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Seeing Time and Playing Games

January 18, 2011 at 10:16 am

People see time in different ways. Take a second to visualize, if you will, one year. Do you see a calendar? A circle? A rectangle? Small dots composing days which come together to create something else? Does your association with certain times of the year affect your visualization? Does summer have a warm yellow background? Is your “Winter” category framed in icicles? I tend to see the year as sort of eye-shaped, with the summer taking up the top half and, and a concave winter framed by spring and fall (I think my July-goes-on-forever feeling is mainly based on the summer/freedom connection that hits when you realize you’re not going to second grade for Three Whole Months, which is, you know, like 1/32nd of your entire life so far).

This was one of my favorite cool/weird ruminations last year (yes, my life is Argus). It took a while for me to realize that my almond year isn't shared: I talked to friends who see time as a series of lines and some who see it as spheres. I started to wonder what seeing time in the fourth dimension would be like (its natural habitat). I asked some physics majors a lot of questions. And I sat on the floor of my room in July and reminded myself that just because it felt like I was gone from college for an eternity didn’t mean it was true. Necessarily.

One of the very best things about college is that you never know what problem or experiment or idea will pull you next, but it happens all the time. An example:Every Friday, Carleton brings in a speaker for convocation. An hour is put aside where no one has classes and we all can go to the Chapel and hear someone speak. Convocation (“convo”) is probably one of my favorite things about Carleton, and I go whenever I can. Last term Sandra Cisneros read some of her new stories and we started this term with Sister Helen Prejean, the nun who counsels death-row inmates and wrote Dead Man Walking.

Last week, Jesse Schell came and his talk was billed as being about the “gamepocalypse.” Aside from dribbling in FIFA with my brother over break, my video game experience basically exclusively covers Mario (I kick butt at Crazy Taxi, but I don’t know if you can count that). Everyone I had talked to about convo was going either because they were really into computer science or their roommate was (non-exclusive “or”!). My roommate is the most amazing person in the world and she did show me the website where you can see Barack Obama dressed in gear appropriate for the weather of your town, but her true passions lie less in computers and more in art and chemistry and awesome earrings and saving the environment and making fantastic noodle kugel (more on this later). To say: no one I encountered in the two hours before convo was able to tell me what it would really be about. But on the very best kind of whim, my friend Anisa and I decided, at the very last minute, to go.

What Jesse Schell did, essentially, was discuss technology, the future of technology, and the future. I’m hesitant to say too much here, because it was mind-blowing and definitely deserves more than a paragraph and you should look him up online (there should be more on the Carleton website soon). But basically Jesse Schell talked about how in the future, everything will be a game and there will be point systems for every activity, run by companies that advertise and offer discounts and prizes. He posited that predicting the future is getting more and more difficult because the world is changing at a faster rate, but because of this, we can learn to predict more effectively because we have more instant feedback. He discussed how the future of technology will belong to those who want to make money, but also artists, those who want to satisfy human curiosity and adventure, and humanitarians. He talked about how the line between the real and the virtual will blur, and what that will mean. It was unreal. Maybe in several ways. To the point, actually, of me running to the Alumni Guest House, and asking to please be allowed to attend the post-convocation lunch (great Carleton thing #79: you [students] get to have baklava [delicious] with the speaker after convo if you email the organizer/run in and explain how your worldview has changed and you really must eat roasted potatoes and stuffed peppers [the food is, in case you haven’t gotten this yet, delicious] with this man). I was. It was great.

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