Seeing The Matrix

Seeing The Matrix

When I play videogames, especially big ones with Expansive Open Worlds &c., I tend to play them intensely for about a week or so, burn out, come back a while later and finish the story, then never play them again.

The initial break is the point where I’ve been playing them “fully” for a while: I’ve been doing all the sidequests and getting all the gear and I’ll usually get maybe half- to two-thirds of the way into the story missions and I’ll realise: oh shit! I can see the matrix!

And at that point I lose interest: all the cracks become apparent, all the mechanisms and artifice becomes impossible to ignore; I lose my suspension of disbelief and everything just flattens to a spreadsheet. I can only play it again when I've got a bit of distance and 'forgotten' that.

I think I did this to myself with social media. After a while, the bit of my brain that notices these things registered an appreciable lack of additional novelty in the system. I was kept going by the dark patterns in the design and stuff, but the thing itself had lost its succor; I started to be able to generalise types of post and interaction patterns and people.

Granted, I think this is more because the nature of the medium encourages people to make themselves legible in a small number of specific ways but even so: as ably outlined here, I try to reject thinking of people as types, and resent a system that induces me to do so.

I really do hate being one of those You Should Do Things In Real Life old people, but I guess I am now. Real life has a surprising amount of detail and real-life social interactions have a remarkable level of resolution. I'm open to there being online spaces that have more of it, but I've not found them yet.

Subscribe to Heed Not The Rolling Wave

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
[email protected]