I’ve been discussing a project plan at work a lot lately. The idea for the project includes gamification component, so I’ve been reading a few books on the subject. One thing these books make a huge deal of in their introductory part is how many people actualy play games and how much time they spend on it.
I’m not going to go through the numbers, but suffice to say that its a lot. Probably a lot more than you think on both accounts. Of course, for many this is worrisome. How can humanity handle the situation when people just stay in their virtual worlds?
Well, I’d say they see the whole situation wrong.
When I was in high school in the mid-90s (or in gymnasium, which is the proper term), I read a RuneQuest/Glorantha fanzine called Tales of the Reaching Moon whenever I could get my hands on it. In one of the magazines, there was a reader poll and when I got my hands on the results, I remember being very surprised to see that the average age of the people who answered was 26. That felt kind of high at the time. I mean, those people have real lives. Families, jobs, school, whatever. You know, responsibilities.
So, where do they find the time to play games?
If you think about it, its actually very easy to answer. They replace passive entertainment wih an active one. Instead of watching the TV screen blankly, they are using their brains to do something, whether its something like the aforementioned RQ, some boardgame, building nations in Civilization or sniping people in some first-person shooter.
If you are worried about humanity in any way, this should actually be a trend you think is positive. People using their brains means that when they actually need them, they’ll be better prepared for the situation. Sure, the problems presented by the game might not actually simulate various real world situations very well, but they still do give the players more tools to work with. At least they aren’t all just watching some unfunny sitcom or horrible reality show.
The other problem is that certain people are drawn into the virtual worlds and don’t really come out anymore. This one is trickier. Game addiction is a real problem and often these people are marginalized, but its not as simple as that. The world is changing. Automation is eating up more and more jobs. As dark as this may seem, maybe there just isn’t anything in the “real world” for these people.
But in this case, games are an opportunity, not a threat. What did people do in a similar situation before gaming was ubiquitous? Drugs. Which one is better, all these people doing drugs or all these people keeping themselves active by playing games? Of course, these are no mutually exclusive in any way, but I think most people looking in from the outside would prefer these people immersing themselves in games rather than substance abuse, legal or not.
Games are an asylum for people, who are on the fringes of society. At least they can get that elusive feeling of accomplishment. Since you are all probably gaming already, you know how good that feels. If these people have nothing else in their lives, why would we want rob them of their only joy?
When we really want them to participate in society, just give them a game simulating some real world problem and they’ll solve it. These are not dregs of society. They are a resource that isn’t utilized properly.