19 October 2010

I Dream in Pixels - by Jacob Corum

      Posted 10/17/10 11:49:00 pm  

    There was an endless line of cucumber slices floating in mid-air that led me through a familiar but unrecognizable land. The fruit sat about four feet off the ground and they stretched,each cucumber uniformly spaced, for what seemed like miles. They were like a beacon, a delectable green arrow pointing me where I needed to go. Why did I need to go there? I wasn't sure but those cucumbers looked so damn delicious. They sat hovering, twirling in the air on their dark green edge like a spinning coin, their white-and-lime-colored faces flashing. They were so moist and crisp looking, like the food you only see in ads for grocery stores. How many were there? Could I take all of them? I followed the glistening slices for miles, wherever they went. Everyone I took just as satisfying as the last. And I didn't regret it- the world that I followed them through was just as green and as glorious as they were. Going so boldly, so quickly, down a path I had never traveled before was an adventure. It was thrilling. It was beautiful. And it was really weird. But that didn't occur to me until after I had woken up.


    I'm currently listening to the dream log I made three months ago and it doesn't make much more sense now than it did then. I don't remember waking up from the dream but I do remember the moment when I realized I was awake. I dragged myself out of bed with as much urgency as humanly possible at 2 o'clock in the morning and I quickly tapped the "record" button on my phone and started spouting nonsense, saying anything and everything I could about my dreams before they slipped away from me. I needed to hold onto this glimpse into my subconscious. I wanted to see what else I could discover about myself by looking into this realm I visited so often but could never remember. I described one portion of my dream as vividly as I could: I had been explaining to my dad why my job was important (though it was a job I have never had). Then I began to attempt an explanation of the floating cucumbers.
    This dream doesn't make much sense. Or at least not to you, not here on paper. But while I may not be able to understand the sense behind them I do know exactly what those cucumbers were. And though it may seem very strange, I think that some of you know exactly what it's like to follow the floating cucumbers through that beautiful world as well. Confused? Listening to the recording I can hear my own confusion, I knew that what I was saying into the microphone sounded insane but it seemed so completely normal when I was experiencing it just a while ago:


"I was living in this...green world...it was like a video game and there were these green...like pickle...things floating, going all throughout the level...they were the rings from Sonic."


    Have you ever had a dream and lacked to expressions to explain it? You woke up and tried to tell someone about the fantastic thing that just happened but then you realized that no words exist to explain what you just experienced? I've tried to explain to you what my dream was like but it would be much easier to understand if you have ever played the game "Sonic the Hedgehog".
    It's a game about traversing a colorful, beautiful world. You travel quickly, moving east across the world at blazing speeds. As you blaze through the land a trail is set out for you: Lines of floating, spinning, shining rings line your path. Each time you touch one there's the extremely satisfying little "ching" of a chime heard and the ring becomes a part of you. As long as you have at least one of these rings with you, you cannot die. Collecting these rings, for me is probably the most amazing part of the game.
    If you pick up enough speed, and if you know where to travel in this world, you can collect hundreds of rings. With enough practice you can make every step another satisfying "CHING"- another tiny victory. You start running more quickly trying to collect more and more, "CHING  CHING  CHING". The individual noises eventually merge into one sound, and as you go faster they sound like a musical engine revving up: "CHING  CHING  CHING  CHING CHING CHING CHING CHINGCHINGCHINGCHINGCHING"! It's a rush to receive so many rewards in such a manner. It's almost similar to taking a bite after bite of a large, delectable meal. You're working your way through this satisfying thing, doing your best not to leave any morsels un-enjoyed, and each bite bringing a little bit of pleasure. Just enough to keep you going. Personally finishing a course leaves me feeling like I've accomplished something. If it's a really good one I'll feel kinda sad to see that it's over but I'll also be eager to see what's coming up next. "Sonic the Hedgehog", to me, feels like eating meal and the faster it's eaten the more delicious it gets.


    What's funny is that it's just as difficult to explain the game as it is to explain the dream. I can certainly describe what is happening, but nothing can match the pleasure of experiencing it personally. In my dream I remember running along and collecting the rings of cucumbers, my path laid out ahead of me. I was chasing the good feelings, I was following the delectably satisfying rings. I did not know where they were taking me but I knew that the line wouldn't end and as long as I kept running only more happiness could come, and as long as I didn't let my path become obscured that unique joy would still be there. These feelings are identical to those I experience when chasing rings when playing "Sonic the Hedgehog".
    The things we experience in dreams and what we experience in games are both similarly unique in that it is difficult to convey their importance to someone if they have not experienced what you have. Both dreams and games lose their significance if the person examining them has no ties to them. Artists have spent lifetimes trying to accurately express themselves, trying to share with the world their dreams and nightmares. I can tell you now that I have done a less than sufficient job of expressing what this dream meant to me. I don't believe I could ever accurately described to you what following the cucumbers felt like through words, sounds, or pictures. However I do not need to express this feeling because it has already been expressed, and people experience it and play it every day. It's a feeling that I would not have known if I had not experienced it.
    Both games and dreams have an aesthetic that can not be conveyed through words or typical artistic mediums. This aesthetic, I feel, is often ignored when asking ourselves if games are significant enough to be pursued as a form of expression and not just entertainment. The aesthetic I refer to is experience- The feeling of living through and making choices as a medium.

I believe we need explore this aesthetic, and I intend to do so.

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Prash Nelson-Smythe
18 Oct 2010 at 3:03 am PST

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