In my last post I talked about my recent trip to Turkey and my penchant for a good old-fashioned ruin. They invigorate me, inspire me, fuel my imagination. They make me want to write about their glory days so I can spend time walking their streets, if only in my mind and on the page. As my wife and I walked the broken marble streets of these ancient cities, I swear I could hear the crowd swarm about me. Touts shouted their wares, and officials congregated in the bouleuterion. The entire experience was quite visceral and compelling.
At first I attributed it to a past life, echos from that time I was a pleb in Rome filtering through the ages like I’d spent too much time in Assassin’s Creed’s Animus. Or maybe it was just my own over-active imagination. Then I read an interesting observation by Penny Arcade’s Tycho Brahe on how video games might alter our own sense memories.
His post led me to view my intense experience in the ruins in an entirely different light. Is it possible that my sense memories didn’t come from a past life at all, but were instead implanted firmly into my subconscious by hours of playing Caesar III during my formative years? It makes sense. Video games are immersive, and as technology and game design advances it becomes easier and easier to lose yourself in them, similar to how Assassin’s Creed caused me to view a walk downtown as an obstacle course. Who need’s Abstergo when your XBox is creating real memories of events that only happened in a binary universe.
I can hear the masses railing against this brainwash from in front of their TVs as their waistlines expand. Even my parental superego raises an eyebrow at the possibility that experiences might be injected directly into my temporal lobe. But, if true, is this really such a bad thing? Some might argue that the realism of first person shooters is desensitizing us to violence and lay the atrocities of the mentally disturbed on the shoulders of recreational games. But even as I accept that my perceptions of real life events might have been altered by my time with video games, I refuse to believe that they can control us. If anything, my experience at the ruins was only heightened by these digital memories. While immersed in Assassin’s Creed, an everyday walk on the town becomes an adventure, and life gets a little bit more interesting, even if it isn’t entirely real. Is that such a bad thing?