Real Life Puddles 06/23/21

Yesterday my family gifted me with a PS5. This has been something that I’ve wanted since I got back into video games. I figure it will last me ten years at least, but the price has always been prohibitive. Well, they chipped in and got it for me.

It’s a bit strange to receive a gift that expensive. I often feel a moment of great shame when people give me things (now that I think about it, it doesn’t even have to be expensive), like I don’t deserve it. But “deserving” things is a weird mindset to have in the first place, as though you’re a trained monkey who only “deserves” his cookies if he does the proper backflips.

It’s a gift, given in the spirit of thanks and love, and that’s how I’ll receive it. This sounds new-agey and success-win, I know, but sometimes the absolute worst people you know actually have some truth to share.

I used the gift card that came with it to buy Demon’s Souls, the remastered precursor to Dark Souls. I’ve only played a bit of it, but the controls are basically the same, and the graphics are stunning. I was walking around looking at puddles and grass, and thought to myself What is it about the game having cool looking puddles that is so much more interesting than real life puddles?

Real life puddles are cool too, but we’re creatures that interface with reality through symbols and representations. We read fiction to learn more about how the world works. We listen to music to feel emotion. And we look at PS5 graphics of a puddle to really feel the beauty of the puddle. Everything is indirect, abstract, there are thoughts that maybe that’s the way language originated, not as direct signifiers, but metaphorical signifiers. So, there may have been “language” for complex feelings and processes before there was language to describe those feelings’ and processes’ constituent parts.

This can go wrong, of course, when we dip into the uncanny valley. Imperfections are required in every symbol in order to simulate the imperfections of the world around us. As Han says, perfection brings smoothness, smoothness recalls touch, and touch is the most immediate of all the senses, therefore we feel too close to an object, and we enter the uncanny valley. No fun. We’re all about obtuse angles, exposed wiring, a dishrag left hanging off the side of the sink. Most of us, anyway.

I’m off to finish up an editing project so that I can rumble through some more Demon’s Souls tonight. I’m a barbarian with a large club, absolutely smashing the shit out of the undead. Should be a good time.

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