Ender's Game

So, at my own academic peril, I just re-read Ender's Game . A helluva tale, everything you could want in a piece of science fiction and perfect, I think, for middle schoolers. There are two important games in the book. One is a fantasy game that all the cadets in battle school play on their memex-like "desks" which are essentially laptops that you put yourself into, similar to old fashioned cameras where the photographer got under a curtain. The fantasy game is like a single player version of WOW and Ender is so good at it that he reaches the "end of the world", a place where he has exhausted the world of its games. No one ever made it that far. At this point the game takes on a 2nd life function, its drops the mechanism of winning and losing and becomes a virtual reality:

"Perhaps it's called the end of the world because it is the end of the games, because I can go to one of the vilages and become one of the little boys wokring and playing there, with nothing to kill and nothing to kill me, just living there" (p. 54)

We learn later that the landscape that appears at the end of the world does not exist in a preprogrammed form w/in the game itself. After Ender beats the game by overcoming each of the challenges in the fantasy world he somehow gains what I'm calling subconscious write access. Some connection between Ender's brain and the computer create the new world that is the end of the world:

"The mind game is a relationship between the child and the computer. Together they create stories. The stories are true in the sense that they reflect the child's life. " p.87

Later on, after Ender leaves battle school and doesn't have access to his desk and the fantasy game, he continues to play the game in his dreams at night. He goes to sleep and he's right back in the Ender world at the end of the world. Imagine dreaming you were Link or Mario. Since the world of the game had long since shifted from being generated by the computer to being generated by Ender's subconscious it makes sense that he doesn't need to computer to play. I find this a really interesting way to think about computer games. They share the physical unreality of dreams and yet we can still be ourselves in them. Your avatar and your dream self are not all that different.

The other important game in the book is an outer space war game that Ender the military has Ender play. They trick him into believing that it is a game though the ships in the game are actually real human warships staging an invasion against an alien race. The attrition necessary to win the battle would not have been possible if Ender had known the ships in the game represented real units, illustrating that there are things we are possible of in gamespace that we would never achieve in real life due to humanness.

I've been thinking about ender's game all semester and you may have inspired me to reread it.

I like your dream equivalents a lot. It makes me think of a Freudian conception of dreams as wish fulfillment. It also makes me think of our discussion of how games are any less real than life, which is a concept I have had some trouble with.

It seems obvious to me games are wish fulfillment. They do also allow us to do things we never would do/would be repulsed by in real life. This part of Freud's ideas, to dumb it down quite a bit, that we have desire to do a lot of things society never will let us, and we use dreams as a necessary outlet. Of course in dreams things are plasticized, and I would say not so much in video games.

I am not sure where this leaves us in the conflation of gaming and reality. I think if we look at the ideas above a true, and we equate games to dreams in a perfectly fruedian world, then I would say anti-violence in game campaigners have a strong argument. Games are normalizing anti-social desires we previously plasticized and denied. I don't know, if games are not much different than real life i think there are a whole host of questions about the implications of fantasy and violence. Ender wasn't happy to know that he had destroyed a race, and maybe we should similarly turn from game violence, sex, and crime.

(ignoring debates of the positive nature of conservative society)