The Golden Cup

Nothing you see has any meaning, save for what you give it. A cup, for example, does not contain some inherent "cupness" that defines it. We remember filling it with orange juice in the morning. We remember drinking from it while we read the paper. We remember holding it in our hands, washing it. If you take what we call a cup and break it into its component parts, and break those parts into their parts, you will not find a molecule that is pure "cup." It follows then, there is no inherent "cupness" that defines the shape. We see our past experiences, and so we pour meaning into possessions, often making them desirable.

Millions of people have discovered a new way to fuel desire, turning their attention to the most intangible objects in the world. Virtual items. Zeros and Ones. Things that cannot hide their lack of inherent existence behind our usual senses like touch or smell. We know that the sword with the impressive strength modifier doesn't exist in any meaningful way, but we buy into the fantasy with the most precious currency we have: our time.

If a virtual pair of chain mail pants with a 400 armor rating had any inherent meaning, I would be just as excited about them as the person who spent twenty hours working to acquire them was. If someone mailed me the pants in a game, I might give a polite "thank you" and get on with my day. My lack of overwhelming appreciation may stun them, and for good reason.

Through all the time we pour into games, yearning and striving for new things and experiences, we build bigger and better shrines to the virtual objects of our desire. In doing so, we give them power. We experience the joy of getting a highly sought, rare item, and we worship it for giving us that feeling. We fill it full of our experiences and our efforts, poured from our own sweat and tears, and we drink it back down thinking that sweet nectar is other than ourselves, thinking it's the cup that gives us this wonderful feeling, thinking that anyone who sees this cup would experience the same.

Dissolution invariably follows, because as sure as we pour meaning into the objects of our desire, we expect the pleasure we experience to last, thinking it's the object that drives it. Without the need to pour all this meaning and desire into something we already have, it loses the power we give it to please us. We forget about it, and we latch on to the next thing on our list, once again grasping for more good feelings. And so the process begins again. The sweat and the tears, the temporary joy. It cannot be sustained. We are insatiable, and the more we get, the more we want. We experience this cycle over and over again, until it becomes more than just an experience, it becomes a belief in the power of virtual items. It drives our thoughts, it narrows our search for happiness and meaning outside of ourselves, never satisfying our need.

Look around your virtual world. Everything you see, including the avatar you've worked so hard with over the years, means nothing on its own. Every item, every quest, every step you take, is willed by you. Everything you cherish is entirely dependent on your willingness to do so. The people who make these games do not give us a world full of meaning, with objects worthy of our attention. They give us a shell; a big empty cup waiting for someone to fill it up until they are dry, and then to slake their thirst with their own sweat, praising the vessel all the while.

These objects of our desire are not the source of our happiness, they are a catalyst. The trigger we put in place to release these good feelings within us once we acquire them. To enjoy a game without becoming obsessed, we have to see it for what it is and accept that it does not have any inherent ability to make us happy. Our minds are powerful; we create the world we want to live in. We create our golden cups.

Comments

Amen.

Hitchcock called it the MacGuffin - the object highly desired by the characters of a movie, but which the audience doesn't care about. It's a meaningly device to propel the characters forward. In video games, gamers have switched places, we pursue the Macguffins.

That put exactly into words what I felt when I decided to quit WoW. That was awesome.

Looks like someone's back on the WoW again. I had the same thoughts running through my head as I installed BC after a 6 month vacation from Azeroth.

Alas, I think I see many many people for whom the cup is the entire point, and inevitably, it's acquisition becomes a moment of sorry and hollowness.

Reminds me of the games at the fair. Pumping out dollar after dollar at Ski Ball to win a big stuffed animal that's going in the garbage in a week.

By the way,

They give us a shell; a big empty cup waiting for someone to fill it up until they are dry, and then to slake their thirst with their own sweat, praising the vessel all the while.

that's fantastic.

Excellent article Certis. While I never smoked the crack pipe that is World of Warcraft, I saw my fair share of this behavior in Final Fantasy XI. If you know who Leaping Lizzy is in FFXI, you will relate perfectly with this article.

A cup, for example, does not contain some inherent "cupness" that defines it.

I wrote a 20-page paper for a linguistic theory class with the thesis that items do contain an inherent level of "self-ness" that define them. So cups do contain "cupness," and it's in the calculation of just how cuppy a cup is that we determine it is not a stein, bowl, flute or tube. And that if you look deeply enough into the cupness, you can pinpoint the exact position on the spectrum of cupitude where a cup becomes a bowl.

Though the word I used was not cup, but "heap."

How Platonic of you.

Excellent article. The metaphor can be applied to a context far broader than gaming. It's fair to say that there is no intrinsic meaning of life. Its meaning comes from our imbuement.

Crouton wrote:

Excellent article. The metaphor can be applied to a context far broader than gaming. It's fair to say that there is no intrinsic meaning of life. Its meaning comes from our imbuement.

Yes.

LobsterMobster wrote:
A cup, for example, does not contain some inherent "cupness" that defines it.

I wrote a 20-page paper for a linguistic theory class with the thesis that items do contain an inherent level of "self-ness" that define them. So cups do contain "cupness," and it's in the calculation of just how cuppy a cup is that we determine it is not a stein, bowl, flute or tube. And that if you look deeply enough into the cupness, you can pinpoint the exact position on the spectrum of cupitude where a cup becomes a bowl.

Though the word I used was not cup, but "heap."

But all signifiers are inherently subjective, Lobs. Don't make me go all Lacanian on you, because I will do it.

As for the article:

Prospero (The Tempest IV,1) wrote:

As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex'd;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb'd with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk,
To still my beating mind.

And

Final Lines of Maltese Falcon wrote:

Cop: Heavy. What is it?
Sam Spade: The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.

Living up to your name, Wordsmythe!

I wrote a 20-page paper for a linguistic theory class with the thesis that items do contain an inherent level of "self-ness" that define them. So cups do contain "cupness," and it's in the calculation of just how cuppy a cup is that we determine it is not a stein, bowl, flute or tube. And that if you look deeply enough into the cupness, you can pinpoint the exact position on the spectrum of cupitude where a cup becomes a bowl.

Relative reality is a different thing, I think. It allows us to label things and communicate on a mundane level more easily, but it's still relative.

I recall reading somewhere that actual reality is so subtle, it's hardly even there.

All we are is dust in the wind...

You're my boy Blue.

How can you write such a fine article when you should be focused on levelling.

For shame, for shame....

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

All we are is dust in the wind...

You're my boy Blue.

"Dust. Wind. Dude."

Did Bill & Ted drinking game Saturday night. I won!

The same as said in the article about virtual goods could be said for pretty much any modern currency. The dollar (or looney) is only valuable because people believe it is.

Did Bill & Ted drinking game Saturday night. I won!

The only winner after a Bill & Ted drinking game is the local booze merchants methinks...

Certis wrote:

Relative reality is a different thing, I think. It allows up to label things and communicate on a mundane level more easily, but it's still relative.

I recall reading somewhere that actual reality is so subtle, it's hardly even there.

Old Zen koan wrote:

A monk once asked master Chao-chou, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"

Chao-chou said, "Mu"

Mu (Wu in chinese) mean "no", but is spoken to sound like a bark.

souldaddy wrote:

Mu (Wu in chinese) mean "no", but is spoken to sound like a bark.

Wikipedia spake thus:

It doesn't mean "no", it translates more effectively to "unask the question" or "Your question cannot be answered as it relies on incorrect assumptions."

Azure Chicken wrote:

"Your question cannot be answered as it relies on incorrect assumptions."

Somehow I often find myself telling people that, and they usually aren't too happy about it.

Azure Chicken wrote:

It doesn't mean "no", it translates more effectively to "unask the question" or "Your question cannot be answered as it relies on incorrect assumptions."

Or, in other words,

Nomad wrote:

Non Sequitur. Your facts are uncoordinated.

Azure Chicken wrote:
souldaddy wrote:

Mu (Wu in chinese) mean "no", but is spoken to sound like a bark.

Wikipedia spake thus:

It doesn't mean "no", it translates more effectively to "unask the question" or "Your question cannot be answered as it relies on incorrect assumptions."

Yeah, yeah, splitting hairs here. I didn't want to post a 3 paragraph essay on the possible uses of Mu. Point is, the word is a negative statement, but the pronunciation contradicts the meaning of the word. The answer is a paradox. The real (and boring) answer is that yes, a dog has buddha nature because everything has buddha nature, but the essence of buddha nature is emptiness (nothingness), along with about 5 other things going on in that koan.

Mu on you, Senior Chicken!

The real (and boring) answer is that yes, a dog has buddha nature because everything has buddha nature, but the essence of buddha nature is emptiness (nothingness)

I wouldn't use the word nothingness in that context, it misrepresents what emptiness is all about.

Dr._J wrote:

If you know who Leaping Lizzy is in FFXI, you will relate perfectly with this article.

I always saw people waiting around for that, and once tried waiting with some folks, but we missed it or something.

That was a pretty cool game. Hopelessly old-school in terms of its crushing dependence on groups, but still pretty cool.

souldaddy wrote:
Azure Chicken wrote:
souldaddy wrote:

Mu (Wu in chinese) mean "no", but is spoken to sound like a bark.

Wikipedia spake thus:

It doesn't mean "no", it translates more effectively to "unask the question" or "Your question cannot be answered as it relies on incorrect assumptions."

Mu on you, Senior Chicken!

I think you got that word wrong, too. Two in one thread. Souldaddy, you're slipping. You probably won't even do that well in tonight's Gears tournament match.

The article makes me think of the sixth grade mandatory reading assignment, The Golden Goblet. Frikkin' Egypt! More on topic, has anyone found themselves pursuing their digital or real world ambitions only to stop just short of succes in a an attempt to avoid the pursuit's end?

Totally. i have so far avoided finishing Half Life 2. I am afraid of it being over.

More on topic, has anyone found themselves pursuing their digital or real world ambitions only to stop just short of succes in a an attempt to avoid the pursuit's end?

It's why I let a game sit for a few hours after I bought it, just to savor the excitement a little longer. In a broader sense, the ego's modus operandi is constantly seeking, never finding. When it does find, it just seeks something else

Certis wrote:

The ego's modus operandi is constantly seeking, never finding. When it does find, it just seeks something else ;)

Perhaps in the more natural, wanton state. After all, desire is the origin of suffering.

And we all know where suffering leads to...

Danjo Olivaw wrote:

Mu on you, Senior Chicken!

I am the Elder Chicken! Bow to my scaly feet of DOOM!

On a more personal note, I created my own golden cup embodied in Silicon Graphics hardware of eld; I always wanted to do 3d modelling, either for cinema or games, and when the fire was truly lit in me (early 1990s), SGI was the best, only machine around for it.

To cut a long story short, I never got that wish. Tried, nearly succeeded, but never made it. And yet, under my couch right now, is an SGI system that I can't use, will never again push polygons through its ancient processors, doesn't even fufill the dream. It's just going to be a waste of electricity.

Also, DOS games.