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Halloo! When I found out I could go to med school with a Humanities degree with an Ethnomusicology emphasis, I almost peed myself. Here's to me holding it in.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More on Tibet in Video Games

This has become a really fun little side project. In seeking to get a better idea for how Westerners see Tibet in order to have a point of comparison for how Tibetans see Tibet, I never thought I would get to research video games. It is likely that none of this will show up in my final report (you never know, though...), but if Patrick French looked at video games in Tibet, Tibet, then I can look at them too darnit! Go with what you know, right?

I found a few more games that deal with or use Tibet in some fashion. Here are some screenshots:
Grom: Terror in Tibet. Notice the mandala in the lower left part of the screen.
Crazy Chicken: Heart of Tibet. Yetis and ice - sounds about right.

A Missing Father and a Quest to Find Shangri La!

Jane's father has gone missing in his quest to find the legendary city of Shangri La in Tibet. Guided by clues from her father's secret journal, Jane is determined to find Shangri La and answers!
Help Jane by carving a trail through the treacherous mountains of Tibet in order to find what she needs to build a hot air balloon and get the answers she seeks!
Tintin in Tibet - based on a comic book of the same name. The comic book received an award from the Dalai Lama for introducing many westerners to Tibet for the first time.
Lost Horizon - saving Tibet from the Nazis. Video games like to group Tibet with the Nazis trying to find occult weapons of unimaginable power.
Amazing Monk - fight/trick soldiers on your way to enlightenment
And another list from giantbomb.com, brought up by the search term "Shambhala":


A mythical lost city situated in the Himalayas. Also known as "Shangri-La" to many.

Shambhala is a mythical kingdom described in Tibetan Buddhism. Although usually understood as a physical place, the term is freighted with various mystical or spiritual connotations and is perhaps better understood as a metaphor for spiritual enlightenment and the idea of a "Pure Land" found in some Buddhist traditions.
This notion of a secret Central Asian kingdom combining Utopian and earthly paradise elements was popularized in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, which coined the term Shangri-La. In Hilton's book, Shangri-La is a fertile, temperate valley, nearly inaccessible to the outside world, ruled by a benevolent lamasery of nearly immortal monks.

Name Platforms Developer
Lost Horizon released on Sept. 24, 2010 PC Animation Arts Creative GmbH
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves released on Oct. 13, 2009 PS3 Naughty Dog, Inc.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine released on Oct. 31, 1999 GBC, N64, PC HotGen Ltd., LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC, Factor 5, LLC
The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time released on Jan. 31, 1998 MAC, PC Presto Studios, Inc.
Atlantis: The Lost Tales released on Sept. 30, 1997 SAT, PS1, PC Cryo Interactive Entertainment

 Without exception, the conception and portrayal of Tibet in video games reflects its status as a forbidden land, a place for personal growth and discovery, for the unlocking of ancient mysteries. Interestingly, it's almost always also a place to be escaped from. Sure, it's the location of Shambhala, but no one actually wants to live there. There are yetis and Chinese soldiers and big freaky snowstorms and... It seems that Everest is a good metaphor - it reaches into the heavens, and to conquer it means to conquer yourself, but except for a few crazy sherpas it doesn't have any permanent residents. Get in, have your adventure, and get out. This contrasts quite heavily with what the general feeling of the Tibetan diaspora seems to be - sure, we'll go into exile, grow spiritually as a people and accept karma for what it is, but we want to get back to the Himalayan homeland as fast as possible. The games deal with escape, whereas Tibetans deal with return. Interesting stuff.

This last bit, however, is just downright fascinating, and it ties in with music, identity, AND video games. It's an interview with the Karmapa, one of the current leaders of Tibetan Buddhism. It comes from the Times of India:

Moving to other issues, I believe you like to listen to hip-hop on your ipod. Who are your favourite artistes?
I can't think of any specific artistes right now, I basically listen to what ever comes my way, whatever sounds appealing. It's important for me to stick to my traditional forms of art because I am a Tibetan Buddhist teacher wearing these robes. It's important for me to maintain my cultural affiliations.
But from time to time I do enjoy listening to hip-hop because it has a very modern sound to it and even though I'm a Tibetan teacher representing these ancient teachings, I'm also a global citizen in the 21st century. Hip-hop perhaps is one way of me being a 21st-century person.
Is that why you play war games on your play station because many might say it's inappropriate for a Buddhist monk dedicated to peace to play war games?
Well, I view video games as something of an emotional therapy, a mundane level of emotional therapy for me. We all have emotions whether we're Buddhist practitioners or not, all of us have emotions, happy emotions, sad emotions, displeased emotions and we need to figure out a way to deal with them when they arise.
So, for me sometimes it can be a relief, a kind of decompression to just play some video games. If I'm having some negative thoughts or negative feelings, video games are one way in which I can release that energy in the context of the illusion of the game. I feel better afterwards.
The aggression that comes out in the video game satiates whatever desire I might have to express that feeling. For me, that's very skilful because when I do that I don't have to go and hit anyone over the head.
But shouldn't meditation take care of that?
No, video games are just a skilful method.

I love how candid Tibetan Buddhist leaders are.

This is likely the last post on Tibet and video games, but if anybody out there finds anything worth talking about relative to cyber-Tibet, shoot me a line.

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