The Matryoshkas are famous Russian dolls contained within each other. Their origin is supposed to be related to a wooden carved Japanese statuette of Buddha that arrived in Moscow at the end of the 19th century, brought by Savva Mamontov, founder of the artistic circle of the Abramtsevo Colony. The Japanese Buddha contained four smaller but identical statues inside. Interestingly, Japanese hollow dolls usually come in groups of 7, representing the inner gods, so they say.
We would like to talk about how much these dolls say about us, especially regarding our relationship with games and the influences we get from them. The Matryoshkas are, at the same time, a snippet of the infinite and a parallel with the life that we take. In fact, however paradoxical it may seem, it is now known that there are infinities contained within larger infinites. The infinite set of irrational numbers is considered larger than the infinite set of rational numbers, and both are contained in the infinite set of real numbers. On the other hand, if we establish that the life we lead is a set of “games” in which we are obliged to follow the rules, we realize that there are micro-perspective games contained in macro-perspective games.
In this parallel, the game of life in society contains the game of family life, which contains the game of love life, which contains the game of individuality. In practice, it is difficult to determine which game is contained in which. Maybe the sequence given above is wrong or maybe it varies from person to person (according to one’s priorities). But it seems inevitable that sooner or later we realize that this relationship of containment exists and that it forms the structure of our lives. If we look outside, we can see an open system where several systems interact, giving inputs and outputs to each other. And we, supposedly in control, attune ourselves to the conditions that each game imposes, if we feel integrated into the system, or we reject them, if we perceive the system as a prison that deprives us of autonomy.
We seek autonomy, but if, once again, we look at ourselves as if being outside the system, we can see the tangle of factors that condition our choices. The conditions of our employer’s culture, behavior and effort give us the rules for the game of work, just as the conditions of family life give us the rules for the family game, and the conditions of love life, school life, and life when we do not work give us the rules for the game of couples, the game of students and the game of the unemployed. It is difficult to see where this begins and where it ends.
Therefore, we are forced to conclude that the belief that we have autonomy is ultimately illusory. We do not have autonomy even about ourselves, since we are no more than characters used by others in their games, whether we like it or not. We ourselves become the characters we represent. From early childhood, we are driven to act. Our parents watch us, being the first spectators of our movements, waiting for our best performance. We are prevented from being who we really are because we want to correspond to the expectations of others and those we think are our own. How could we have autonomy if our life boils down to trying to reach the standards that the games in which we are inserted impose on us?
Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Because we are playing the game of writing, we have to write in a way we think you will understand us, and we have already stretched too far in the introduction to games. The central theme of what you read is electronic games, whose market is one of the fastest growing in the world, and which will start to play its part in your reading.
Electronic games have fallen into popular taste for a long time and are accused of throwing us out of reality (as if before them there was nothing that would accomplish this task …). Electronic games are games within games, plus a subsystem among so many. But better than any other subterfuge of escape, games provide interaction, allowing us to realize our aspirations of heroism, skill, strategy, and so on. Unlike real life, they bring us very clear purposes: they tell the way forward, give shortcuts, tools, and reward every achievement. Our punishments are not so serious. In the game I can eliminate my enemies and get to the point of dying, but still I will get up from my ergonomic chair and eat a sandwich with ketchup, disappointed but unharmed. Of all the “reality escapes” we have, games are what most allow our interference. In them we feel free and we think we have that autonomy mentioned in the previous paragraphs.
Because they mirror real life – the same one where 3D does not require glasses – games are a source of self-observation. Their success makes clear that we escape from unhappiness, because in them what we want is to know where to go, to be free to choose the way, to find treasures…
We want directions, accurate hints, and games offer that all. But we never fully realize ourselves in them, for we seek outside ourselves what can only be found within. We take outer paths and play imitation games. We deceive our instincts with games. They provide us with something more subtle, but this something is only a reflection from the hither side, more of the same. So, even if they bring temporary satisfaction, games do not make us feel complete.
We can gain autonomy however, when our actions turn to the inner path. Only then, grown tired of all the external games, we will experience freedom. As with the Matryoshkas, as we go through all the stages, that is, as we know and surpass all the other “selves” within us, there is one last little doll, the smallest, the most real, and the only one that cannot be divided or split. It is the end of the game and the beginning of reality.