Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University


              “The Cares of a Family Man” by Franz Kafka is all about Odradek (a pool of thread), an inanimate object that has taken on a personality of its own with lifelike qualities and traits. Kafka begins by discussing the origins of the word, but in reality the origin has no actual intelligence correlated with the word, and is therefore pointless.
              Odradek is very faithful of course, “often for months on end he is not to be seen; then he has presumably moved into other houses; but he always comes faithfully back to our house again.” This spool of thread is so animated that Kafka has written this story about him and his importance. “You put no difficult questions to him, you treat him—he is so diminutive that you cannot help it--rather like a child.” At this point, I couldn’t help but turn my head. This spool of thread has captivated someone so much that it became real, with a personality and a purpose. He ends with the perplexity of Odradek outliving him. The thought is painful, mainly because he cannot die, and all living things are supposed to have purpose, goals, aims, but none of these apply to him.
              A lot of us have had an attachment to inanimate objects, whether it was when we were younger or older. I don’t necessarily mean like a phone, although they do possess very animate traits. When I was a child my father gave me stuffed fox. At that time in my life I kept all the tags attached that came with my stuffed animals because I liked feeling like they were always going to be brand new. As I grew to be a little older this was my only stuffed animal that still held any meaning. His, because of course my fox was male, tag was still attached, but dingy, and he went everywhere with me. I didn’t like others touching him, and for me, he was real.
              When I was in high school my parents got me a Nintendo DS. Not only was this a hand held for portable gaming, you could also chat to people on it, take pictures, create comic flip books, and a lot more. My oldest brother, which lives in another country, took it and created a comic flip book with doodles of a fish swimming. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I haven’t lived with my brother for a little over ten years, so naturally I clung on to that DS; it was one of the only tangible memories I had of my brother. I watched the little doodle that my brother made more than I actually used the DS for its purpose, gaming. Maybe the DS was a stretch, but just like Odradek, my fox had a personality. These thoughts and concepts take me one step closer into the minds of extreme gamers. Maybe I can’t escape to another world with a stuffed animal, but with both my DS and my fox, I didn’t need to, because to me they were real. They gave me comfort and satisfaction.
               This where, I suppose, anything can become real, and anything can consume you. But these were things I outgrew. I’ve never had a constant escape. So once again, where does gaming become to be the ultimate escape? Is it because the virtual is able to be so close to a true reality that you’ve always dreamt of. With the average gamer being thirty years of age, where does one find the desire and drive to purposefully stay attached? Once you reach a certain age or maturity level, it becomes a choice to stay so involved, right? If people put that much effort into their physical lives would they not find a need to escape?
               I guess this is where it become controversial. When I discussed Chad from Second Life and how he instantly was able to transform into a woman with fairy wings, he told me that fairy wings were the best and something he could not have without the game. He also told me that he likes this virtual reality because he is capable of being a woman which once again isn’t possible with the game. In the physical world he doesn’t have much of a choice, not to mention he would have to deal with the judgements of others surrounding him. In this virtual world there are more people like him. From one point of view it’s possible that being in this virtual world, it’s not just about escaping, it’s about being whom you truly are.
               Aside from simulators like this, I’ve talked about RPG’s. Is there a similar feeling to the one of Chad’s? That he can be who he truly is within these types of games? For me, the RPG’s are about living a life you’d like, one that is full of excitement and purpose. But I’m still unsure of the drive to play these games; the drive that makes people play for multiple hours each day. Surely they must have other responsibilities in life. Maybe they don’t, maybe this is how they cope. 

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