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[Image Credits: theatlantic.com]

When Video-Game Worlds End

 

[Image Credits: theatlantic.com]

[Image Credits: theatlantic.com]

Whether it’s the final horror of The Matrix Online or the somber last acts in ToonTown Online, it isn’t hard to see how the end of an MMO constitutes an apocalypse of the first and second kind (i.e. “the end” and that which resembles the end). From the perspective of the characters who inhabit a doomed MMO’s diegesis, it is truly the end of everything, their world, as the poet Philip Larkin put it, “[soon] to be lost in always, not to be here, not to be anywhere.” For players, the apocalypse is, of course, not real, but nevertheless imparts a real experience of what the apocalypse might be like, to see a world they have come to care about lose its ability to be. But what about the third form of the apocalypse, that which helps us understand the end? How do MMOs help us come to terms with the causes and effects of an apocalypse on any scale? The media scholar Richard Grusin attributes the popularity of end-of-the-world scenarios in popular media to a phenomenon he calls “premediation,” the representation of cataclysm to build the public’s expectations for a real cataclysm. The plausibility of these scenarios matters little; the point of premediation, Grusin holds, isn’t “prediction” but “practice”—we steel ourselves for any number of possible futures so that we might overcome whatever trauma awaits us, like swallowing a pill to prevent the heartburn we know is coming. Because we know, deep down, that apocalypse awaits us on every scale. Premediation helps us rehearse our reaction so that, in the event of real chaos, we might behave in a manner more rational and productive.

Source: Star Wars Galaxies and The Matrix Online: When Video-Game Worlds End – The Atlantic