Time and Place

One of the definitions of nihilism is “the belief that nothing can be known or communicated.” I was thinking about this the other day, when I was watching the anime Cross Game. See, I was watching Cross Game because someone had rated it very highly, 9 out of 10, and I am always on the lookout for such recommendations. As I talked about in my review of it though, I personally thought the show was okay… but not a 9 out of 10.

Which is fine, of course, as everyone has differing tastes in entertainment. For example, the acclaimed Breaking Bad series which I stopped watching around Season 2. I’m not sure whether it gets better or not, but I had a hard time getting over the initial premise (I didn’t buy into the main character’s reasoning) and I don’t much care for the whole “double-life tension mechanism” as a whole. I was able to put up with it in Dexter, but that’s about it.

So I then realized that for the people who were deeply moved by Cross Game or Breaking Bad or what have you, I will never be able to experience their same joy. I can certainly empathize with it, and of course I have my own personal joys as well. But in a sense, we’re alone.

And the problem isn’t just what we find meaningful, but also when we were exposed to it.

It should come to no surprise to anyone that one’s favorite games/movies/etc are generally correlated with what they watched first, typically when they are younger. It makes perfect sense after all – games and movies and so on are experiences too, occurring in a specific time and place in one’s life. There is a fundamental difference between playing FF7 back in 1997 when it was bringing the entire RPG genre into the mainstream… and playing it for the first time in 2015. Even putting the graphics aside, one would miss the zeitgeist, miss the novelty of a lot of its systems and character design, missing the power of one of the most recognizable spoilers in gaming history, and so on.

For me, FF7 ties with Xenogears for my favorite games of all time. The majority of that goodwill however is tied up in personal experiences unique to me. I can indicate to you that these two games are my favorites, and perhaps even attempt to explain why, but unless we shared similar experiences back then, the actual feelings would not be transmitted. You will not be able to feel what I felt; in that or any experience.

I am finding this realization incredibly tragic. Not just because my tastes in entertainment are clearly the best, but also because I could not even really begin to understand yours on a coherent level. Why was Cross Game a 9/10 for that person? What is it about EVE that is in any way appealing? Or Dark Age of Camelot? We can use words and arguments and perhaps even sales figures to convey as much as we can, but the words themselves aren’t experiences.

It seems the best we can do while stuck in the back of Plato’s cave, is to desperately use shadows to express to others the objects only we can see.

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Posted on October 26, 2015, in Philosophy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You might legit be the only human on the planet to watch two seasons of Breaking Bad and then stop by choice. That is mind-blowingly weird to me. I get the people who watched an episode or two and stopped, because they hadn’t seen enough to get hooked, or they just outright don’t like good things, but you did. You went far enough in to ‘get it’, yet still stopped. That’s like Baghpuss-with-MMOs-level weirdness, but for TV.

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    • It really started from the first few episodes, when Walter “decided” to not accept the help from Elliott. I didn’t buy it, and it never even felt like the show really tried to sell it to me. Yeah, “pride” and stolen love interest or whatever, but whole thing felt flat. So right from the get-go, I had no connection and zero empathy for the main character, nor investment in his success. He just felt like a dumbass making the worst possible decisions for plot reasons.

      The actual crime half of the show? Entertaining. Meanwhile the secret life and “will they find out?!” parts hold less than zero interest to me. Partly because of the lack of empathy for the main character, but also because that that specific narrative mechanic just provides negative entertainment for me. Tension is one thing, but this just produces feelings of awkwardness and anxiety. I was able to look muscle past it in Dexter, but I think that was because Dexter was a psychopath to begin with.

      In any case, I may go back at some point. But, yeah, whatever bug got everyone hooked on the show missed me by a mile.

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      • The reason he doesn’t accept Elliott’s handout is because he, and Elliott, know he is the better man and that Elliott got lucky. Elliott has the money because of Walter, while Walter doesn’t because he got kinda screwed out of the deal + bad timing. (The show does tie the entire Elliott aspect up eventually, along with revisiting and expanding on that whole aspect).

        Also yea, Walter has a lot of pride, which is a very strong theme in the entire show, not just that one part, and is a key to what makes Walter tick.

        Some lack of empathy for Walter is also a theme. On the one hand, teacher with a family who gets cancer, that sucks and you feel for the guy. On the other, he does a SHITLOAD of really, really horrible stuff. But with that said, the horrible stuff is because when the cancer kills him, he wants his family to be ok, which is noble, you just can’t become a drug dealer and murder people to make that happen. Also a lot of the horrible stuff he does is to also horrible people, so its pretty gray if its really bad.

        Unlike a lot of shows (Lost), I think from start to finish the show is great, including the ending. There aren’t a lot of outright bad episodes, and certainly not a single bad season, and there aren’t any major loss threads once its all done. Binge watch it at some point, as I really think its a pacing show, so the more you can watch at one time, the better.

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  2. Take the next logical step to existentialism and you’ll feel better about the whole thing. We don’t so much find meaning as create it.

    I think there is a happy medium in there somewhere. We may be comforted by being able to explain and mutually understand the emotions eventually felt – triumph, glee, heartache, saudade, communion, whatever – but there’s something to be celebrated about the obscurity of the path taken to get there. If those lifetime best-evers were completely accessible to everyone else, they’d be less personally meaningful for it.

    When one holds pre-conversion SW:TOR to be the pinnacle of the MMO experience, one can’t help but develop a certain amount of perspective on the subject, you know.

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