One common phrase that I've never really cared for is "the world doesn't need..." to describe a thing with a function that is obscure to the writer, as in, "the world doesn't need another flavor of Vitamin Water" or "the world doesn't need a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie. First of all, what world?
Say there's two options. The first is that the world we live in is a scientific phenomenon and any and all productions thereof, including humans and artifacts of human culture, are also ultimately scientific subphenomena, and so saying that "the world doesn't need" something makes as little sense as saying "1+1 should equal 8". A balanced equation can't need anything. You can call that biological determinism if you'd like. I personally call it reality. Obviously, reasonable minds can disagree.
The other option is that the world is substantially a spiritual or mystical phenomenon and in that case you can only infer whether a thing is needed by the world based on the things your version of spirituality says are kosher or traif. That could be a golden calf but it could also be electricity or two parents, or modern medicine etc. etc. This is fine but also I don't think that the abusers of the phrase "the world doesn't need" are spending their time squaring the superfluities they see everywhere with some organized system of necessity. I think they're just winging it! That's a beautiful equation as well.
This is all to say that, although you may be tempted to dismiss the fact that there is now a Forrest Gump iPhone game, two decades after the film—largely regarded as the worst Best Picture winner ever—was released, and it is an endless runner, of which there are dozens, and the first thing you see when you open the app is the Paramount logo as shiny a new quarter (or four), as "something the world doesn't need", I encourage you to think deeper. Why has the remarkable explosion of biodiversity on our dew drop of a world led to this remarkable subphenomenon? What remote permutation of forces and objects dispensed Run Forrest Run from the great gumball machine of the universe?
I don't know; no one does. Once, as a callow college freshman, I bemoaned the preordainedness of things to my parents over dinner at a restaurant. A tan man dressed in a rumpled khaki suit approached our table, smiling, bearing a cocktail napkin. He had been sitting next to us. He handed me the napkin, which I saw bore a message in ink, and patted me on the shoulder. I think he was a professor at the nearby Georgetown University.
The note said: "Beware the danger of total thinking. Take heart in the beauty of our universe and the possibility—remote as it seems now to you—of MYSTERY!" The last word was capitalized like that. When I looked up, he was gone. Today the napkin is lost to the jumble of my childhood bedroom. The message, however, remains.
There is now a Forrest Gump game, and it is neither needed nor not needed by the world. The reasons why are mysterious, in that we will never understand them in our lifetimes, and I for one choose to think they may be beautiful.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.