In the previous post, On Magic, Technology and Literature, I cited an anime example for the first time in this blog. In truth, I’ve been reluctant to do so because there exists, in non-Japanese cultures, a stigma against Anime. However, there are times when my conformist-self is kidnapped and minimized by my rebellious-self, and this is one of those times. In this blog post, I want to introduce a new expansion to this blog. This blog will continue to be centered around philo-socio-political topics but from now on, it will include insights and inspirations from both anime and video games. Yes, video games as well. I believe that this will be a full embracement of my experience; introducing these mediums can help everyone to broaden their horizons when looking at real-life issues. For this post, I shall seek to explain why that is the case.

Horizon Expansion

So, why anime? If I want to solve real-life problems, wouldn’t real-life shows be better simulations? Fair argument there, but not quite. You see, when you want to solve a real-life problem, you must understand why it’s still an issue unresolved. There is a common saying, as I shall paraphrase: “You can’t solve the problem with the same mindset that created the problem in the first place”. Contemporary real-life problems are man-made and based in reality. Being stuck in the reality itself is like being stuck in a Platonic cave – In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, men who were born in a cave saw the cave as their entire world, and thus they lacked the motivation to escape the cave and find that there is a bigger world out there.

Real Life Shows Are Limited In Terms of Imagination

I’m not saying that Anime provides a higher form of reality, but it does provide a similar kind of simulation – simulation through imagination. Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Real life shows can provide knowledge, but they lack imagination. Why? Because actors and real-life directing are inherently limited – limited by production cost and laws of physics. Let’s take sci-fi movies as a case-in-point. Sci-fi movies are concepts stuck in an unsuitable medium: Movies like Terminator and Ender’s Game have to compensate with expensive CGIs which, to be honest, can’t be taken seriously. It’s also really expensive so production becomes limited and it causes paywalls to be erected. The problem, though, isn’t that it cannot be taken seriously because you can’t take Anime seriously either. Instead, it is the fact that it is a real-life show trying to show what fantasy-land is like; so it ends up looking like it is trying too hard to be something that it isn’t. Fantasy genre faces the same problem and other genres that are based in reality such as romance or blockbuster action-packed movies provide little to no ideological value whatsoever.

  • Disclaimer: I come from the perspective of seeking an intellectual content from shows so I’m not making a sweeping statement that real-life shows suck – I withhold my opinion over their entertainment value, as it is subjected to an individual’s tastes and preferences.

Imagination is what Anime Manifests

On the other hand, Anime is a buffet of imagination. Plots of an anime originate from either a manga or a novel – which are treasure troves of imaginative concepts. The translation of these works to Anime does not suffer the same limitation as real-life movies or shows – which is why book-to-movie translations are often not well-received by the readers. Instead of down-grading the imaginative element of the original works, Anime brings them to life, connecting each manga boxes or plot scenes into coherent whole without compromising imagination.

On Immersion and Conformity

The main feature that Anime may fall behind is probably immersion. Sometimes, imaginations can be taken too far, causing the whole show to be seen as ludicrous. I, however, do not have trouble immersing myself into anime at all. This is probably due to the fact that I have been watching anime since I was a kid. The stage of childhood is when imagination is at its purest and wildest form. As we grow up, society imposes its expectations on us; it forces us to swear allegiance to societal norms and alienate all else. Our societies abhor wild imagination as it is the harbinger of disorder and economic unproductivity. Against the backdrop of the human economic and political realities, this is why we now have a stigmatization of Anime or even cartoons in general. These are seen as children’s entertainment and practically every society scorns the youth. Being young is associated with immaturity, recklessness and ignorance. I do not condone this discrimination as childlike curiosity and imagination are the makings of geniuses like Albert Einstein. When you choose to follow the norm, you choose stagnation because you operate within the status quo. I rebel against this conformity.

Bad Animes

Don’t get me wrong, though. There are bad animes. When we choose to praise a group, we must be cautious to never make an over-generalisation. There are black sheeps in every conceivable group. Animes with superficial plots are still tolerable in my opinion, because there exist even worse shortcomings. One of these shortcomings is the usage of anime to manifest perversion. It is very prevalent in the anime landscape today, which is why I don’t actually watch most of the anime. However, in terms of absolute numbers, there are plenty of good animes out there to constantly challenge our ideas – which I am contented with. This simply reflects my personal choice which I do not seek to impose on anyone – there is simply no reason to do so.

Video Games Are Super Immersive

Video games are fantastic. If Anime lacks immersion for you, video games are unparalleled in that aspect. Compared to all other forms of media, only video games allow you to break out of the spectator experience into active participation. When you read a novel, you get into the narrative, and put yourself in the main character’s shoes. The same goes for TV shows.

Prevalence of Choice

Video games, however, provides more than just a deterministic experience. Video games, nowadays, seek to give players choices. Choices are constantly made in video games. RPGs provides you with statistical data that informs your choice of armor, weapon, etc.

Moral Choices

The best kind of decisions, however, are those that makes you think really really hard about your ideas by putting them to the test. Tell Tale Games like The Walking Dead, for instance, smacks moral decisions right in your face all the time. That’s not all: The game also wrecks you on the inside. It first holds your emotions hostage with immersion by giving you control over, say, your character’s movements and speeches. When you are fully immersed, the emotional connections you’ve made with the other characters are so deep that when you make the moral decisions, you are both rewarded and punished simultaneously, albeit in different ways. This example alone, gives moral decisions the proper weight that they entail in real life and also provides us with an imperative to introspect.

Socio-Political Ideas in Video Games and its Empathy-Inducing Function

Video games are not only confined to challenging moralistic status quo, it also challenges societal and political ideas. Persona 5, for instance, is filled with sociopolitical commentaries of the Japanese society. From corruption to the ignorance of the masses, this game not only comments on them, it puts the player in the shoes of the victims. Through long hours of gameplay that involves getting through chores and school on a daily basis, it is difficult for the player to not become the main character himself. This immersion itself provides a well-constructed empathetic mechanic that convinces the player of the creator’s ideas. That’s not all: games such as Democracy 3 also allow for an understanding of governments’ decisions through simulations, yet again pave way for empathy to take place.

In Praise of Video Games

The age of rational reasonings to convince the populace was never meant to be, as much as Aristotle or Plato wanted it since the ancient times. Humans are still emotional, as we saw with the rise of populism and Donald Trump’s method to secure electoral victory. Perhaps we need to stop convincing people to be rational, and instead appeal to their emotions through video games’ provision of empathy. Empathy isn’t manipulation, so the necessity of Machiavellianism can theorectically be discarded if video games can serve this purpose of being an empathy device.

Conclusion

Anime and video games are, in my opinion, media forms that are highly suitable for imagination and empathy to be manifested. These two things are the dual keys needed to solve many, if not all, human problems and conflicts respectively. Imagination spurs creative solutions, which Anime can be a testing ground for. Empathy, generated through the immersion of games, paves way for mutual understanding, promoting tolerance and the idea that no one has a monopoly over truth, or that perspective is reality. Doing so is within the capacity of video games. Hence, in praise of Anime and video games, I hereby give them their rightful places in my writings. They are to be additions to the support pillars in my writings and idea formulations alongside credible sources. They will, however, be strongly qualified as thought experiments – which is an important factor – rather than hard evidences. They will supplement and be the engine of my imaginations and empathetic function in my endeavor to provide solutions to solve human problems and conflicts. I hope you will also see the light and join me in my cause.

Signing off,

Jackson

Image credit: https://wall.alphacoders.com/tags.php?tid=9398

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