Chapter 5: Pranks

While I am generally not one to play pranks on people, I found Ian Bogost’s chapter on pranks and videogames to be the most interesting in his book, so far.
I expected this chapter to focus solely on the ways some videogames have found to deceive and amuse their players, but I also found a really insightful account of why pranks are part of our society in the first place, and why they are valuable when they are done correctly (i.e. they stop before actually hurting or insulting someone).
It is interesting how Bogost points out that pranks are unique in that they “require an involved setup that cashes out in only a few moments of amusement” (Bogost pg. 41). This reminds me of Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken because it shows that humans don’t mind expending the effort,even if the payoff is small, if it promises a result they care about. Bogost supplements this thought by writing on page 40 that “office pranks help their perpetrators exert their humanity in an age of industry.” Connecting the two novels, it can be seen that humans don’t mind working when they expect to get a laugh from co-workers, even if it is small and is over quickly. This thought can be extended to hypthesize that people of today, despite the many connections allowed through social media, are desperate for human interaction, and are willing to go great lenghts in order to get it even in small payoffs.
One line that I found to be particularly powerful is in the second paragraph of the first page of this chapter (page 37), “…risk also gives pranks their social power.” Though I am not into playing pranks, as previously stated, this sentence still applies to real life, where I think that risk really does provide social power. In my earlier school years, some of the most popular kids were the ones who were the class clowns, and would say things out loud (without raising their hands) that bordered on being disrespectful, but were often honest and hilarious. In the workplace, carefully weighed risks that work out can result in immediate promotions or in heightened respect which itself eventually leads to promotions. There is definitely some truth to the idea that risks need to be taken in order to get ahead, and I think that videogames prove that.
Chapter 5 is important in this novel because it shows how pranks in videogames can reflect ways that we cope in real life, and it shows us not to take things so seriously all the time. For me, this chapter comes closest (so far) to Jane McGonigal’s piece because it shows how aspects of videogames can be taken to make real life more fulfilling and bearable.

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One thought on “Chapter 5: Pranks”

  1. “In my earlier school years, some of the most popular kids were the ones who were the class clowns, and would say things out loud (without raising their hands)” I remember this, It’s so true. Being the class clown was kind of the cool thing to do in Elementary school and parts of Middle School. I enjoyed this chapter as well, I think pranks are a functioning part of social interaction, it can be lighthearted and hilarious. Not everything is meant to be taken so seriously all the time. As for in video games when Bogost was talking about Easter eggs, Ive just naturally come to the point where I expect them from every game, and I love them. Whenever I see a poster in a game I always read it for a possible Easter egg, or I’ll go to a really random corner of a map and just see if something is hidden. I think it’s funny when rumors start because of possible Easter eggs, like Big Foot in GTA San Andreas. Also when Bogost was talking about that Japanese game Syobon Action, how the game is possible and fun to play and finish, but it’s counter to what your expectations may be. Syobon Action reminds me a lot of Dark Souls, that game is fun (for some people) and playable (for some people) but it literally is just one long death montage, its constantly tricking you. Dark Souls is also a Japanese game now that I think about it. I’m glad that when the video game industry was in its infancy, back in the Atari era, that game developers “tagged” their products, and left secrets in there, and I’m glad they still do it today. I like that games take inspiration and have salutes to things that exist outside of the game world. Kind of off topic but so many games have references to things going on in real life, pop culture references, even when you listen to some dialogue or watch a cut scene you can visually see where the inspiration came from, I like how everything feels connected without going too far. I think McGonigal might want to take it too far.

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