Monday, April 03, 2006

New World of Games

The latest Wired Magazine carries a cover story on the evolving world of video games. Whether you've been keeping up with video games or not, this report may hold a few surprises for you. If you're a gamer, you probably dismiss the critics of video games -- and if you're a video game critic, you probably don't have the time for the gamers wasting their lives away. Regardless of how you feel about games, there may be positives to game play.

By playing games, gamers hone their creativity, sense of community, self-esteem and problem-solving skills. Games allow for a different form of problem solving for instance. Instead of learning from rote, gamers typically forego the manuals and leap straight into the game. Using trial and error, and empirical evidence obtained through game play, gamers rapidly learn how to master a game. Far from the first video games, today's MMORPGs requires a lot more than just rapid fire thumb movements. MMORPGs are more real life -- and difficulty. Nothing comes easy. Gamers must use creativity to get ahead or build communities within the game. Building the community is more than just constructing virtual buildings -- it requires interaction with other players. On some level, I'm sure the larger MMORPGs are great observation opportunities for sociologists. It's watching society take shape rapidly -- simulating what took the human species quite a long time to accomplish. The sense of community and the emotions felt by the players are real. Far from being antisocial, games are turning out to be more social for some players than their real life probably is. And I'm not sure if that is a problem. When economies are developing within these virtual worlds that tie into the real world, how long is before we do enter the Matrix?

One of the more promising near term impacts to the real world from gaming comes from HopeLab, a not-for-profit game company that is developing Re-Mission -- a game specifically targeted at children fighting cancer. HopeLab is hoping to give children a psychological edge in their cancer fight, by sending them into their bodies in a typical FPS game. There the kids do battle against their cancer, picking up power-ups and equipment along the way. It's certainly a positive way of getting kids to deal with their cancer -- and it probably translates into a positively on the physiological front as well.

For those who think games are all bad, you probably should chill a little. As Wired points out, there was a time when rock and roll was bad; comic books were burned before they could rot kids brains; the telephone spelled the end to social interaction; movies led girls astray; the waltz was fit only for females of questionable virtue; and novels corrupted the minds and morals of youth.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that there are many positives to playing video games. One being that it helps your problem solving skills immensely. Beating video games is not an easy task. It requires being witty and being strategic. To add on to that video games are also a positive because it provides a way to relieve stress. I know there are other things to do to relieve stress, but playing video games does it for me. Just playing for one hour a day makes all the stress of the day disappear.


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