All the World is Becoming a Game
Here is a must-see 28 min. video (3 parts), Is Your Life Just One Big RPG?, by futurist Jesse Schell, head of a 60-person game company (Schell Games), author, The Art of Game Design, CMU Professor, and former Disney Imagineer.
Schell introduces some epic themes, among them:
- Games as psychology experiments. Successful games are in fact clever experiments in creating positive sum mental transactions (real or imagined). In this highly connected world, good psychology will blow up in size and economic value far, far faster than we’ve ever seen before, yet much slower than we’ll see tomorrow. How few of us realized that Facebook, Zynga, etc. would grow as quickly as they have? Only those who knew how many bored and underutilized folks are waiting to have their free time taken over by something better than cable TV, and who are now just a click away from engagement in a game.
- Game architectures moving into physical reality. We will learn to use the better tricks of virtual world games in all our important physical world activities, governance, work, education, etc. Schell cites fellow game designer Lee Sheldon’s classes at Indiana University, which use experience points (class and online discussions, homework, tests, outside experience gained and written up during the course) rather than peer-relative curves to “level up” students through the course and assign the ultimate grade. Presumably this is more fun and engaging for today’s student, and it has been increasing student participation as well.
- The hunger for the real. As Pine and Gilmore noted in their prescient The Experience Economy, 1999, the more the world becomes a game, the more we want to feel connected to something real. Schell’s best quote of many great ones: “We live in a bubble of fake bullshit.” Amen. We can expect this bubble to keep accelerating in pervasiveness and allure, too.
- Technology divergence versus convergence. As with biological species and subcultures, divergence is far more the rule. Convergence is the exception. Those who’ve read my speculative works know I argue this as a 95/5 Rule (95% of the time, complex systems look divergent, 5%, they look convergent). The tree of technology differentiation continues to grow, though once any tree gets big enough, the rate and importance of new divergence slows (new variety becomes just twigs on the end of the tree, rather than big trunks lower down on the tree).
- The near and farther future effects of games on society. Many of the social effects of virtual games may get worse before they get better, but they should be much more positive forces in the longer run. I’ve written about this as a possible fourth law of technology, one that seems generalizable to most disruptive new technologies, from cities to cellphones. Schell essentially scares the bejeezus out of you in the last five minutes of this talk, talking about the coming dehumanization we may see with first generation effects of these games. Perhaps without knowing it, Schell is channeling young-adult fiction writer M.T. Anderson and his brilliant dystopia, Feed, 2004, which eloquently describes a soon-emerging world where kids get internet implants in their heads at birth and as a result, have degenerated to something resembling futurist H.G. Wells Eloi, passive units to be manipulated by near-Singularity corporations. Fortunately, Schell opens the door at the end to recognizing that these technologies will also be powerful forces for positive behavior change, personal growth and intellectual advancement as well. I’d like to hear a lot more about all that, frankly.
Futurists, if you have ideas about that or anything else, feel free to share them, thanks!