A meaningful experience – 11/6/13

Published on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

A meaningful experience

By Jake Farrago, senior, Becker College

Look at a painting. Read a book. Listen to a song. Do any of these activities and by the conclusion of them, it’s highly unlikely that the incessant stream of thoughts we call the human mind will be concerned with the pricing model, longevity, or format of said subject. No, what matters to each and everyone of us in the immediate aftermath of any of the aforementioned events is whether we can deem it as having been a meaningful experience. But, what is that exactly? How can one even begin to understand that vague abstraction, especially because when in the throes of it, in the tightest embrace of that feeling, most find themselves speechless and literally unable to describe it.

This rumination is hardly a new one, nor an unexplored one. Industries that churn and steam without pause spend every moment of their existence attempting to understand the aspects of this phenomenon. After all, there is big money involved in cracking the code behind its inner workings. Big egos too. Everyone wants to be known as the charmer who can induce people into a state of temporary engrossment amid the thrashings of a busy life, the luminary who can lower the barriers of a rigid mindset and deliver unto it new meaning. But the reality of the situation is that no matter how much we may covet or transact with those who have been accepted as having this skill, their roles are inherently that of an incomplete one. Much like a magician who reaches his hand into the hat and returns with it sans rabbit, the act is nothing short of crippled without the proper pieces present. But, if it’s established that those who conceive of and create these meaningful experiences that we ingest are, indeed, one part of the equation, who or what is the mysterious other half? Me. You. Us. And, no medium in human history to date has the potential to make this truth clearer than that of video games.

There is not a single medium of art that is truly a “passive” experience. That is to say, regardless of how little response we may give the stroke of a brush or the lick of a melody, we are fundamentally still engaging with it by perceiving it. However, video games have, and continue to make, this notion more and more explicit. For, in a video game, the subject-object relationship is never more apparent. In order to take an experience from a video game, we must in turn give our experience to it. And, this is where things start to get interesting. Since video games are not birthed in a vacuum, but are instead created by beings just like ourselves, they inherit traits from both parties responsible in this interchange. Meaning, the essences of both creator and the consumer are what makes a video game. Yet, this still fails to solve the initial question posed in this roundabout frustration of an article. If video games are, thus far, the pinnacle of an artistic and entertaining experience, how then does this translate into understanding the consistency of a  meaningful one? Why, the answer to the enigma is only but a skip across the proverbial pond.

While a basic experience is simply the act of both a creator and a consumer giving presence to an object, a meaningful experience is that in which both parties each give a piece of their very soul to it. Not to sound eerie, or, even worse, grandiose about it, but that’s the formula. It’s not really that complicated. It does not require hundreds of thousands of hours of quality assurance, or a deluge of slick marketing (although it may indeed include all that). It simply needs a pure, untarnished, part of ourselves. Sometimes it only takes one half of the birthing duo to realize this end, but, overall, it’s so much more potent when it comes from both parents. For, it’s only then when you immerse yourself in a video game that you feel yourself being enriched for it. It’s only then when you go to sleep at night that you are contented by that which you had a hand in making during your spent day. Video games and meaningful experiences, sometimes synonyms other times antonyms, are signposts to the realities and joys of life. Perhaps the most obvious of
which being this: by knowing you, I better understand me.

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