Jetset is Exhaustible

McGonigal continues to address how alternative realties (i.e. video games) can make difficult activities more rewarding. She addresses how she thinks that others consider traveling by airplane as difficult or as “pointless and unrewarding” (148).  She describes Jetset, an iPhone game that has players become virtual airport security guards who must get as many virtual travelers through the security line (150).  As players go to more real-life airports, their travel locations are monitored and the game rewards them with virtual prizes for each airport they visit and, as McGonigal suggests “It’s meant to improve players’ real-life experiences of a real-world environment” (151).  She later claims that “the potential intrinsic rewards of a good game like Jetset are nonexhaustible” (151).

What is exhaustible is pleasure from continuously moving towards an object of desire, an object of pleasure.  When McGonigal claims “a good game like Jest [is] nonexhaustible,” she does not realize that all things over time lose their pleasure.  In other words, people over time will lose their ability to continuously receive the same amount of pleasure from an object.  This type of phenomena is known as fantasy drive, an ability for people to continually maintain their lives through producing desire/pleasure.   Looking at the work of Lacan, Zizek shows how fantasy in many ways supports reality.  In relative terms, reality is void of desire until people attach desire to it (i.e. Through fantasy people attached desire to objects that make their reality more inhabitable. When people make it their goal to reach the next level of Jetset, they set up a temporary goal that yields pleasure until it is accomplished.).  Furthermore, a reality deprived of fantasy would feel barren.  Fantasy displaces seemingly bitter aspects of reality and focuses the mind on more desirable objects.  Like many games, there is a certain point where getting the same rewards for the same accomplishments loses its appeal.  When McGonigal claims that alternative reality games like Jetset[1] are not exhaustible, she overlooks how the pleasure from playing the some games continuously will become exhausted (un-pleasurable) to someone.

zizek and friends

McGonigal’s assertion that Jetset is not exhaustible is an overstatement because all objects of desire are exhaustible.  McGonigal should address how the idea of games can produce desire continuously if the user interaction continuously changes.  Zizek filters Lacanain drive as a process of moving towards an intended goal while never reaching it.  As Zizek notes, “the real source of enjoyment is the repetitive movement of this closed circuit” (5).  When people are placed in the repetivie movement of game play, people move closer to a goal (e.g., the next reward in Jetset), but once the goal is reached (exhausted), they will need another.  Likewise, Jetset may have several mini-goals, but it is only a matter of time before someone replaces it with another 99 cent app.  If McConigal wants to show her audience a game that is not as exhusatible as Jetset, her exmaple of WoW would work better. But, that would require her to consider parts of her argument weak or needing improved.

Zizek, Slavoj. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture.

Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. Print.


[1] McGonigal frames Jetset as an iPhone-only game that people play in airports. I read these requirements and thought about how the only time I could afford a plane ticket was the day after 9/11 when a round trip ticket to Texas cost $110.  Then it made me think about how my experience is only anecdotal. But, I was reminded that McGonigal uses her life experiences (anecdotal as well) as representations of a whole social group.  Her idea of Jetset becomes a social marker for people who can afford iPhones and many plane tickets. Therefore, I question who McGonigal’s primary audience is: socially considerate gamers, upper-middle class gamers, or poverty stricken gamers using Jetset to teach them how to deal with airport security that they may never meet?

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