Opinion

“Essay Twenty-Five: Conversation with Patrick Ward–On Where the Wild Things Are, Country Music, and Rites of Passage”

Serialized specially for The Well-Red Mage, based on the podcast by Wesley Schantz

 

 

bookwarm “The following is a contributor post by the Bookwarm Mage.”

Wesley Schantz: We’ll begin at the beginning then. We were talking briefly last night, and maybe you can tell the listeners about the context there: it was the Wild Things

Patrick Ward: Right. I was putting my son to bed reading Where the Wild Things Are, which is a great book that I apparently didn’t remember from my childhood but picked up again.

What’s the best part about it?

I did remember from when I was younger that Where the Wild Things Are had really good images of what a Wild Thing would be; the pictures of the half-dozen different Wild Things are really good. So now that I’m an adult they still really look really wild. That archetypal Wild Thing, that’s the best thing about it.

The three pages in the middle where they dance the wild rumpus, that’s the part where, for me, the words Wild Rumpus have stuck with me even more than the pictures.

Image result for where the wild things are

“Max declared, Let the wild rumpus start.” As a grown up reading a book to a 1-year-old you really… it opens the floor to whatever you want to do right there. You can either page through and the kid won’t know the difference, or you can describe what they’re doing on the pages, or you can kind of let your imagination go wild and just say whatever you want to say.

Did you and Mary Ann take turns reading, or was she doing other stuff while you read the book?

She was ready to come in from the wings as I was finished with that one to finish putting him to sleep.

You all team up on that?

Yeah, she usually takes the lion’s share with that, but he likes it when I read.

So you’ve got the Wild Rumpus and that stuff going on, but then at the end of the book (and this was the part of it I didn’t remember) you said it ends with him smelling the soup still in his room or something. His supper?

Yeah, he for some reason gets the sense that he wanted to be where someone loved him the best. It seems like he’s in that world that he created for himself but it’s… maybe he realizes it’s kind of a false love that the Wild Things have for him as the King of the Wild Things. He stares into their eyes and that scares them, I remembered that trick that will establish him as the King of the Wild Things. But then later on after the rumpus he starts to get the sense that he wants someone else to love him maybe in a more genuine way. It’s then when he smells his supper from across the sea, across the world, and then he goes, comes out of his imaginary world and goes back to his room where his supper is still hot.

That’s pretty germane to where I’m at right now with EarthBound, actually. Because Ness, where we left off, he’s about to be in a world of his mind’s creation. It’s sort of his dream or his imagination, and we’re going to see how he returns to the waking world, to real life, at the end of that. But I saw you got a chance to listen to the conversation with Steven Abel that I did a while ago. What do you think?

I thought it was pretty good. I’ve known Steven for a number of years and played some video games with him. His style is somewhat, what you might say, like, trash talk. Usually we played a lot of Mario Kart Double Dash. So that’s kind of where I enter the conversation. Steve seemed to be on his best behavior for that conversation.

Well he’s a very well-spoken and courteous young man! He’s also a lawyer now, so he’s come a long way, I’m sure, since your days in The Shop playing Double Dash and whatnot.

Yeah, he’s quite well-spoken…

You’re partly responsible for getting this podcast started. As I think I mentioned in one of the first episodes, you had encouraged me to start making the podcast after you were listening to some TED talk about a guy who takes cold showers. Can you set the scene there for everybody?

I had been in this thing for the Catholic Church for Lent, they got a bunch of people together to get their mind-frame set for Lent, which was actually a really enriching thing to go to. It opened the door for me to do the 40 days of cold showers challenge. They had a TED talk they showed everybody, to get yourself psyched to do something difficult. This guy would just describe his experience with the challenge of taking cold showers for 30 days, having to get rid of hot showers. I think he was trying to get a new job or to improve his life in some way. The advice to him from some entrepreneur was, take cold showers. Anytime you’ve got to do something difficult in your life, just start taking cold showers. Because if you can do that–straight cold, no tempering at all, just get in the cold shower and do your business–if you can do that for yourself, then maybe you can think about doing something difficult when other people are on the line. If you have to be responsible for making decisions for other people, there’s more gravity to it. So anyway I listened to that and told you I was taking cold showers for Lent, and since you had been talking about doing a podcast, I said so just go do it. I think we made a pact of some kind, where you were going to do one on some day of the week, I forget what the bet was, but you did it.

I don’t know, but hopefully it’s moot at this point. I haven’t done it every single week but just about. And I don’t know about the cold shower thing. I think I get the gist of it, as a mind over matter thing. It’s the no tempering of the cold that I don’t think I could do. I haven’t tried.

You can. I think anybody can do anything. Like they mention, imagine the people on the Titanic who fell in the cold ocean water. Some survived–and some didn’t. Put yourself out there and swim.

I guess it’s very different, though, making it a voluntary choice. I think that seems important.

It’s extremely important. I’m not saying I always live by this, or that I’m capable more so than anybody else. But if you can do that, it’ll train your brain for: OK, I’m going to get a shock, and… and just do it anyway.

Starting a new project or, say, having a child, I don’t know, or getting married–these sorts of things, shocking experiences… Back in the day, these are the sorts of things that you would have some sort of initiation ceremony that goes along with it. With marriage, we’ve still got that. The ceremony, in most cases it’s got a religious or at least community- gathering element to it. But we don’t necessarily do that so much with other things anymore where they would normally fit in. I know one ceremony that we have partaken of is graduation. We went to the same school back in Gaithersburg, for high school–

There we go!

–and I remember getting all dressed up in the robes for that and wearing the special hat, the mortarboard, right, you get to throw it up in the air and that sort of thing. But even that, I guess has become a little less… has lost some of its mystery or emotional weight. What do you think? Now that you’ve got a son, what are some of the kinds of rites of passage that you look forward to guiding him through in his life?

This year I bought a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 that needs more work done to it than it’s worth–my wife will tell you all about how terrible that is–but I can imagine… I want to work on that truck with my son as he becomes older (and we have another son on the way, too). That’s a father-son kind of project that I’m thinking about. And in my mind… I recently started listening to country music, just like pop-country. It’s kind of, I don’t know the right word to describe it… [long pause] It’s kind of like a lame form of musicality, it’s all played-out. It’s about trucks and tires and it’s cliche, but even with that it’s your place too, a part of your brain that identifies with those experiences.

Totally.

So I was thinking about doing that, and having my son take the truck that we’ve been working on to the prom or something like that. In my mind’s eye that’s what he’s playing with. You know, I never had a cool truck when I was younger, so I want him to have it. That’s what I’ve been thinking about. And what we talked about with ceremonies, there’s a baptism for when you have a child, and that’s why I’m saying that religion has– I say religion, maybe that’s a hot-button word. But that’s the purpose of religions, to kind of ceremonialize things. And so the graduation may be a little bit watered-down, that’s kind of the sense I’m getting from you. Everybody gets a trophy, everybody’s going to graduate, everybody goes to college, everybody wants to go to grad school… 

It’s kind of the flip-side of the democratization of education. It’s a good thing, but the flip- side of it is that things that were very special and rare accomplishments get sort of diminished, as they become more this mass kind of thing rather than a few… But here’s the example I was going to bring up at some point: I don’t know if this was while you were in college or after, but you went on a big road trip. It would have been with a different car… Is that the one that just died?

It is the car that just died, and I totally unceremoniously turned her in as a trade-in. It even struck me as I was doing it that there was a total lack of ceremony. Just, here’s the title, I need to go to home to sleep. That was a 2004 Malibu Classic that had 165,000 miles… 

So what prompted you to go on that road trip, and what sort of memories stick with you from it now looking back? 

That was kind of a turning point in my life, where I had been working one job but I was transitioning to a new job which has since become kind of my career, and I knew that it was going to be an all-in type of deal for the next several years. So I told the people when I was starting the new job that I couldn’t start until the end of summer. It was going to take me that long, I had to drive to California and back. And I was going through a relationship transition, you know, a breakup, and trying to figure things out. So I drove to New England then through Nebraska and Colorado, California and Texas, North Carolina and back to Maryland, and just saw the country. That’s another country-song type of thing, where you just travel the country, see what there is to see and have some experiences. I thought to myself that I would establish myself. What’s my spirit, my spirit animal, that’s what I was looking for. I ended up taking a lot of pictures of sculptures of all different things like moose, eagles, dinosaurs… things I happened to see that were right on the road. In fact, there’s… what’s the sculptor’s name? There was a guy that I had seen pictures of his work online, an artist that made sculptures of animals out of stainless steel bumpers of cars. He was in Crested Butte, Colorado. What was his name? It escapes me at the moment. I never actually made it there. I remember being at the top of this mountain and trying to find this guy’s workshop. I came probably within ten miles, but I had to leave. From somebody in the town that I was talking to, they pointed me in a direction, but I said no, that’s kind of weird, I don’t really know this guy, can I just show up at his shop? I just kept going. I passed through, but I met somebody later on in California when I finally got there and told them about this quest to see the sculptor who made these amazing sculptures–because I’m a metalworker, I like welding and fashioning things–and I told this random person in California who was from Colorado, and they said, yeah, he totally would have received you and showed you around. You could have… And I was like, man, I totally missed my shot. That was one thing, one quest… I don’t know how that relates back to EarthBound, if there’s a good archetypal adventure story that can be read into my story… 

Bull Sculpture

For sure. It’s very interesting that you got so close to meeting the person face to face and then only later realized that you really could have and it would have been fine–according to this stranger in California. You know, to me I feel like growing up a lot of my memories are the things that I didn’t do, if that makes sense. Going through the motions, sort of getting through school and doing sports and what not, all sorts of fun stuff, playing video games… but also there’s so many more things that when you look back… Jeez, you could have done could have done so much more! One quick example: back in fifth or sixth grade when they were trying to get people to be school bus safety patrol officers, do you remember? Patrols! And you went through the process, and I started it but then I was like, no, I don’t want to do this, and I quit the process. I still think that was such a shame.

I did it and I got my blue badge and I was so happy. And then I realized, this is a sham, man! This is like… I’m a piece of the system now. It doesn’t mean anything for real.

Oh but it does!

I was only a patrol for like a few months I think…

I think it does matter, though. That’s still something.

I remember what you did, too, though, was “Great Books.” They had us in, what was it, like second or third grade or fourth grade–might have been fourth–they had us do once a month this great books seminar during recess. And you and all the other smart kids read the books and talked about them and did the thing. I think I went to one meeting of that, and I said, I want to play, I’m going outside. Not reading–you know, as much as I understand how important reading and literature is, I’m going to go play, man.

Playing, at that age certainly and maybe in general, is at least as important. And if reading is simply work and being forced to do it, and it doesn’t have that element of play to it, then I don’t think it’s a particularly good use of time anyhow. One other thing that makes me think of: do you remember when we would get together and write stories on the computer with Ronnie and Billy? This was at the substitute school, when they were rebuilding Rosemont. Grosvenor, it was called. And we would hang out in the hallway and on the computer, and the stories were always about Zelda and video games. They were like adventures that Link would go on with his companions.

The dot-matrix printer and light-colored type, yeah.

Yeah, you could change the pictures that went with your words. I don’t know if you could change the font, but the font was really cool, I remember thinking.

Courier!

There you go. So those kind of projects I think were really valuable. You know, I really wish I could find one of those old printouts of that stuff. If you have any of those, you’ve got to send them along.

I do have a similar file that I’ve been keeping with me…. I was able to listen to that Steve Abel conversation; I’m glad I was on the podcast but I’m not as glad that Steve was before me… but I am glad that also you made the rule where you can only come one time on the podcast, so our conversation’s obviously going to be better. We will have the best conversation. So that aside, I remember that, like Steve was talking about keeping a locker storage unit of video games for $50 a month, I’ve been keeping a file of our little stories that we wrote. It was you and me and Ryan O’Connor. There’s like a Pickle Emporium, and we started to write the video game called The Adventures of Etc. Ryan was learning Java to make a video game and I think it was loosely modeled on the archetypal epic RPG story. I don’t know how far we got with that, but yeah, I’ve got that file and I will send it to you.

Far out! You at least are on the show before Ryan. He’s working on making some time, I think.

He played EarthBound more than I did; I think I only got through the first town or something, I don’t think I got to Twoson.

That’s interesting to me, because you had older sisters growing up; I had a younger brother but older neighbors and friends who played a lot of video games, so that’s kind of how I got into it; and Steve had an older brother who played a lot of video games and soccer; and then Ryan is an only child. That’s something I was going to talk to him a little bit about, actually: what that was like and how he got into video games. For me it was always from basically older brother-type figures, if not an actual older sibling. With you guys, you and Amy and Sally would play a lot of Mario World, right, stuff like that?

That was from the Wells’ influence, actually.

Oh yeah, the Wells!

I remember playing Sega Genesis with Steven. I tried to find it–not Street Fighter, but some similar game where there’s a couple of dudes who are like big and muscly and they would walk from left to right…

Double Dragon? Streets of Rage

Maybe… it was a really good game. It could be any of the above. That was my initiation into video games, which is something I was thinking about. Where I was always into more of an action-adventure, move around and do physical stuff type of game, I didn’t know about the RPGs until I think you introduced me to it. You and Ryan, probably when you guys played Final Fantasy VII and, you know, EarthBound.

You got in kind of late in the game, and it makes sense you didn’t get as into it.

I feel like it was my eighth birthday, I forget if it was… There was a birthday when I really wanted a Super NES and I think that I thought that I didn’t get it and I was really emotional about it, because I guess now thinking about it, it was something you guys were doing but I didn’t have it at my house so I couldn’t play along. It was almost like you and I were talking about last night: we don’t have internet at the new house yet, so it’s almost like you don’t have access to socializing, you don’t have access to the group, and that’s a really detrimental thing. So I’m glad that I finally got a Super NES. I think that I played Super Mario mostly, like you mentioned.

These days it’s mostly having internet and maybe a smartphone that can play whatever the new cool game is supposed to be. The socializing is generally through phones.

At the bare minimum, if not an iPhone you have to have texting. If you can’t text then you can’t play with the kids.

Exactly. The social game of being connected. EarthBound, yeah, wasn’t really your thing, but then you got into Final Fantasy VIII, right, that was the one that you played a lot of?

Yeah, that was more my specialty. I think I must have played Final Fantasy VII afterwards. I did it backwards, and you guys were telling me VII was way better than VIII

I still think so! I played it first… But there’s some interesting stuff going on in VIII. I guess what appealed to you about it?

It was good because it was the game that I had.

That makes sense.

I don’t know, I liked it. The thing about RPGs that I tended to do, for video games and then I guess for life in general, was just to collect things. How I operated was to collect all the magic in Final Fantasy VIII; it came in like little balls or gems or something and you had to draw them out of your enemies. So I’d just sit there for hours and hours and draw until each person in the party had 99 of everything. Like, I would sit and level up until people’s levels were ridiculous and the boss wasn’t difficult. That’s just kind of how I did it. When I played Final Fantasy VII I leveled up everything to MASTER.

Got it. That kind of mastery approach. 

When I went to play Final Fantasy Tactics, I made each character go through every single job–

Holy smokes!

Yeah, that’s kind of how I played it. Unrealistic, maybe, and maybe it’s not the way the game maker intended to either.

I think that’s a completionist sort of attitude, which is definitely a thing. Whereas it takes a lot of time and it does have a more– like you say you do metalworking and stuff– it’s the more craftsman-like approach to the game, maybe, and less of a storytelling sort of approach like I would take to it.

In fact most of the time in the games I would just click through the story-line. That’s how I did it.

This is how you would spend your time, right? You only have so much time to allocate to the game, and clearly you put a lot into it, so you wanted to put that time where you felt it was best.

Yeah, I wanted my stats. You can see that, you can see the status. I don’t need the knowledge of the context of why we’re here, I just know that’s the bad guy and you can have 99 lives or whatever.

I mean that’s basically the underlying structure of the game. It is just that, right? Here’s your party, this is the enemy, and by becoming more, whatever, having higher levels, higher stats, like you said, then that’s how you win the game. That’s the basic structure of the game in a sense. For action-adventure, beat ’em up, Grand Theft Auto even to an extent, the story is much less foregrounded there and it’s much more a sense of yeah, yeah, click through– let’s get to the actual game.

It’s almost like, what popped into my head is it’s like a video pornography where the story-line you might as well leave out, what you want to do is get to the action.

That’s a comparison– the creator of EarthBound goes one further. In an interview– I haven’t been able to track it down in a long time but it used to be on someone’s website where he interviewed Itoi, the writer, the creator of EarthBound–he basically likened a good video game to not a porn video but to an actual prostitute, and said basically the aim of video games is to relax the player in the way that an encounter with a prostitute would, or something, something along those lines. And I’ve always sort of felt that that can’t be quite right. I see how there is an element of that, maybe that is a thing that playing video games can do, but it strikes me that they’re much more not like pornography or something but like opera, at least RPGs. They have so much else going on in them, so much more spectacle, so much more music, for one thing, and the visuals are like for a cinematic form, it strikes me.

Final Fantasy VII was excellent.

It’s super, super atmospheric and cool. Opera… just to follow that thought out a little more, opera is like a pretty elite sort of art form, it’s not something that appeals to most people. Most people are much more down with country music or something like that, so I don’t know, maybe your salt of the earth kind of guy.

I think there are different types of people, and you in particular are a person who is able to understand the art form in a deeper way and connect it to other sorts of art forms that bring out the underlying humanity. Because you’re able to do that, but most people probably just click through and they’re like, okay let’s get some gameplay. I don’t think a lot of people are able–like, this podcast is an awesome comment on a lot of different topics, but you have to know a lot about a lot, and you have to play EarthBound a lot to know it.

I guess so. I appreciate that. I would like to make– I think particularly the conversations are ways that I try to make the podcast have a more broad kind of appeal, and that’s something that I’d like to do better in the lectures, as well, is find ways to draw in more different kinds of people, more people with different backgrounds. I don’t know if I got you listening to him or you got me onto it, was Jordan Peterson’s podcast. I think he does a really good job of talking about stuff in a way that’s accessible to general listeners, people who are not necessarily deeply versed in a lot of the literature that he talks about. He nevertheless makes it look appealing and entertaining.

I feel like I’ve read The Gulag Archipelago, he’s talked about it so many times in his podcast, or what’s the gist of it. Probably because he lives his life as a lecturer, and so he’s been able to practice many times what his message is. He’s able to distill it to a point where it’s able to reach the common person. But also sometimes what I notice in podcast is that somebody, not necessarily you the host but maybe I would say, why don’t we clarify this point, let’s define what an RPG is, role-playing game versus an action adventure game, what’s the distinction there for the people that haven’t played video games. That’s how you bring them in.

Yeah, it’s a language, almost, a vocabulary.

Just by listening–and I haven’t played EarthBound–but listening to you talk about it is a great way so I don’t have to spend so much time to gain the riches that come out of it.

Well I hope this is also an invitation to something that’s been effective, to Peterson and another podcast I listen to a lot, the Tolkien professor, and then my friend Alex also helped motivate me to start making podcasts. That’s a big part of it, too, when you do listen to this stuff or you play the game or you hear about the thing enough, then part of the byproduct of that is that it gets you interested in trying out making one. Have you been thinking about making a podcast of your own? I know we talked a little while ago about your AmPatCorp.

The corporation. The American Patrick Corporation–and you have to say The in front. The American Patrick Corporation.

So tell us a little bit about where that stands at this point.

That is slowly plodding, and I think it will come to fruition over time. I realize that it can’t be– that’s kind of the embodiment of a lot of, when you and Ryan and I were sitting in one of our basements playing video games, reading books, and fiddling with things, scheming–this is like the embodiment, the realistic embodiment of one of those schemes. It’s kind of a social comment at the same time that it’s a legitimate corporation, an umbrella corporation to house my real estate initiatives, my sub companies and subcontracting companies. When you’re older, you have to get out into the world and start producing something that’s useful to society. And it has to be genuinely useful. So in an artful way you have to combine what you did as a youngster with what’s actually useful. One example is the podcast: this is useful to bring people together, useful to educate people about different things, and it kind of comments on your return to your childhood. That’s one thing that Peterson talks about, this epic tale of adventure, having gone to the world, you circle back around and come back home. That’s what the video games are for. This is one of the schemes: right now my wife and I moved to a new home, and our old home we kept as a rental property. So eventually I’ll incorporate that real estate company within The American Patrick Corporation. Also I had plans or thoughts of, not doing a podcast but doing like The Real World (but The Real World already did it). Staging things. Or like Drunk History, something similar. That’s where somebody will just get a bottle of whiskey or whatever and start drinking at the same time that they’re telling something historical. Hilarious, they fall over– that’s just a fun time all around. From an angle that is the realness of a history lesson and the hilarity that is the drunkenness… And when I say drunkenness it makes me think of Ness, and I wonder if there’s some conspiracy theory, if the name Ness has anything to do with the way you can put a -ness on the end of any word?

Yes. Was that something that Bercaw came up with? Who was trying to get it to catch on as a word: the -ness. See, these are just the kind of creative things that when you’re hanging out with your friends while they’re drinking–or not–you get to come up with. Right, we had a lot of great discussions among our friends, and it comes back to the idea that you do sort of learn a language, but in doing so you get to create it. You make something new, whether it’s a podcast or just like confabulating, making up stories, making up words, thinking and scheming. I think that aspect of it– for one thing, Ness as a character, he doesn’t really have a lot of personality of his own at first. He’s the thing that you can freely project whatever personality you see fit upon. A stand-in for the player, the person imagining the story as they play through. As you go along he does start to gain a personality. You start to notice little things about where he’s different from the other characters. They each do have a concrete personality set out for them, so Ness starts to get more defined as he goes along on the journey, along with the things you’ve already identified with him, you’ve already projected yourself. He’s the only one who gets homesick, so what does that mean? He’s the one who is you; as you described it, he represents that desire to return home. If you have projected yourself onto him in that sense what that would mean is the player–you–wants to return to your home. Whether that’s literally where you’re from, or just the real world: to come out of the game and return to actual life, your daily ordinary things. It’s definitely interesting, too, because -ness is the suffix of generality, the quality of Being that’s attached to something, but on the other hand it’s this concreteness, the substance of anything is its -ness.

That was the Bercaw definition, yeah.

The essence. There’s a really good scholastic word. To wrap up: one of the stories you wrote at some point, when you were doing shot put or discus or both, you wrote a story –what was the character’s name who spends and wins?

Oh you mean the dude– his name is Dooley.

Yeah, Dooley! Could you tell the story? I assume you’re not drinking right now, but in your best storytelling manner, tell the story of Dooley.

So, Chris Dooley. Chris Dooley was like… maybe he’s almost the thing that American Patrick seeks to be. I don’t know, maybe that’s too much pressure for him. American Patrick is at the same time like a lovable idiot/ country-song character, and he’s also something that you kind of look at and scoff at. To wrap up with The American Patrick Corporation: it’s the vehicle that houses the character that is American Patrick. And yes, he has my same given name. I don’t think that I’m the best American Patrick, but I’ll do the best job I can. He seeks to be an idiot that everyone can love and pay money to get his baseball cap, and also, you know, take over the world secretly using the structure of laws and finance and stuff like that. For the intellectual people, they can notice that American Patrick is kind of doing stupid things that everyone loves, that kind of cross between the intellectual side and the regular person, bridging that… So Chris Dooley. He was a smart guy, but it came out in different ways. As a shot putter, he was a big heavy muscly type; I think he played linebacker, or maybe he was a lineman on the football team. In case he could be listening, who knows, what’s up Chris if you’re there! But he was a shot putter and he taught me to throw shot put and throw discus. I was looking up to him as a high-schooler, I think I was a freshman or sophomore and he was the senior. Just him spinning, the way you spin to take your two steps and spin around and you throw the shot put? I was thinking as I was walking home through a field–it must have been sophomore year, because I didn’t have a car–and there was a flock of geese in this big field that I’d walk through, Canada geese with all the poop everywhere. I’m just imagining myself spinning and whirling and the geese flying up around me like a tornado kind of idea. I think I wrote a poem, like you’re talking about. I did some poetic work that I’ve lost touch with I don’t know if you remember…

I don’t remember it distinctly–I couldn’t remember the character’s name, for one thing– but I do remember the line about spinning and winning. You use that and build a repetition out of it. That was really quite effective. And the image of the geese, that’s really cool. Because they migrate, they go out and they return. That’s kind of an image of spinning as well. And why do they do that? It’s for the continuance of their flock, the next generation comes in and flies with the parents. So there’s something pretty deep there. Actually I do hope that old Dooley is listening, and the American Patricks out there are listening and are inspired to take their place in the Flying V.

Yeah. To sum up what we were saying earlier about the things that we didn’t do, then, I encourage you to do them: make your podcast. you know, do your project, whatever it is, just go out and do it.

Image result for shot put

I love it. The thing about spinning, too– when you do the shot put or the discus, you have that circle around you that you have to stay within. Or the long jump, when I would do the long jump I would think a lot about how there’s that line you can get as close as possible to, but can’t step over it or else it’s invalidated. You’ve got to stay within… and I think there’s something to that, as well, this idea that there’s a limit, or the rules of the game, the circle that you stay within for it to work. Describing the American Patrick using laws and using very subtle understanding of human nature and that sort of thing to win.

And I was thinking about another thing. Not to start another conversation, but about the limit: there’s a limit in the extent to which a video game can represent reality. The limit is being pushed. When you see the old games with like a 32-bit or 64-bit computer console it seems really primitive by today’s standards, because we’re pushing the limit with our technology. The intent is always to represent something that seems believable to the game player, something that looks like reality, that you can experience in a way that registers with your natural-born brain.

So you kind of lose yourself in it.

Yeah, the same way some novelists describe what is true… Something else that Jordan Peterson talks about is, a real story is real, but if you have the archetypal– I keep saying that word– it’s almost more than real, because it has all the parts that anybody can identify with. So you try to draw out, not just one story, but any story. It’s like every story. It’s the shape or the form of the story, if you like, which is something that a video game –you can start at the beginning, and to me it’s limited because it always ends at the end. There’s a general path and you can kind of deviate and do side quests and stuff, but mainly there’s a story, and there’s there’s just one story. We’ve pushed the limit on that, too, with video games that let you do whatever you want in the world. You’ve got Second Life.

Sandbox games you get to work freely within. That is an interesting sort of conundrum, though. It’s like, if the game becomes too real, then you get to this thought experiment of the Matrix, some situation– or what’s the newest thing now, where the kid plays the game so well that he saves the universe?

Ender’s Game?

There’s even a new one out now, it’s a Spielberg movie that just came out– Ready Player One, that’s it.

It’s almost like the games are trying to live life for people. I almost feel like I’ve pulled away. Like Steve Abel, I have a pile of video games that I haven’t set up yet. I carry them to the new house. When I moved to the old house I didn’t set up the video game console, because I was doing stuff. I was having a family. And so I wonder if, if you push it to the limit, you have to go out and live the video game. You have to live the archetypal story. You have to go do– make your podcast–

Right on.

So that kind of thing… Like, my son, I want him to go do things. And I’ll teach him to play video games, too. I’m going to set up a curved CRT TV, I mean, to get Duck Hunt and a gun, and I’m going to teach him to play video games. But at the same time you can’t spend all your time inside, just like your EarthBound Dad would tell you.

Exactly. Well, on that, we’ll call this the limit of the conversation, and let you get back to yard work, you know, doing the stuff you need to do.

Pulling weeds.

Thanks again, Pat, for your time! I really enjoyed getting to talk to you, gave me a lot of food for thought. Say hi to the folks and everybody back there in Maryland. I hope to see you again before too long.

Enjoy your time. Thanks a lot, Wes.

 

 

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