And on the 7th Day…
…God was bored so he created video games. For those of us that love them, we know there is something of the divine in video games. Only a religiously inspired programmer could have created the genius that is Mario. (MARIO’s not exactly a genius, but the games are).
No, I’m kidding. God didn’t create video games, though he might as well have. But I wondered to myself this week, “Where do video games come from?” (Well. Johnny, when a game system and a cartridge love each other very much…) After making this joke four or five times to myself, I really gave it some serious thought. What really gave humanity the idea for video games? Why are they so popular? What thing inside us has caused these things to exist? It must be something, right?
This post isn’t going to be quite as long as my others, because I hate to wax philosophical on a blog that tends to lean towards the “entertaining” label. But anyway… I just thought about, how throughout history, humanity has sort of had this drive to use the resources we have to entertain ourselves. Imagine the cave men (I don’t mean gamers, even if they sometimes do sport the neckbeard). Their village has killed enough rabbits and buffalo to last them the winter. Their bones have been used to fortify their living spaces, make gardening tools, weapons and other essential things. The first thing Mr. Caveman Genius thought of after that was, “Hey maybe if I cut a couple bones into cubes and put different amounts of dots on each side…” The first dice were invented, followed shortly by the first game of zilch. They used pretty rocks and the scalps of their enemies as bets. And then, after that had been going on for a while, Mr. Caveman Genius #2 said, “Well that’s cool and all, but I bet I could carve these dice very ornately and make a little zilch board with seashells and hardwood or something.” And thus the element of art was introduced to gaming.
Here’s where I’m going with this: when we have too much of a resource, or a resource that we need solely for practical purposes becomes more plentiful, we use it in creative ways to entertain ourselves! This is shown time and time again by anthropological evidence several millennia old. And the invention of video gaming is no exception to this. Its really started with the ENIAC, the very first real “computer.” All it did was compute! It used card readers, didn’t really have a display to speak of, and basically just did calculations really really fast (for that time in history). Imagine telling the geniuses who created that machine, or imagine telling Alan Turing, that their masterworks would be used to play card games against yourself. To ski down a slope and get eaten by an abominable snowman. To be a little yellow dude who gobbles up pixels while being chased by ghosts. To be eaten by a Grue.
It’s impossible, basically. The resource of computing power was so scarce that the very idea of using it on such frivolities is an affront to their endless hard work. And yet we used our computers for gaming. And yet, like the Cavemen Geniuses, once that resource became plentiful, the natural progression of using it for entertainment purposes was so quick behind it that computers have come with games installed on them brand new for going on 2 decades. And like Caveman Genius #2, the idea of using that resource to do MORE than just entertain (to create art, really), was not far even behind that.
So there are my thoughts on the matter. Our pursuit of video gaming, and even its very existence, is a product (more or less) of our human desire to use our resources to entertain ourselves. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years, and it was no less natural then than it is now. Isn’t that a comforting thought?