Video games, exploration, and the occluded mind

Posted on June 10, 2012
Filed Under Magic, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

I’m playing Max Payne 3 and Metal Gear Solid 3 right now. In playing both games, I’ve had to do a fair amount of exploration to find things that the characters could use to help them through their various quests. That’s actually a common feature of video games. Most games, at least current games, involve some level of exploration of the actual game levels in order to discover essential items to your quest or Easter eggs that game developers have placed into the game. If the player just relies on the map, s/he won’t necessarily find or experience all of the treasures of the game. Those can only be experienced by choosing to experience the territory of the game as it is, while only using the map as a superficial guide. The experience of the game is what makes it enjoyable.

In the Sphere of Art 2 by R. J. Stewart, He makes some interesting points about maps and territories:

When we begin to relate to the territory as it really is, we swiftly begin to lose our limited map. This can be a fearful experience of a joyous one, depending on our individual training, preparation and understanding. To be cast loose without the map that you need for for stability is at risk of going mad in unknown territory, while to throw the map away willingly in full awareness is to embrace risk and enter a new condition of sanity.

The experience of the territory is different from the map, because the territory is the actual experience, while the map is just a description, and not always an accurate one. Usually the map isn’t accurate because it can’t really show everything that is actually in the territory. This truth applies to video games, mystical secrets, trips on the road, any really any other experience you can have in life. The tendency to rely on the map isn’t necessarily bad or wrong. The map can be useful in terms of providing guidance and helpful hints for navigating the territory. But ultimately the map the can only provide a vague sense of the territory.

The experience of the territory is where the magician discovers the secrets and treasures that can only be found by choosing to explore what’s in the territory. Just as with a video game character, the magician needs to thoroughly explore the territory of the ritual. The magician needs to be curious and not settle for what is in front of him/herself. After all there are potential Easter eggs just waiting to be found, as well as story elements that might be missed if a thorough investigation isn’t performed.

What video games have taught me is that unless you fully explore the environment and get very curious you’ll likely miss key clues and information and resources that could help you with the game. I find the same is true with magical work, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say a magical working is exactly like a video game, there’s something to be said for cultivating curiosity in your magical work, to embrace risk and discover what is hidden away.

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