The garden of forking paths

, | Games

Salman Rushdie likes watching his thirteen-year-old son play Red Dead Redemption. He is intrigued by the idea of a narrative that “goes sideways” instead of from beginning to end and mentions that this kind of narrative is like the idea in Borges Garden of Forking Paths. Games are good, Rushdie says.

Wait — then he goes on to say that games don’t develop intelligence in children and that playing games may erode our attachment to storytelling, leaving open the question as to what that will do to us as humans. As Rushdie says, we are the only story-telling animals on the planet. Games are bad!

There’s a four-minute thirty-nine second clip of Rushdie discussing videogames here at Big Think. Videogames are a central idea in his childrens’ book, Luka and the Fire of Life. Here’s a clip from a NY Times review of the book:

With every heroic task he completes, Luka pushes a button to save his progress, and a new-level number appears in his field of vision. He also gets plenty of extra lives. But while the setting feels like something out of Nintendo, the characters come either from Rushdie’s lively interpretations of mythology or his jovial, limber imagination. A pixelated Fire Bug bursts into “a little cloud of angry, buzzing sparks,” and an army of insult-slinging warriors on flying carpets do battle with a colony of touchy rats.

Gods of Egyptian, Norse, Aztec and Chinese extraction, among others, converge in the final chapters, to stress the diversity of a mythical world eroded by onscreen interfaces. Rushdie isn’t against video games, exactly: Luka’s father cheerily defends them in the novel’s early pages. But the story suggests they are a mythmaker’s chief competition, and Rushdie seems determined to make his book busier than any game, a “supercolossal ultra-exploit.”