The human mind is capable of many things, one of them is questioning its physical existence. The subtle nuances of the shades of things, the touch of another human being, the smell of the petrichor of the first monsoon rain, the morning birds singing with the sunrise and the taste of ambrosia, these are all the things that trigger all our senses and makes us feel alive, connected to the world. One of the reasons I love playing video games is that they transfer me to a different alternate world, where the surroundings can be as beautiful as The Continent in The Witcher 3, as bloody as Normandy beach in Call of Duty World War 2 and as urbane as Los Santos in the GTA series. On realising how comparable the reflection of this alternate world is to the real world, I let myself meander through this alternate realm and this charm of exploring carries me over and the experiences begin to realign to reflect my experiences within the game.
I have been playing GTA for over 10 years. From GTA 3 to GTA San Andreas to GTA 4 and then to GTA 5, the graphics have constantly improved to a level where each fickle of hair has animation relative to the wind velocity, where your character’s beard grows with time, where your clothes get drenched as you step out in rain, where you can join yoga classes on the weekend and where construction workers take lunch breaks. To me, it is like breathing in a different world. A limitless illusion. There is a strong feeling of connection to every place I have been in the game. To see the sunrise in the beaches of Los Santos to gamble at night in the casinos of Las Venturas, with every place there is a different emotion and a mood. I can be a recluse if I want to. I can go on hikes or mountain biking in the mountains in the countryside, walk on the footpaths in the evening rain or even drive a car on the highway while listening to my favourite songs (possibly Led Zeppelin). The fact that such an immersive and such a huge range of atmospheric experiences can exist within a game, creates an experience that mirrors real life.
2019 has been a year in which the question, or theory, ‘Life is a simulation’ has been propounded multiple times. What incited my curiosity about this was if we humans are intelligent enough to question whether our life is in a simulation, then we can be in a simulation. Think about it for a minute. Simulation is not a natural thing, its a human creation. If we can create simulations in programs that represent the next level of human life, it can be possible that the previous level of human life also created the next level “us” in a simulation.
Taking the example of GTA, it has evolved manifolds in the past couple of decades. From being pixelated graphics to almost real-life graphics, we have witnessed how the game has advanced in representing the real world. We have seen how artificial intelligence has become more intelligent to a level that it deliberately adds the luck factor in the game and controls all the other characters and all the mundane things they do as if it were real. We feel the character as if it was us. We feel elated with passing every mission, we feel the butterflies in our stomachs when sky-diving and while biking down the mountain. This connection, though feeble and transient, is pervasive to the soul. Maybe like life in a simulation?
The argument that can be made against this theory is that we experience things in real life with 5 senses, but in games, we do with 2 — eyes and ears. And there are no insomniac characters in real life with more than one life.
But as a matter of fact, looking at the advancement GTA has seen in the last 20 years, we don’t know how it will look like in the next 100 years. Maybe then we can just rest, or sleep, in a recliner and plug a virtual reality device that can be controlled by our subconscious mind to control our character in an ultra-immersive game, where the character can roam freely, make friends and go on missions if it likes, or just do yoga and guitar classes on the weekends, or go on hikes in the countryside. Maybe it can be possible because no one can predict the future. Maybe we already are in the game, possibly GTA 100. And this is where the line between real life and life in a simulation starts to fade — for what is life if not connection to ourselves or our world? And if life is that, then what is a simulation other than a connection to our extended self and an alternate world? Isn’t simulation a type of life or life a type of simulation?
The question that now remains- what is simulation?