Cult of the Turtle

Joe Tortuga's musing on life,tech and gaming

Transgression by Transgression

January 24, 2010

This week I’m going to delve back into my ideas around Transgression.  To recap a bit, transgression is the breaking of a boundary, usually a moral or social one.  Sins, therefor, are transgressions and we’ll be looking at some of the commandments this week.  I’m not a Christian, though I was raised as one, and well, it’s pretty ingrained in my culture.  If you’re not commenting on Plato you’re probably commenting on Christianity, so I’ll be using it a bit to frame my discussions this week.

No worries, any moralizing I may do won’t really be particularly Christian.

Transgression is important because it takes us out of society for a moment, and allows us to be outsiders.  Video games are important because they let us act, and transgress, in an environment where it has been made safe to do so.  The worst thing that will happen by our in-game transgressions is that we’ll lose our progress.

Yes, it’s possible to do things which are really wrong, or even illegal, in multi-player games, that’s not what I’m talking about here. In particular I want to talk about the ways that games are programmed to allow, or even require, transgression. Games where being bad is actually the point and purpose of the experience.  We can transgress in minor ways — there’s a DS game where you play as a bus driver. I am not one, so i’m transgressing, as it were, on my role as an internet blogger computer programmer writer person. That’s a fine definition and thought for a more rarefied discussion, so this week (and in general) I’m going to stick with more blatant and resonating transgressions.

But just as important as those blatant transgressions are, the fact that games make it safe to transgress sets us up for the duality that creates a liminal space. It is wrong to steal, but in the context of this game, it’s right to steal — it’s what I must do, to play the game.  Thus, I’m now in a new space, with new rules, breaking society’s boundary, but existing within the new boundaries of the game. It is wrong in society to steal, but wrong in my game to get caught doing it.

This week we’ll be looking at three things we’re told we’re not supposed to do, and the games that center around doing them.  Tomorrow, since we’ve mentioned already: stealing.