Reading Reflection 2

For this week’s reading, I’d like to discuss the principle of “technology should create calm” and how that relates to the ideas presented in the video of “the idyllic video game sublime” – specifically, I was thinking of how there are a number of ways one could categorize something as ‘calm’, even if not traditionally so, and how this expands the ways we might search for the sublime.

After watching the video of Aaru, I tried to think of my own experiences with games that have reached into that feeling of the sublime. When I thought about what moments and experiences that had inspired me the most, I didn’t think of calming environments like the one presented in Aaru – rather, I thought of the moments where games have truly challenged me, pushed me, or brought out parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. These moments were anything but ‘calm’, which made me think about how one might actually describe something as being calming. Does calm necessarily have to be the traditional physical relaxation? Can calm be helping us find ourselves or discover ourselves in new ways – even if that process might be arduous? Even the example of the Ocarina, I’m sure on the micro level, that some users might’ve had frustration with learning how to play before they were truly able to enjoy the calming experience described on Page 86 – is that frustration part of the totality of the experience? Is it calm? It seems a bit contradictory. 

I think of Celeste’s ‘Farewell’ chapter, a set of levels within Celeste which I find to be beautiful, even though they are possibly the most difficult and frustrating set of levels the game has to offer. My first playthrough of this chapter featured me dying a total of 4563 times across 8 hours of gameplay. The final level of Farewell requires around 20 odd minutes of perfect execution and timing, and it holds back absolutely no punches. If you die at any point within this 20 minute stretch, you go all the way back. No checkpoints, no saving, you have to do it all yourself. Yet this immense struggle is part of the process, and eventually it is something that the player can overcome, something where they can succeed, and that triumph feels much more meaningful and real –  these levels force players to go through something that might even be painful or difficult, something that they might’ve not even believed they could have accomplished. And even if they are frustrated in the small moments, something in that eventual triumph, that moment where people can push themselves further than they expected, find new parts or determination within themselves through the medium of the game, is very beautiful. Would we consider this sublime? Would we consider this calm? Is there value in designing experiences that might be difficult or even painful at points? I'd hope to use these questions to inform my own design choices later in the future.