Just a few quick notes here. There is as yet no repository offering Xiphos and Sword for SL. You can easily Yum the Clucene and development package from SL repositories. I decided to grab Sword and Xiphos SRPMs from the Fedora 13 Updates repository.
Sword builds after you satisfy the other dependencies using Yum. SL has them all, except Waf. You’ll need to pull that from FC13 SRPMs, too.
Xiphos is a bit more ticklish. The SPEC file calls for xulrunner-devel-unstable, but that has been obsoleted by the latest xulrunner-devel package. So I simply edited the SPEC file and changed that to match the reality. It built fine from the xulrunner-devel and works as it should.
The real problem with video games is they tend to cripple human intelligence in players.
It’s nothing new to taste the brouhaha over tenuous links between video games and violence. Someone with an ax to grind notes video games are addictive (which is demonstrably true) and goes on to assert some link between this virtual world escapism and anti-social behavior (not proven, perhaps unprovable).
It sounds reasonable, since we know addictive strands in human personality do create significant flaws in how people address their world. Who hasn’t faced the unreasonable, painful and destructive behavior of someone addicted to a chemical substance? The brain is a spooky place at the best of times, but crippling our interaction with reality by cutting ourselves off from the tools of perception, and replacing that with any number of fantasies, guarantees a measure of failure. Bad enough becomes inevitably worse than it has to be.
Yet we know most of humanity enjoys the escapes into fantasy precisely because they know it’s not real. If all we had to deal with were expansions on our awareness of just how badly broken the world really is, we would not call it “entertainment.” At the very most primitive level, entertainment compares the world we experience with the one we would like to see. It helps us to imagine what might be, to explore the possibilities. Those of us with a creativity quotient take the cue to decide what has been done before isn’t necessarily the result of thorough examination, and there may well be a better way on some level. Invariably, such creativity will extract just a few more improvements from reality. We need a slice of humanity to always chase dreams or we have no hope of salvaging anything at all from the past.
Something inside us knows when an element of a particular encounter is false in some way. If all we get from such moments is a vague discomfort, then the only result is more tension, more pressure to escape heedlessly. If we structure our escape by giving place to human weakness along with more noble elements of human nature, and mix these things differently, we learn more about both. A fantasy which is too chaotic is not entertaining. It has to connect tangentially to reality in some way, so that it mimics reality with different rules. What would you do if the context of your world changed? How would your character manifest? You can learn a great deal about yourself and your very real world by indulging in good and artful fantasy. It makes you better able to discern the falseness in the real world.
There are some badly broken people in this world, and withholding from them fantasy won’t improve their condition. Engaging them in fantasy won’t make them measurably worse. Such people are everywhere, and it’s simply not possible to identify them all and keep them away from the entertainment the rest of us need, and should be permitted.
The problem is not with fantasy, per se, but the means of delivery. It’s not so much a problem with mindlessly violent fantasy via video games, but video games themselves. As the experience approaches total immersion in an alternate reality, it is not the barriers of mere judgment which are broken, but the level of improvement those experiences offer. A major element in the social good from entertainment is suspense of the ego, the losing of a measure of the self so that those inner resources are set loose. If you loose too much of yourself, those inner resources get lost, too. Full sensory engagement consumes the subconscious as well, and disorients the recalibration process.
Literature, recitations, music and live drama all have proven beneficial in the process of raising the level of human intelligence. They provoke a level of ego suspension which strikes a fair balance between ugly reality and complete disconnection. The problem with even ordinary video is the very well established effect of hypnosis, in that it suspends too much of the ego, and goes too far by grabbing all the resources of human attention, weakening or even killing the subconscious processes. Just yesterday I experienced this afresh, being caught by a running video display in some business. It was mindless and stupid, and offered only the shallowest of moral elements, but I was nonetheless transfixed by the spectacle. At some point I tore myself away and felt guilty, because I wasted some part of myself to no good purpose. It wasn’t even that entertaining, but it was absorbing by virtue of how much of my ego it consumed. Video games go one step farther, by engaging your direct interaction under conditions when your subconscious is mostly inactive. Not to the point of making you mindless and utterly shaped by the experience, as the nanny-state proponents allege, but bad enough to fail the mission.
I don’t see a tipping point, but more of a sliding scale. Every day we see advances in virtual reality, in the absorption of the ego into an alternative world. I suppose at some point we may see people utterly crippled by the experience. I doubt it will make them any more violent than is already the case with the mass of humanity, but it will certainly make them less intelligent on some level. For example, in the linked article, we note Carole Lieberman plays a silly game by asserting a fantasy as reality, and the gamers respond in kind by asserting a fantasy regarding her books in Amazon reviews. Both are a matter of spewing words. That our society already suffers from a vast layer of fantasy from carefully controlled inputs is not the question; it’s really easy to discount both Lieberman and the gamers. When the business of writing and selling books is more like games, when a visit to Amazon becomes the sort of consuming and absorbing experience as that stupid movie I saw, I think humanity will be a lost cause. I’m pretty sure those predisposed to gaming are approaching that now, but the rest of us will surely face the same absorption at every turn as soon as the psychopaths can arrange it.
But neither gaming nor advertising is a major moral threat in the sense Lieberman alleges. Morals are too complex to be gained or lost that easily. Rather, there is a different kind of moral threat from a world which cannot communicate at all without taking the easy path of making a vapid video to post on YouTube. The greater danger is not in causing us to do bad things, but to do nothing at all. That business of sucking up the whole of our minds renders us inert and passive. Only on a very superficial level will it cause people to use poor judgment in doing things; at the very core the issue is they’ll just go along for the ride because that’s all they know.
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