Walking up over the dunes from the beach, a brilliant harvest moon was rising from behind the pine forest that runs for miles north and south. Harvest moon? “Harvest Moon” was the name of a computer game played by our daughter in teenage years and which seems still in circulation.
I was born far too early to ever be adept at electronic games. The game where you played table tennis with two controllers connected to your television came out when I was at boarding school. There was great competition to use it at first, but after a while it seemed slightly absurd to try to play table tennis with an electronic controller, when it was much more fun playing with a table tennis bat in the games room.
By the time I was a student, Space Invaders proved beyond any doubt that I was not cut out to save Planet Earth. I stuck to the pinball table if I wanted to waste 10 pence pieces, it was much more mechanical and responded directly to physical force, usually with the “Tilt” light coming on, resulting in the loss of one of the three balls.
By the mid-80s there had been a revolution and I had been left a long way behind; the kids for whom we occasionally baby sat roared with laughter at my attempts at Donkey Kong. By the mid-90s there was Gameboy and the like. There was no prospect that the Super Mario brothers would ever rescue the princess under my guidance.
The games of the past were completely inane, devoid of any moral content or meaning. “Harvest Moon” made me think about the messages conveyed by their 21st Century successors. Our daughter was playing the game one evening. “Oh no”, she exclaimed, “my barn has fallen down and my cow has died – it was my only form of income.”
The game, I discovered, was based on agriculture. I was about to launch into a discourse on people whom I had met in Africa for whom their single cow was their only form of income. I was going to suggest that the death of this cow would be catastrophic, but I held my tongue.
I am part of the world that has trivialized everything – from human relationships to human survival, it has all become entertainment. Religion has been told that it must remain in the realm of the private and the personal, while consumerism dominates the public stage. There is no realm of human experience that is out of bounds.
Do the makers of computer games have the slightest inkling of what it is really like for a cow to die when you are poor? Do they even care?