Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prompt 1: Consequences and Passivity

The effect of video games on the human psyche is currently a hot topic of discussion in today’s world.  While it is certainly possible, if not probable, that they breed an inability to deal with consequences, I believe that this effect is fundamentally unlike Victor’s troubles with consequences.  The key difference here is the root of each problem; video games desensitize us to consequences because we are constantly exposed to so many and are always given an escape route, while Victor cannot deal with consequences because he has never been exposed to any at all.
            Let us begin our discussion with my experiences with Zork.  After being lost in the woods for what seems like forever, the game pointed out that a nearby tree had some low-hanging branches.  Naturally, I climb it, and find a golden egg in a birds nest.  Frustratingly I can’t seem to open the egg, so I decide to drop it out of the tree to see if it opens.  I climb down to examine it and, lo and behold, it’s broken.  Well… I suppose I should have expected that.  Seeing as I didn’t get very far I just restarted the game and retraced my steps, only this time I did not drop the egg out of the tree.  Some might say that this defeats the point of consequences; that by giving us an avenue of escape video games do not teach us how to adequately deal with them.  There is certainly merit to such an argument.  However, there are other points to consider as well.  By showing us the consequences of our actions and allowing us to try again, video games are teaching us a lesson in caution and prediction.  Essentially, Zork is saying “Why did you do that?  That wasn’t very smart.  Look what happened: your shiny new egg is broken.  You really should have seen that coming.  Here let’s just reload and maybe you won’t be so thick this time.”  The beauty of this is that it worked.  I learned my lesson.  No more dropping valuables from great heights, they will probably break.
            This is a skill that Victor Frankenstein sorely needed.  His gentle, privileged upbringing certainly seems to be the root of his problem.  He’s never had to deal with the consequences of his actions before.  This leads to a fundamental lack of caution, which generates a slew of problems he is unable to deal with.  The first, most glaring example of this is in his creation of the monster’s form, namely its physical stature.  On page 49 he said, “As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of gigantic stature…”  In spite of his initial intentions, Victor clearly throws caution to the wind due to sheer impatience.  This is his first error: he is unable to predict the possible consequences of his actions, or even the existence of such consequences.  Perhaps if he had played Zork he would have been a little more prudent.
His second error, however, would only have been exacerbated by any time spent playing video games.  As soon as his creation woke, he felt immediate regret.  “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I created, I rushed out of the room…” (54)  The fact that his immediate response was to ignore his problem altogether is a testament to his inability to deal with the consequences of his actions.  Unlike caution, this is not a skill taught by video games.  In fact, they foster Victor’s response exactly.  When faced with an unintended consequence in a video game, the natural response is to pretend it didn’t happen, or rather, make it so that it actually didn’t happen.  This is a solution unavailable both to us in real life and to Victor in his fictional world.
As with most situations, there are many facets to be considered.  Yes, video games hinder our ability to deal with consequences.  Yes, Victor’s upbringing leaves him with a similar inability.  However, the cause of each is different, opposite, in fact.  While Victor’s lack of exposure to the consequences of his actions renders him unable to deal with them, it is a gamer’s overexposure to consequences, and their subsequent ability to ignore them, which results in the same effect.  That being said, playing video games can be proportionally beneficial.  They have a tendency to reward prudence, and can foster the ability to accurately predict and avoid potential consequences.  This is a skill which is, in my opinion, equally valuable.  There are positive and negative consequences to playing video games, as there are with all decisions.  A decision should be made only after careful consideration of all possible consequences.  However, it is impossible to predict some outcomes, so an ability to deal with the unexpected is also valuable.  Ideally each of us should possess both of these traits, but we do not live in an ideal world.  All we can hope for is that our decisions do not bring us to ruin, as Victor’s did. 


Adam said...

I like your introduction. It's a subtler argument than most people have been making, and you begin with a fine distinction, regardless of how it works out.

Excellent discussion of how consequences are learned. Most of my gaming (very limited these days) has always been with rpgs. Challenging rpgs usually lead to us "dying" over and over and over and over, until we master each big fight - it's true that dying doesn't have ordinary consequences, but it does have the consequence, ultimately, of learning and advancing if we learn the right lessons from it.

The rest of the essay is fine, but not as good. It's not that you're wrong about Victor Frankenstein - it's just that you don't bother going looking for any complexities of the text - that is, examples of where he could be learning a lesson, or should be learning a lesson, or where the wrong kind of lesson is taught.

Example: the blasted tree. Example: his youthful dabbling with alchemy.

I think your reading is interesting, but with Victor Frankenstein, at least, it remains too lacking in detail - a revision would need to develop your ideas (well articulated through Zork) to a much greater extent in the novel.

Jason Wald said...

I don’t know if you make your argument strong enough in this paper. I like that you take possibly the less traveled route with saying that the two aspects of the prompt aren’t similar. This position can lend itself to a really strong essay getting at the root of whether or not the ends, in this case Victor’s and the video game player’s attitudes towards consequences, are non-similar because they are rooted in different realities. There is definitely a nuanced argument to be made in support of this, and I think that that is where this paper misses the mark. Instead of contrasting the two in a critical way, you just state the premise of the paper in more detail. You have a very good introduction/thesis, and then don’t actually support it – at the end you may even argue for the opposite cause. After all, you state yourself that the outcomes are very similar, just rooted in different causes. How then does that difference in cause lend itself to a different outcome? And if it doesn’t – if their attitude is the same regardless of the reason why – then why should we state that the attitudes video games teach and how victor was brought up are different? If you revise this, try to find an answer to that question, and maybe work on shaping your quotes into evidence, don’t just present them without making an argument out of them in your own words.