Opinion: The Age of Simulated Reality

Photo_Virtual realityVideo games appeared as an entertainment medium that caught our attention back in the 80’s.  In our childhood, many of us were fixated on our television screens while Mario jumped through walls and pipes, or while we were trying to shoot a duck with a Nintendo zapper.  Since then, games have evolved to a virtual realm—a simulation of reality.  The child’s play of the past has been transformed into a visual cinematic medium, which offers something more than cinema—interaction.  Video games can be considered as an interactive storyteller.  The question then is: why is this important?

 

There are different answers, but the concept of reality is a keyword here.  The notion of reality has been one of the subjects that preoccupied mankind.  From Aristotle to Hegel, great thinkers of humanity have asked the question “what is real?” and they have struggled to find an answer.  So, the simulation—the replica of reality—has become a subject of interest, sometimes even more appealing than reality itself.  We can think of fiction novels or stories as the first version of reality simulations.  Even just by reading, without any visual stimulus, an alternate form of reality can be experienced.  Our mind creates the images through words.

 

Literature can be seen as the “entertainment” media before Cinema/TV.  Moreover, it leaves ‘storytelling’ as a legacy to its successors: radio, cinema, television and now, video games. They enrich storytelling with audial and visual elements.  What video games add to this evolution is ‘interactivity’.  So they surpass the attribution of child’s play.

 

Photo_GTAInteractivity enhances the role of the audience.  The audience is not just a passive spectator, reader or listener of the entertainment.  Instead, they plunge into the storytelling.  This also means that they are no longer the ‘object’ of cinematic experience.  Ability to see and simulate the story through the eyes of the character they play creates the sense of being the ‘subject’ of it.  Therefore, the audience can lead their own cinematic experience where they are the protagonists.  In a videogame you can be a gangster in Grand Theft Auto, killing random people in the street, stealing a car, joining the mafia, or just strolling around Liberty City listening to the radio.  Or you can be a warrior, a ruler, a general, an orc, an elf… depending on the game you play.  You can save worlds, create new ones or just do daily things.  Each video game has a story, and it is a text, like a novel, movie or theatre play.  You can be anything in the simulation, while sitting in front of a computer.

 

We can see video games as the ‘recent’ final step on the stairway, which started with literature.  It is possible to see the original form of ‘story’ as the ancestor of all entertainment media.  However, there is also another fundamental element that video games contain: play.  Playing is of course the core of video gaming, but it is also the core of being human (as an animal).  Like the famous Dutch theorist Johan Huizinga stated, people are playing animals—they are homo ludens.  Play is fundamental to the species and most ancient acts of mankind contain play.  It is also an instinctual thing, as we can observe in animals.

 

What makes video games interesting, as the “new age medium”, is that they contain all these elements that grasp the ‘leisure time’ of humanity.  Of course, in this age of simulated reality, play is an important element to create the integrity of simulation—it is the element that creates the ‘interactivity’.  So, when it is added to the equation, video games appear as the ultimate form of storytelling, which continue to improve as technology improves.

 

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cv imageDeniz Ezgi Kurt studied French Language & Literature at Hacettepe University, Media & Cultural Studies at Middle-East Technical University, and Cultural Studies at Tilburg University.  She writes since childhood and tries to mediate the knowledge academically.  She worked as a translator and a teacher.  As a fiction enthusiast and a passionate gamer, she writes on videogame culture, visual media and pop-culture.  After living most of her life in Turkey, she now resides in Netherlands.

Writing Prompts: The Unexpected

SurrealismWhen I open a book I’m always hoping to be surprised.  It’s what I look for above all else.  Whether it’s in the narrative, or the language an author employs in its construction, I don’t ever want to know where I’m going in advance.

What I crave is uncertainty—that rush of possibility.  I want to be in free fall through a text.  I want to turn a corner and end up at some place unexpected.  Then take a few more steps, and enter somewhere stranger still. It’s this sense of discovery, of stumbling headfirst into the unfamiliar, that appeals to me most about surrealist and magical realist writing.

In its most interesting variations, the reader is discovering a space whose strange nature extends beyond the material.  The fantastical elements push beyond the physical realm, into something deeper.  These spaces, after all, are purely linguistics in nature.  They are built from and sustained by language, and, as such, basic laws of physics—our understanding of probability, space, and time; all the disparate threads woven through the fabric of reality are suddenly made malleable.

When an author steps outside the bounds of realism, their own self-expression is given free reign to imprint the world they are creating.  And when done well, we as readers travel these strange new landscapes with awe, terror, or often both.

It’s the existential dread of Joseph K. traversing a legal bureaucracy he can’t comprehend.

It’s Borges’ librarian wandering infinite stacks.

It’s the village of Macondo collapsing into windblown sheets of paper.

A major challenge I face as a writer is my own nature to second-guess myself.  There’s a little voice in me that’s always doubting the words I put down, and I find it’s loudest when I try to write in the realist mode.

“No, it wouldn’t be like that,” it says.

“No, that’s not realistic.”

“What are you doing?”

“What do you know?”

It’s exhausting and unproductive.  But it’s also hard to dismiss, as my total life experience is confined to a relatively short amount of time spent in a relatively small slice of a very big and long-lived blue patch of space dirt.  Now a combination of research and imagination can always push my work outside those confines, but only to a degree.  The truth is I can never really know anything that lies outside myself.

This is a paralyzing thought.  One I find hard not to get trapped in.

But the best method I’ve found to avoid the trap is to sidestep realism altogether—to give myself and my stories over to radical acts of imagination, in order to create work expressing the same sense of discovery I value so much as a reader.

I find that little nay-saying voice can’t shut me down as swiftly if the world I’m building is an internal one, an expression of thoughts, feelings, and patterns that live first and foremost in my head.

So I ask you, as fellow writers, to treat yourself to a quick trip into a reality you’ve never been to before. Look inside yourself, dig around, and try to discover something unexpected.  Take a step into a new space, one that stands apart from the one outside your door.

Prompts:

All your life a small wooden box has rested on a high shelf in your childhood home.  You passed it every day, but never paid it much attention.  It is innocuous, worn and undecorated.  It fits comfortably in your open hand.  The box is locked, but you have no key.  One day you hear a sound coming from the box.  A kind of rumble.  A growing din. It sounds like everything and nothing.  You see light pouring through the keyhole.  Suddenly, the latch breaks.  The lid flies open.  You look inside.

 

You fall asleep on a train and miss your destination.  When you wake up, the train is stopped at an unfamiliar station.  Miles and miles of desert lie all around you.  You step off to take a quick look around, but as soon as you do, the train departs, disappearing into the dunes.  You are alone except for one stranger waiting in silence, holding up a sign with your name on it.

 

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Photo_Bob Schofield Bob Schofield is an American writer of British, Chinese, Pakistani, and Egyptian descent.  He currently lives in the Netherlands.  He is the author and illustrator of The Inevitable June, Man Bites Cloud, and Moon Facts.  He likes what words and pictures do.  He wants to be a ghostly presence in your life.

Reflection: The Image of the Writer

Annie M.G. Schmidt (1984)The Dutch poet, writer and songwriter Annie M.G. Schmidt wrote a lovely song called “Alleen uit Leed wordt Kunst Geboren” meaning Only from Suffering Art is Born.  The protagonist laments that only artists who experienced personal hardship can become true artists.  And that is something she is still missing, according to her teacher.  Her teacher compares the protagonist’s life with that of composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Haydn and Mozart, and concludes that her student’s life lacks tragedy.  Since her voice lacks sorrow, she will not be assigned solos.

The idea that artists need hardship seems to apply to writers too.  Writers are often depicted as unhealthy beings; hermits, who drink and smoke; who are on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown; who seemed to have lost their marbles; but who after going through their personal hell, deliver their long awaited Master Piece.  (And not just any masterpiece, but The Master Piece of the century.)

433ea4fbba5a2767a59f8f839cda4b63Luckily, this image is being adjusted.  But there is also the impression of writers who sit in avant-garde coffee shops or bistros, drinking fancy coffees or some Boba tea, observing potential characters, while typing away on their laptops.

Is it false?  No, probably not.  There are always examples to be found that fit the image.  Only it seems unfair to claim that all writers live in their own little world, estranged from every-day-life.  (Perhaps it is something some of us would like to achieve.)  But the examples above have nothing to do with writing; they depict certain lifestyles that could be associated with writers. Read More

Book Review: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

Written by Brazilian theologian, Leonardo Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor opens by reminding its readers of a somber reality—mother-earth is sick.  This diagnosis is not due to some geophysical phenomenon ordained to destroy our terrestrial homeland from its deepest innards beyond the stratosphere.  Contemporary, western notions of progress have long skirted our holistic entity—animal-nature-earth-cosmos—in favor of gilded economics and politics, fast-tracking the devastation of life-sustaining elements.

 

9781570751363Boff explains how Liberation Theology provides a religious inspired antithesis to a hyper-capitalist state of affairs benefitting, first and foremost, an elite minority class.  He proposes that the same socioeconomic malfeasances jeopardizing life on earth are also responsible for plunging hordes of humans into a state of perpetual suffering and poverty.  This is the point where his two distinct arguments—ecological awareness and poverty—merge.  Modern (consumerist) civilization, defined and promoted by a conglomerate of western nations, has proven to be a predatory archetype that disproportionately extracts the fruits of mother-earth, debilitating and throwing off-track her perfected equilibrium.  Also, the same human hand of modernity has created a world where a poverty stricken majority must contend for scraps left by an elite, wealthy minority.  According to Boff, this antisocial panorama is the result of individual and collective disassociations to nature, a failure in creativity by modern societies to nurture people who view themselves as being parts of a greater whole.  No longer treated with reverence and care, the world beyond the human body, inevitably, decays rapidly.

Read More

Opinion: The Donald Dump

Republicans are running around with their hair on fire trying to figure out how to salvage their very existence as a party with what will surely be an up- and down-ticket disaster in November.  Pundits on both sides of the aisle are breathlessly trying to out-analyze each other, each diving deeper into the polling data and umpteen different ways Trump is destroying the conservative brand.

Donald_TrumpBut what about the damage Donald has done to the TRUMP brand?  After all, that’s all the TRUMP name is at this point ­– a brand. Wherever you see TRUMP plastered 10-feet high on the side of a hotel, casino, resort or airplane (or in smaller print on the logo of a wine bottle, shrink-wrapped steak or worthless “university” diploma), what it usually means is that he has licensed his name to that particular business and has little or no participation in the actual management of said enterprise.

Yes, he won nearly 14 million votes during the primaries on his way to becoming the nominee of the Republican party, but I wonder: How many of those 14 million could afford even one night in a TRUMP HOTEL or one round of golf at a TRUMP RESORT?  How many of them look longingly at a bottle of TRUMP WINE, thinking to themselves “one day I’ll drink that wine from a shiny gold goblet,” only to sigh dejectedly and buy the carton of Annie Green Springs instead? Read More

Folks, We’re Back!

happy-face-clipartpandaAnd we’re bigger and better.  Today is officially the relaunch of Cecile’s Writers Blog with a whole new look and aim.  We’re offering fresh and original content on a regular basis.  So sit back and enjoy.

We’ll be featuring writers from all over the world contributing articles, reviews, reflective pieces and especially new, opinion.  There are regular contributors who have joined us to make this truly an intercultural platform.

(Do you also want to write for us and share your thoughts with the world? Then check this link.)

10th Edition Cecile’s Writers Magazine: The Joy of Growth

Our tenth edition contains two new flash fictions, two short stories, a personal essay and an interview with Vyvyan Fox, an upcoming writer whose first publication was here on CWM in our very first edition.

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Open for Drama

Attention Playwrights:

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Courtesy of thisstage.la

We are looking for your original work.  CWM is open for drama, so send us your best, polished plays.  Ideally we would like one-act plays, but longer pieces will be considered.

Please read our submission guidelines to make sure we give your submission the critical attention it deserves.

Goodluck!

CW team