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  • Up From the Feuilleton: Theory of the Filmic Game

    [05.08.07]
    - Dow Harris
  •  Before time began and before Nature moved upon the face of the void, God - the Mind - dwelt in darkness and solitude; as an egg in space was the Mind. Even the Mind knew nothing, for there was nothing Intelligible. But at once the Mind thought the first thought - and then there were two.
    Between these two - the Mind, who is the bridegroom, and his bride, who is his Thought, and whose lips drip with honey
    because she is wise - did all intelligent things come to be.

    - Abarisi

    Amazingly, neither a major motion picture nor a video game has yet been made based on Herman Hesse's final masterpiece, The Glass Bead Game. Hesse received a Nobel Prize in 1947, for which The Glass Bead Game was specifically cited. While sitting amongst the Swiss Alps during one of the most critical points in the twentieth century, the middle of World War II, he dreamed a powerful vision of the future that posits a complex game as the pinnacle of human mental achievements and the primary activity of intellectual elites.

     The Glass Bead Game is an existential commentary on the conflict of mind and body and a reflection on the disputes of the tempestuous period in which Hesse was writing. It also offers potential speculation as to why gaming has become such an overwhelming force in today's postmodern society. This effort is dedicated to popularizing Hesse's futuristic vision of Western culture. The focus will not be on the construction of an actual Glass Bead Game as much as it will be on a narrative environment in which the game unfolds. Using The Glass Bead Game as a prototype subject, a theory of the Filmic Game is offered.

    Stories and games, stories in games, and games in stories are converging into a hybrid art form that blends cinematic narrative with dynamic interaction. The formation of Wingnut Interactive in September of 2006 is a sign of the times, heralding a concept known as the ‘filmic game'ii. This art form resembles life more so, perhaps, than any previous discipline because it is dramatic, story-driven, moves backward or forward according to the participant's decisions and is disturbingly real. Thus, it is existential. The Glass Bead Game is an ideal narrative for this new storytelling discipline because it is an existential story about a game by one of the foremost authors of the twentieth century. And, it is a story, which, up until now, has hardly been touched by the newer media.

    In trying to understand some of the underlying reasons for our culture's obsessive fascination with gaming, it might be useful to go back and investigate Hesse's work. Throughout the text, the word Game is capitalized. Hesse thus transforms the meaning from just a game into the Game. The Game is sacred. All games contain within their kernel, elements from the Game. In Hesse's consideration, gaming represents a metaphysical activity. But why is this so?

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