Burnout Paradise and my brain

July 15, 2008

When Burnout: Paradise first came out I thought of it as something which might almost scratch my GTA itch.  I saw myself driving around a city for a few minutes and then getting frustrated with the lack of safe houses, rocket launchers and bitter satire.  It would excite my hunger without putting it to rest.  I could see myself cursing the game for all the things it never set out to provide.  I put the box back on the shelf.

This being the case I am as surprised as anyone to find myself, with GTA IV still half-completed, playing Burnout Paradise, a lot.  I do like the graphics, the viceral crashes and the stunts but what really appeals is the utter directionlessness of it all.  The game makes it virtually impossible to plan your activities and you are launched ito a state of constant side-tracking.  No sooner do you decide that there is a secific race which you want to win than a car you want to catch wizzes past, or you find yourself being invited to join a different race.  The game’s rewards for completing one activity vary very little from completing another to the point that it is impossible and counter-productive to lay out any specific goals.  You just drive and do shit, then drive and do shit without really knowing what shit it is you want to do until you are actually doing it.

This has a very pleasing effect on my brain, not dissimilar to browsing in a shop.  I find myself not really thinking at all.  I realised that sidetracking and being sidetracked is something which I purposefully factor into every activity.  Right now I am writing this, I have an email I am working on and I am looking up the exact wording of our copyright form for an author, I check my inbox every few minutes and I am eating my (first) lunch.  I periodically flick between these activities, doing a little work on each.  This way I structure my time so that every activity happens in parallel to another and I never dwell on one for more than 20 seconds or so.  When I get home, I tend to read whilst eating, listen to music whilst playing games, do forms whilst my food is cooking.

I understand that this is not the most efficient way to go about things.  People get more done if they dedicate themselves to one task at a time, but this behaviour is hardwired and I find focusing on one task for an extended period exhausting.

Is this MTV’s fault?  Do I have a postmodern brain?

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