Friday, August 19, 2011

A Phenomenological Examination of Video Games and Time

“I do not hear the melody but only a single present tone.”

Husserl’s examination of consciousness and internal time begins, as always, with questions, this time specifically concerning the constitution of time. In, On the Phenomenology of the Conscious of Internal Time, Husserl asks the reader to accept a couple premises leading to his evidence; not to disregard all transcendencies and that a temporal object contains both time and space. I think to understand this concept you must also accept that objects present themselves in profiles. He uses a melody for an example of a single immanent profile; hearing as perceiving in a simple form of perceiving. He asserts that you are able to differentiate between one note and the next and from note to note you no longer hear the previous. That being said, you must also accept that you don’t lose the notes past altogether in consciousness, you retain them in order to continue making sense of the tune. “Anticipatory expectation” is the first appearance of a protensive plain of consciousness. Further, Husserl discusses tones in the present; you only hear one tone in the present time. The entirety of the three phases he calls an act-continuum. He concludes that immanent time appears as a continual flow. You can’t distinguish one moment from the next because as you intend the idea of distinguishing, each of the moments to be distinguished have passed, nearly unnoticed and would then belong to memory and neither would be a present blip of time. That is not to say that whether something is noticeable qualifies it as a distinguished moment, however the act of distinguishing takes a part in the consistent unity and flow forward of conscious time.

In an effort to better qualify my understanding of the unity of conscious time, I actively sought an example to examine phenomenologically, and came up with the video game Guitar Hero. Guitar is set up representing to play like a guitar, you “strum” and press “frets” and you do so in time with “notes” and a song on the screen. The flow of notes on the screen move continuously forward with only a sequence of four quarter notes consecutively able to be seen at any time. The object of the game is to be proficient in all of the act-continuum of time-consciousness’ relationship. At times, while playing Guitar Hero, my fingers respond to the visual mark on the screen too late, especially when playing songs I do not know. I have no protension in my present moment, so from one moment to the next I must tell my fingers to do only what I am receiving through perception in visual marks and tone-now’s. Sometimes, if a rather popular grouping of tones occurs, they collect in the past conscious, while being stored in retention and form a memory based apprehension. That is to say, from memory recollection in the retentive quality of time-consciousness’ relationship, a protension may occur without base of knowing the song but know tone groupings, similar.
Other instances, while playing Guitar Hero, my fingers preempt the timing for the game. My mind relies on its long-term memory signals to give me smaller time samples of time, so I may project what is to come. Unfortunately for my game, my long term memory is not sharp enough to accurately protense the tone-moment to come and I miss the point (and the tone now). Protension can be beneficial to game playing. The more I can anticipate accurately on the game the more probable it is that I will command my fingers properly. The protension of soon-to-be tone now’s are going to be both the now point and the past in a stream of consciousness Husserl’s vision of the relationship between time and consciousness is a continuous flow of acts; the current, the recent past and the projected future. This model is accurately applicable to, along with among most other experiences, playing video games. The examination Husserl gives of the tone in a melody is thorough and applicable also to all music and embodies consciousness and time relationship. 

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