Game Metaphor: Predeterminism, Free Will and Non-Player Characters

A2l8Nc1445045663This is the first in what will be several articles regarding the Game Metaphor, so let me start by explaining that. It is really simple, actually. Just imagine the world, the universe and all of reality is the most complex game in existence. Not literally, but metaphorically. Not that this existence is an actual game, but by studying reality in the language of games, we can understand it in useful ways. Since video games are the most complex form of games, it is that model I have found it most useful to draw metaphors from, even though I am not at all a video game enthusiast.

Further explanation of the Game Model will be provided as we discuss reality through this lens. Where we will begin is via an explanation of the people who exist within this reality. I have long noticed that a great number of people tend to display a lower amount of sentience. They possess less metacognitive facilities (thinking about thinking) and display less awareness of their selves and their environment. However, this distinction is not so much about intelligence as it is about the ability to perceive and process.

For this reason I think that any scale of a persons sentience would be far less like an IQ test and much more like an obstacle course. Highly sentient people move with grace and purpose stealthily through every day life, whereas many people are prodding, poking, fumbling beasts who seem to be navigating the world with toddlers body and mind. I can spot a low sentience being whenever an individual or groups crowds needlessly together, especially in busy passageways or near choke-points like doors or intersections. The highly sentient person cracks a door and slips through, while the low sentient folks open it all the way and then amble through. The lowest sentience types may even just stand in the doorway holding the door, despite the fact that there is a reason that the door exists, which is to separate things inside from those outside, like bugs or temperature. While I used to think that these people were merely stupid or selfish, I now see that they are quite unable to understand the bigger picture and thus the context in which their behavior is not in line with meaning and purpose of things around them. You may think I am just venting about a pet peeve here, but how we react to our environment really is an indicator of our awareness.

If you have ever played a game, you have undoubtedly encountered non-player characters (NPC’s). NPC’s are those figures in a game who do not represent a game player. They make up the shop keepers, the townspeople and the other game characters who are more like props than they are like actual people. They are mere functionaries, serving a specific limited purpose in the game, from selling magic swords to simply filling the empty space.  If you have ever watched these characters react to the game environment you have likely noticed that they either have very narrow behavioral patterns and that these are often graceless, blocky and clumsy. Exactly how low sentience humans behave. So this was my first clue that reality may have its own NPC’s, those who I earlier labeled low sentience individuals.

For a long time I have been concerned with predeterminism and free will, specifically, which of these is the correct way to view human behavior. I had argued very heavily against predeterminism, predicated on the fact that I could logically deduce that predeterminism necessitated a serious self-contradiction. However, this was also centered around the idea that humans were logical beings, which was an obviously flawed precept. It was when I began to use the Game Model that I realized it was not an either/or proposition. I began to see us as programmed with a basic set of scripts. Evolutionary traits and instincts are part of every humans composition. Yet in some the ability to break free of this limited programming and act as conscious agents with full volition will occasionally manifest. However, since it does not in most folks, predeterminism really does steer many peoples behavior most of the time. Thus, reality has its own share of NPC’s, that is, individuals with limited scripts and an inability to expand them on their own. Often it seems the only drive for these game entities is to fancy up their Avatars, which is the reason for a civilization increasingly engaged in so much materialism and compulsive consumerism.

And then there are those who, through some combination of accident and self-design, become more aware of the bigger picture. Their own awareness and that of their environment expands until their behavior becomes a measured action in response to their environment and not just a prescribed reaction. Unlike NPC’s who play the board one move at a time, a Player is the person who who looks many moves in advance.

However, there are not just Players and NPC’s, but also Programmers. Where Players are those who evolved beyond their initial conditions as a NPC (the true meaning of Original Sin or the Fall From Grace), Programmers are those who have evolved past merely playing the game into shaping and creating it.

Reality is nothing more than our collection of beliefs about reality. Reality does not exist, but is in a constant shape of flux, being recreated in every moment of our existence. So if you want to change reality, you have to change what we believe about reality. This is not easy, since you cannot change any single aspect of reality on its own. I could not, for example, change the color of the sky simply by getting a majority to believe it was a different color. The color of the sky is an interconnected belief, dependent on many other beliefs about reality. To change the color of the sky you would need the belief that does that to be consistent with other beliefs, which is to say, you would have to change a greater number of beliefs to do so. This is why we cannot magically recreate reality with our will, as some New Age adherents often propose. We cannot do so because every aspect of reality is dependent on many other aspects and requires a great consensus in order to manifest.

And this is the very reason why the world needs NPC’s. They are those whom, by imprinting new beliefs upon them, become the sort of canvas on which reality is painted. They are, in effect, the battery that powers reality through their belief. So while my ranting may seem an effort to justify the superiority of some individuals over the majority, that is not my intention or belief. What I am attempting to illustrate is that our Universe is not an object. Existence is not a thing. It is the numerous manifestations of the consciousness within it, of which we are all agents. And as agents, we have different roles to play. And as such, it is necessary that we not exhibit the same levels of sentience as one another. It is the contrast between levels of awareness which allows the game to evolve, rather than being stuck in the same game screen forever.

This is why certainty is bad. Certainty is a glitch in the programming which prevents evolution. Modern people seek what IS true rather than what CAN or SHOULD or MIGHT be true. However, what IS true once belonged to those other categories. Be defining reality as a permanent structure, we are making it so. By empowering people a sense of false intellectual equality, we are preventing programmers from instigating further evolution by imprinting new realities on NPC’s who think they know it all, or at least that all can be known as eternal objective absolutes.

There is no awakening. There is no spiritual endgame in the works. Quite the opposite is true. Reality is becoming more unstable. It is weighed down by dogmas of objectivity and permanence. It is stuck in its current permutation because a handful of programmers are using the beliefs of the masses not for evolving or improving the game, but to bending it towards their own narrow agendas. Their purpose is not expand the parameters of play, but to narrow them in order that they might exercise power and control.

And this brings us to the final truth, since NPC’s cannot be seen as fully responsible for or able to understand their own actions, they cannot be blamed for what they do. However, the Players and especially Programmers can and should be held accountable for the evils they manifest. That evil takes the form of authority, and so long as the only Programmers that NPC’s recognize are those in authority, the game is going to stagnate. Until at some point it freezes up and we have to power down, blow out the cartridge and restart from the beginning, as has been the case with so many past civilizations. I believe that an awareness of the functions of reality and the individuals within it can disrupt this. Recognition of the game model may be the secret weapon that allows our reality to beat the boss and level up. The goal is not to transform every NPC into a Player or Programmer, not some great awakening, but rather just refocus the content of their beliefs from ideas implanted by authoritarians to those ideas created by the seemingly insane programmers who are seeing a possible future that is at the same time unimaginable and beautiful.

“Reality is what you can get away with.” -Robert Anton Wilson

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2 Replies to “Game Metaphor: Predeterminism, Free Will and Non-Player Characters”

  1. Nice article. It seems paradoxical but I think there are a LIMITED AMOUNT OF INFINITE POSSIBILITIES. In chess there are a limited number of moves yet the possibilities for different decision trees can be infinite. Maybe you can’t magically turn a spade into a heart (so there are limits) but there are an infinite amount number of ways a poker tournament could play out. So I think the free will/predetermination is a false dichotomy and oversimplification. You can have two decision trees that each branch out to infinity yet never intersect. So each tree can go out to infinity yet still have limits/boundaries. So it’s free will operating in a predetermined probability matrix. A mix of both freedom and fate it seems.

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