With every year that goes by, more and more children are born into a life where they will always have known about interactive video games and social, online gaming. Educationalists are still trying to come to grips with a world in which today’s school children were born “after Google”, and have never known life without the web, never known life without search engines.
So what sort of relationship might our children expect to have with interactive media in the years hence, and how will this affect their lives and their beliefs?
The following presentation by games designer David Perry at the TED conference in February 2006 includes a video sequence put together by Michael Highland.
Watch the sequence through – it’s about ten minutes long and starts 9 minutes 49 seconds into the video and ends at 18 minutes 32 seconds (or watch this unofficial edit of the sequence directly).
So what do you think? Did you find the sequence thought provoking? And if so, what thoughts did it provoke?
Here are some of the things I took away from it: Michael Highland suggests that he can’t help but be seduced by the pull of media that is been finely crafted to produce an emotional response in him as a viewer or as a participant. He suggests that the increasing fidelity of game worlds will increasingly lead us to come to to believe that the skills and experiences we have in those worlds are transferable to the real world (which is surely a claim that the developers of serious games would also make?). But more than that, he also claims that by manipulating our emotions, game developers can help us reconnect with a world in which the news media continually fails to engage us in emotional terms.
Michael Highland also raises some concerns, such as that real life is coming to more closely resemble game life, as this Business Week article reporting from the Farnborough Air Show in July 2008 suggests (Raytheon Taps Video Games to Pilot Drones):
Based around a multiscreen console complete with on-screen health and weapons updates, Raytheon’s UCS [Universal Controller System] has cherry-picked elements from the gaming industry to give pilots more control over their unmanned aircraft. The UAV’s [unmanned aerial vehicle's] onboard camera, for example, has been augmented with digital images similar to Google Earth that give the operator an almost 180-degree view. That lets Raytheon overlay other data, such as where troops are located, on top of the enhanced view in the same way video games offer players extra on-screen information.
“Gaming companies have spent millions to develop user-friendly graphic interfaces, so why not put them to work on UAVs?” says Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon’s tactical intelligence systems. “The video-game industry always will outspend the military on improving human-computer interaction.”
The video clip also raises the point that the video game addict might well have spent more time driving in virtual worlds than driving in the real world – my immediate thought here was in the case of an accident, would muscle memory take over in controlling the driver’s actions? And muscle memory acquired where?
The video clip closes with a mention of the responsibilities of games developers as they become increasingly adept at manipulating our emotions. Where do you think those responsibilities begin, and end? Post your thoughts a comment to this post, or post them elsewhere and link back to this post.
PS the full TED video contains another video sequence that is well worth watching. If you didn’t watch the whole presentation through and only what Michael Highland’s sequence, the other clip (with a tint bit of qualifying commentary at the end) runs from 6m11s to 9m33s and shows in 3 minutes just how far video games have come in graphical terms over the last 20 years.