asura's Wrath may eventually mold him through temporal changes into someone that stops condemning the game for lacking conventional gameplay and instead appreciates it for that very same reason.

Or hates it even more. Regardless, changes!

So then maybe sometimes a game doesn't necessarily need to be a game to succeed. The qualities of success and failure are not part of an object's identity but rather its relation to the rest of its reality. In the case of Asura's Wrath, the player will eventually determine if games for them succeed entirely on the merit of functioning as a dogmatic practitioner of videogame staples or it will suffice to have your brain dipped into a vat of Four Loko and rubbed dry with a towel made of 75% absurdism and 25% alpaca hair. Changing the identity of other objects to fit with your perception is not how things work. You change yourself through temporal shifts of identity to refine how you enjoy or hate (or whatever) the things around you. You know, like Asura's Wrath.

Tim Poon is a writer out of Dallas, TX, where he plays dodgeball and tries to convince New Yorkers that he does NOT ride a horse to work. One-way tickets aboard the Friendship Express are available at @mockenoff or his blog.

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