The Indifference of ‘Kentucky Route Zero’ to the Platonic Ideal of Video Games

Ketucky Route Zero 3

My last post of the year went up on PopMatters today.

This is one of those posts that started from a kernal of an idea and in the process of writing it sort of blossomed out as I was writing. I wanted to end the year on a post of Kentucky Route Zero and was trying to figure out a way to approach it. The game just does things so differently than any other game I’ve ever played and not in obvious ways either. It’s differences are subtle and spawn from a more fundamental place. I’ve also been watching a lot of Star Trek recently so something in brain connected them into the beginning of the post.

I had the intro worked out where I explain the Platonic Ideal and what it was in video games. As happens so often in this medium the cause gets substituted with the effect and then the thinking becomes entrenched. It wasn’t until wrapping it up did I realize I was addressing the vague notion of immersion. Since the term is so nebulous and ill defined I think it was better I went to the lengths I did to explain the specific feeling of spatial presence I was talking about. It’s the difference between projecting through a window to another world and looking through the window at another world. With Kentucky Route Zero the screen is a window where what is beyond can be manipulated for the sake for the sake of the viewer even if spatially it makes no sense within the world itself.

A writer always wishes they had more time to work with an idea and this one really gave me that gut feeling that I should get more in there, but sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and hit submit. I’m sure there is more I could say on the subject given time. I also wanted to get a mention of the Oculus Rift and the novel Ready Player One as further exemplars of this mythic ideal, but there was no place to put them in. Best to leave them on the cutting room floor of that version then. Hell, I had enough trouble trying to come up with a title for this thing. Here were the running candidates for posterity:

The Platonic Ideal of Video Gamness
Video Gameness and the Kentucky Route of Zeros
Video Gameness Holding Art Hostage
Kentucky Route Zero: Indifference to the Platonic Ideal of Video Games

It was making my head hurt at times trying to be clear, so I hope it came out all right. I’ll be back next year with more posts at PopMatters.

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