Sunday, December 18, 2005

Online and video games

The New York Times reviews two books on video games. In one Edward Castronova expects that
life in these alternative zones may eventually become so fulfilling, … 'that a fairly substantial exodus may loom in the distance.' He means this, really. Like the Irish and Italians who left their native lands in the late 19th century to come to America, gamers could create a genuine human migration, away from the real and into the virtual. What will be real then?
I don't play these games, but I have recently heard myself say that life as a monk wouldn't be at all bad if I had an internet connection and regular conjugal visits.

Have you ever known anyone who had all the games removed from their computer because they couldn't resist playing them? Have you ever known anyone who complained about all the time they spent on the internet, either playing solitaire or simply surfing? I have. I don't play solitaire, but look at the time I waste writing this blog—and looking at material that goes into blog entries.

It's not as far-fetched as it seems.

The second book includes a chapter on Will Wright, the creator of SimCity.
"I think one thing that's unique about video games is not only that they can respond to you but down the road they'll be able to adapt themselves to you. They'll learn your desires," he says. "It might just be that games become deeply personal artifacts - more like dreams."
If we could all live in our dream worlds, would we be unhappy if we didn't wake up?

Of course one thing about multi-player online games is that they involve multiple players. The games don't confine themselves to virtual worlds. People meet each other outside the game world. It's not just fantasy. Just as trade in game resources occurs on eBay—but for real money— connections that people make in online games become connections that persist in the real world.

I'm not worried about an ultimate emigration from the real world to virtual worlds. It may be that new lands are being created and settled, but the new inhabitants are real people.

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