Videogames are an Anti-humanism
by Martin Hare Michno
Courtesy of media.com
A spectre is haunting humanity – the spectre of videogames. All the powers of today have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre, from church to state. Alas, the spectre persists, and how it threatens our being! Videogames have conquered our lives, dismantled our arts, ravaged our societies, shattered our morals, butchered, wrecked and axed the very notion of humanity itself. Videogames have destroyed the boundaries between the real and the virtual, the human and the machinic. They have left us in ruin; nothing beside remains. Round the decay of our colossal wreck the bare and level sands stretch far, far away.
If ever you believed in a clear distinction between the human and the non-human, between the real and the virtual, or between the natural and the artificial, then your belief has become a myth. Forget what you know, today know ourselves to be cyborgs, not humans. The cyborg is an anti-humanist idea which understands that there is no such thing as the human essence. No entity on earth, not even the human, possesses an ‘essence’ causing it to exist independently of the other entities. An object is always a hybrid, always composite. Humanity has come to understand that the division between the animal and the human is a myth. The birch and the toad, the finch and the starfish, and the wind that carries the song of the cricket; these we now call our brothers and our sisters.
But an anti-humanist goes further to claim that the distinction between human and machine is just as blurred as it is between human and animal. It is within this blurred line that we become cyborgs. So, what of videogames? Videogames are anti-humanist precisely for their destruction of these boundaries; the real and the virtual, the natural and the artificial, the human and the machine – these entities have dissolved into one another. This is most obvious in a game like Pokémon Go, which had the virtual exist within the real and the real within the virtual. The game is then not an escape from reality, but an augmentation of it. Thus, if we expand reality within the virtual, how do we dare tell them apart?
It is not only the virtual and real which become indistinguishable but the human and the machine too. In a role-playing game such as Skyrim, we pour our ‘real’ identity into a virtual figure. It is the virtual figure which then embodies us, and if it were a multiplayer game, we are recognised through the virtual body, not our real body. Not only this, but the experiences of the virtual character cause real impressions on us. It is telling, I think, when the player evokes himself into the sentence ‘I died’, although it is the virtual figure which has been killed.
Thus, when we play a videogame, we lose ourselves, not in the sense that we escape reality, but rather that we lose the very essence we believed we had. I believe videogames are the technology today which actively destroys every constructed binary: natural/artificial, human/machine, virtual/real, ego/other, mind/body, man/woman, and so on, and so on. Videogames are anti-humanist because not only do they re-define the human, they actively reject any fixed definition of the human.
For long, the humanists believed in the existence of something which is purely human, something which defines the human and differentiates us from everything non-human. They have long strived to uncover the human essence buried beneath the mass of reified and alienated history. Yet, as the humanists dig to uncover this essence, all they have dug out is their own grave.