Glass Bead Games and the Metaphysics of Virtual Reality

From the “Useful Vocabulary” in Michael Heim's book, The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

glass-bead game

A fictional game described in Hermann Hesse's novel Das Glasperlenspiel (1943), translated in English as Magister Ludi (the game master). Discussions of VR often evoke references to the glass-bead game because the game's players combine all the symbols of world cultures so as to devise surprising configurations that convey novel insights. Each player organizes the cultural symbols somewhat like a musician improvising on an organ that can mimic any instrument. The glass-bead game's synthetic, non-linear information play is a forerunner of hypertext and of virtual worlds. Hesse's fiction also touches on some of the human problems underlying the advent of cyberspace and virtual reality, such as the role of the body and of disciplines for deepening the human spirit.

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