Monday, September 18, 2006

Existance precedes and rules essence

Over the weekend, I was asked why I consider Massive Multiplayer Online game worlds to be 'existential worlds' and thus why I named my blog as such. The short answer is, My Dad's Blog Can Beat Up Your Dad's Blog, was taken, so I had to go with my second name choice. The long answer is much more involved and takes a look at the very nature of human existence and the functions and roles of our virtual worlds.

The renowned existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartes, wrote that 'existence precedes and rules essence' in his famous work Being and Nothingness.

This simply means that man first is, and only subsequently is this or that. In a word, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself. And the definition always remains open ended: we cannot say what this man is before he dies, or what mankind is before it has disappeared. (Action Magazine Dec. 29, 1944)
This analysis of Sartes famous line has always elicited images of charachter creation at game launch. The avid gamer has read up on their most antisipated title for months, begun to define themselves on the forums and establish their identity in the budding community and ultimatly as they unwrap the freshly purchased game, and begin installation and charachter creation.

As the gamer nears the completion of his future identity in this new world, and hits Enter, he is thrust into an unfarmiliar world with no ties, no status and no destiny. It is in his free existance and presence that he defines himself in the virtual world.

Another predominant existential thinker, Edmund Husserl, coined the German term Dasein, meaning being there, in his noted work Being and Time. The basic premise is that temporality and presence in the world, the Dasein as he says, is a more definative existance, than the corporality of the world itself.

Husserl's Dasein, represents a fundamental building block in my 'existential worlds' principle. At the risk of oversimplifing a rather involved concept, our presence in the game, makes it real and our actions and choices there define us. The walls are digital, the npcs are AI, the gold is ephemeral, death is temporary... However, we as sentient beings are there, and in our precence, essence is instilled in our avatars.

So next time you take flak for spending too much time gaming, or for hiding from reality in a game, you can confidently state that they are free to define their existance and essence in whatever manner or forum they choose, and you shall do the same.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Heidegger coined Dasein and wrote Being and Time, dipshit.