Are Games Better than Life?

8 08 2011

A GameLab guild quest post. (See for explanation of 3D GameLab)

Another thought provoking TED Talk. Game designer David Perry also talks about technology evolution but his presentation addresses the emotional impact on players beyond the dopamine physiological effects.

The short video piece that showed the evolution of game through the evolution of technology is quite incredible. The punch line is highly emotional. The graphics are getting more real. Scary real. Players experience life changing events in adventures that they choose. And they go back to it because those experiences -albeit virtual- fulfill them emotionally.

The most powerful section of Perry’s presentation is the viewing of Michael Highland’s film, As Real As Your Life. Highland provokes our conception of the game addict. I heard an interesting contradiction: From the addict point of view, reality has become boring, unrewarding, mundane, grey – “Reality is almost as pretty as his games.” However, I also heard Highland states that his worry is not that games are becoming more violent and more like reality, his worry is that reality becomes more like a game. So my question to Highland is: If you enjoy the feeling of power in your hands, having such control over your environment in the game, having life changing experiences in the game, why would addicts want to escape reality is this is the ONE safe place for them (where boring means that you won’t get shot in an ambush). What I take away from Highland’s powerful video is that game addicts can’t unplug from the adrenaline (if war games for example) or other emotion generating neurochemical BECAUSE however “reality-like” the game is, it is still a game and therefore safe.

Although familiar with the emotional aspect of games (I research Presence in 3D, including facial expressions, body gestures and other paralanguage behaviors), i am simply stunned at the importance given to it by Highland. So how better than life are games? Highland and Perry list graphics, audio, emotion, purpose, meaning, understanding, and feeling.

I think that question is valid if we assume that Life is like a game. But the problem with some players is that there are as many preferences as there are players. Even within game types, there are preferences, as well as in game species. Life can be compared more to a social virtual environment than a game. Purpose, meaning, understanding, and feeling are provided by the game’s genre, context, and self-selecting playing community. As graphics are concerned, well, reality is starting to look quite augmented. Car windshields are created with an augmented layer to provide the driver added info on the world around him, including the mechanics of his car; vision glasses are created to provide handfree information layers to the world that the person has in front of her (AR glasses), not to mention the current AR app for handhelds.

and here is the post about it

“Game designer David Perry says tomorrow’s videogames will be more than mere fun to the next generation of gamers. They’ll be lush, complex, emotional experiences — more involving and meaningful to some than real life.” As Highland’s video demonstrates, they already are.

Incidentally, I am quite happy that life is not like games (considering that almost all life went through at least five major cycles of extinction, I am glad that the reset button is not as easily accessible by everyone in RL). Although I understand that necessity is the mother of all inventions, how would you live if you were stuck by a download bug (see video below)…LOL, just kidding.


I’ve got this cute birdie award for you if you tweet this post using #Educedge. Just to say Thank You!




One response

14 03 2012

Ref the SL spoof video: I realize that only those who’ve been in SL in the early years would understand the joke. The video is also an interesting testimony to how far the virtual environment has come.

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