Controversy has for decades surrounded the issue of violence in video games. Much of this controversy, needless to say, has derived from ignorance and political opportunism. But a valid observation lies at the hubbub’s root. In video games, violence increasingly has been used as an organizing principle—even the organizing principle—behind gameplay. Too often violence is neither incidental nor contextually appropriate. Rather, it is an incongruous medium for all of one’s interactions. The player becomes, in the words of game designer and theorist Marc LeBlanc, Edward Pistolhands.
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor
In 1955, a Colombian Navy destroyer lost eight of its crew in the Caribbean Sea. All were declared dead. Beyond hope, crewman Luis Alejandro Velasco was found alive in Colombia ten days later. He had survived on a raft without supplies of food or water. The country’s dictatorship raised up Velasco as a national hero, and his tale was circulated widely in the state-controlled media. After a few weeks, Velasco offered to sell the rebellious paper El Espectador his complete and uncensored story. A young journalist named Gabriel Garcia Marquez took the assignment.
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is a splendid little work. Written by Marquez from Velasco’s perspective, it tells a story so human, so psychologically gripping, that it must be read to be believed. Marquez’s rare talent is made obvious as he relates Velasco’s experience: the vivid hallucinations, the unfathomable blackness of night at sea, the agony of starvation. Life of Pi rings false by comparison. At the end, we learn of Velasco’s fame. Immediately his friends became “friendlier than before”; and companies paid him to advertise their products, such as the brand of watch that he had worn aboard the raft.
Yet, the moment was to be fleeting. Through Marquez’s piece, Velasco revealed that the destroyer had been carrying overweight contraband, such as washing machines and televisions. This had, in part, caused the accident. Colombia’s government was scandalized; Velasco’s star fell; El Espectador was shuttered. The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor was not published as a book until 1970—and then only as a way to capitalize on Marquez’s own rise to fame. The story, however, remains excellent. Velasco’s is truly an eternal tale, of interest to anyone with a stake in the human condition. It may be acquired from Powell’s Books, Amazon or one’s bookseller of choice.
Still Eating Oranges
Little old Billy was playing and he fell down a hole, a big hole, deeper than anyone knew. He fell for a long time into a strange place, where houses were inside-out and animals were purple. It was hard to live there. Billy, Billy fell into the garden of a man who could speak forwards, backwards and diagonally. He had rainbow petunias that Billy ran through, and Ms. Clock kept ringing, ringing but no one understood. Billy got out of the confusion, no one could believe it, the people all looked like stardust…
In dreams, things are different.
Still Eating Oranges