The Reptilian Brain

Porn, Grand Theft Auto & The Reptilian Brain

by Jonathan Leaf

What will be the great mass cultural activity of the 21st Century?

In the 13th it was cathedral building. In the 17th it was theater. In the 19th it was opera. In the 20th it was film.

Will this century’s great movement be interactive porn?

Last year the worldwide tally of video game sales exceeded $18.2 billion, according to Reuters. This was only slightly less than the total worldwide motion picture box office gross of $20.34 billion claimed by The Hollywood Reporter. Box office revenues are just a fraction of the total income that movie studios take in, as they also make money from video and DVD sales, merchandising and cable and broadcast licensing. And studio revenues have continued to rise rapidly in recent years.

But video game revenues may overtake film revenues in the next decade, and certainly they have become a major force in the entertainment market in terms of both the dollars and the hours consumers spend on them. Already films are being based on video games. Consider this abbreviated list: Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros., Resident Evil, Lara Croft, Double Dragon and Street Fighter. It works both ways — movies are increasingly made to promote video games. The Matrix’s call for men to “unplug” was unheeded by the millions who bought the official video game.

And while millions are plugging-in to game consoles, porn sales have also been exploding. One widely quoted figure is that there were 800 million porn video rentals in America last year.

Already porn and video games are hooking up. (While this may prove to be a lasting alliance, it seems wrong to refer to it as a wedding.) Indicative of this trend is the fact that as most of the country has been focused on Tuesday’s election, many of the nation’s young men were far more interested in the release of “San Andreas”.

For those not in the know, “San Andreas” is the latest version of the Grand Theft Auto video game series. The original version of this game — reported to have sold upwards of 12 million copies — featured interactive competition in the businesses of car theft and murder.

In various versions players add to their health points by having sex with prostitutes. Then, having copulated with them, players could add to their bill-clip by killing and robbing the women. Grand Theft marks a landmark in “post-moral culture”.

Yet if Grand Theft Auto was the first wildly popular video game based on sensationalist sex and violence, it won’t be the last. The base, pre-mammalian part of the brain known as the brain-stem has been designed to respond with pleasure to watching movement. With amphibians, the design of the brain is so strongly arranged to focus on watching movement that many species — like frogs — will actually die if they are placed in cages with only dead and unmoving creatures. Similarly, our desire for sex is not one that exists exclusively in the higher parts of our brain, or of our nature. That the technology exists to sate the base of the brain should be worrisome to everyone; it is, after all, not so long a step from interactively dehumanizing others on screen to doing so in life.

In the 13th century, men could not read and so they built cathedrals to re-tell old stories in stained-glass panels. Through such acts, men climbed above their ignorance and the death and pestilence that surrounded them. Will ours be a century of prosperity and longevity — yet one where all but a few Americans aspire to lives of empty and amoral sensation?

source: New Partisan

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