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Candy Crush Parliament: video game culture in the age of multitasking


Recently, I have come across two interesting pieces of news. The first one, from December 2014, related how the conservative Amber Valley MP, Nigel Mills, was playing Candy Crush Saga on his iPad while in a parliamentary committee meeting on pension reforms. The second one described how the Deputy Speaker of the Spanish Parliament, Celia Villalobos, was also playing a game on her tablet during the 2015 State of the Nation Debate, which took place on 24 and 25 February (it seems that, in the end, she was  playing Frozen Free Fall instead of Candy Crush Saga). There is even a video of her playing it:


Beyond the reproachable behaviour of these members of the public who are supposed to represent the citizens of their nations, those situations are symptomatic of two, in a way, interrelated things: video game culture is a growing reality nowadays and we live in an age of multitasking that consists of an infinite lapse of undifferentiated time.

It is widely accepted that mobile devices have brought video gaming to a new level, expanding the formerly reserved territory of gamers to new social spaces where more varied sorts of people play video games. Those articles are a good example of it. Two conservative politicians, one a middle age man and the other a senior woman, play on their tablets. But they don't play Candy Crush Saga or Frozen Free Fall anywhere; they are doing it in the parliament, where the sovereignty of the people resides. Moreover, they're playing while working.

This is one of the most noticeable features of this growing video game culture; people play video games everywhere at any time: commuting, watching TV, between classes, in the bathroom, waiting for something or someone, and during any other spare moment they have. We fill those inter-times - the moments we have between the significant and proper tasks - tapping or swiping on our smartphones or tablets. However, consciously or not, we went further. We have started playing while we are doing - or pretending to do - important and relevant things. The multitasking age has arrived.

Our lives have become a set of open tasks that are happening at the same time. We continually jump from one to another in the same fashion as we do between tabs in front of our computer. We don't need to finish a task to initiate another one or to continue with others that are already in progress. Time has lost its linearity and usefulness as a tool for organising our lives:
Without a doubt, modernity was progressively founded on a very mechanical conception of time. Useful time, strictly lineal time, projective time. Time of individual and social history. Time with a beginning and an end, and whose hegemony seems to have done tabula rasa with any other notion of time (Maffesoli, 2001: 66-67).
It seems that today's world has done tabula rasa with time itself. According to Maffesoli, presentism has been installed in our societies, in which we don't consider that 'there are things that are more important than others' (2001: 68). In everyday life, if nothing is important, then, everything is important. We cannot differentiate between spaces, times and activities anymore. We play while working, we work while play. It is even difficult to say what belongs to the field of work or what is supposed to be playful. As Maffesoli states, a ludic conception of society has been generalised: 'The game of the world, or the world as a game. Life as a game is the acceptance of a world as it is' (2001: 20). 

In the end, our reality has turned into a perpetual sequence of overlapped inter-times. Time without beginning or end. Irrelevant time, only disturbed by the next deadline. An eternal deadline that nobody meets. And in the meantime, we play video games.

'I shall try not to do it in the future,' declared the MP Nigel Milles when questioned about his slip-up. He didn't say 'I won't do it again' or 'It won't happen again'. He will try. We know what will happen, don't we?

Bibliography

  • Maffesoli, Michel (2001). El instante eterno [The Eternal Instant]. Buenos Aires: Paidós.

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