Ah, the Joy of Dependable Rewards

November 30, 2008

This quote via Andrew Sullivan, from Nate’s post on gaming

“But that brings me to what worries me most about video games: their whole purpose is to provide dependable, achievable rewards for a certain amount of work. The whole point of designing them well is to curtail possible frustration, to limit the kind of problems that might cause genuine exertion, or to always provide alternative pleasures if certain ones are difficult. It can be, of course, a wonderful feeling to be in worlds like this. There are so few ways to miss that feeling of accomplishment-induced pleasure. It doesn’t matter much how artificial that accomplishment is: the pleasure it causes is very real.”

I know this pleasure intimately. Freecell, Tetris, Solitaire. The ape pleasure of pressing a button and getting a reward. Its pleasure is reliable and durable in an uncertain world with death at the end. The pleasure of the button is definitely a comfort in the face of death. Whereas writing a novel is much too transitory and difficult. We are legion who succumb daily to the pleasures of the button with nothing to show at the end of it. But button pressing is an apt metaphor for the non-progressional, non-linear nature of life. Who says it’s more important to achieve. to live, to love? I thought the blimp-bodies on pneumatic devices depicted in Wall-Eye did not seem so bad a fate. Compared to, say, Madonna, that little muscle of a woman.

Please share your personal battles against/surrender to the pleasures of button pressing. I will let you know if it loses its allure, if I walk back into the garden of non-toggle rewards and it suddenly seems like a more compelling place.