Opinion: Of rats and choice

Rats may be cute. Source: http://nakiacres.wikispaces.com/rats+are+squeaky+cute

Editor’s note: The following blog was written by a NordicGameBits.com Opinion-blogger. The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the individual writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of NordicGameBits or the other writers and authors of the community. 

So, I had the misfortune the other day of discovering rats living in my walls.

This sounds like a metaphor. It is emphatically not.

I woke up in the middle of the night to squeaking and scratching coming from the floor. Stomping out, drunk with sleep into the corridor outside my bedroom, my footsteps alarmed the little creature, and I could hear it scamper away under the floorboards. Presumably, it was heading for home. Hopefully, that was far from here.

The exterminator came the next day. He carried traps and instructions.

Knowledgeable people should look at the pipes to find out where the rat came from and how to stop there from coming more. Traps should be set in the places the rat could be. There are holes in the wall where I sleep. Domesticated little trapdoors into the space under the eaves. The traps would be laid there, and in other nooks spread out around the house where rats might crawl.

I sat just now and heard the rat scurry in the walls.

Eating dinner in the kitchen and hearing the movement of the little desperado under the eaves, listening to it crawling towards a trap I had placed scant hours earlier, I could do nothing save wait for the rat to meet its doom or not. Yet I was overcome with emotion.

I was hoping so keenly to hear the snap and sickening crunch of the trap killing the rat.

At the same time I felt an acute level of shame.

I feel squeamish killing spiders, even a tinge of guilt clearing out cobwebs. I had planned to kill this animal, and I was even delighting in the possibility that I might succeed.

It was – in a word – perverse.

You have to defeat or dominate these cultures. Source: http://www.worldofmeh.com/2009/12/sid-meiers-civilization-revolution-xbox-360/

You have to defeat or dominate these cultures. Source: http://www.worldofmeh.com/2009/12/sid-meiers-civilization-revolution-xbox-360/

It occurred to me that this is akin to the feeling when a strategy succeeds in a game. When my carefully laid plans in, say, Civilization bear fruit, and I extinguish a rival culture, a similar – though dulled by the virtuality of the experience – feeling of delight and sadness hits me.

I mean, it’s a culture. In a pang of weird transcendence and damnation, songs and dances and literature and science and thoughts and love and language and art and a way of looking at the world that has neither translation nor archive is gone – because my plan worked.

I’m reading too much into it, I know.

But still it’s there, in a flash. Not substance. Not like the rat.

The thing about rats is, you have no choice. You cannot reason with them and get them to go away. You cannot drive them away, they’ll just come back. You cannot live there, while they live there. They threaten with disease and infection. They threaten your child. You cannot move. You cannot sell a house full of rats, and you cannot get a loan for another house, when you have a loan for this house. There are systems that tie your hands. Rats must be killed, you have no choice.

This is the same in the games. There are choices, so many choices. But you often have no choice in the end. You are placed in scenarios where you must kill. You must destroy. You must repeat atrocities of history, invent new ones. The games dull you by being digital, but they dull you more by convincing you there are no choices. This is gameplay. The game is designed this way. There are systems that tie your hands. I have to do these things to win. I have to kill these rats to live here.

Rats in the walls.

It sounds like a metaphor. It is emphatically that too.

Rats may dispense wisdom like Splinter. Source: https://anotherretroworld.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/tortues-ninja-tournament-fighters-sur-super-nintendo/

Source: https://anotherretroworld.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/tortues-ninja-tournament-fighters-sur-super-nintendo/

The featured image at the top is from http://nakiacres.wikispaces.com/rats+are+squeaky+cute

Authors
Mikkel Lodahl

I’m an associate professor at the Dania Academy of Higher Education in Grenaa, Denmark. We offer two AP level educations focused on game development, one for programmers and one for designers. I teach a flurry of different analytical disciplines, and I will be blogging about various forms of analysis from gameplay and narrative analysis of games to marketing analysis and even occasionally object oriented analysis in relation to game development. My focus is on making analysis a practical skill. I hope to produce insights and lessons for use in further design, rather than analysing for pure fun and knowledge – though that certainly also has its place. Oh, and a warning: I have a weird background for games – philosophy and the study of religion – which may bleed through from time to time. I will try to blog at least once a week – always on Thursdays, occasionally also on Mondays.

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