The future of gaming – I can’t help feeling this is all too real

future wow player art, guy strung out in the corner

The title of the article I found this in was “What will a World of Warcraft player look like in 2030?”, and it seems about right. Click the image to see a larger version, the goggles are showing hillsides and rainbows.

As you deepen your experience of the game you lose your grasp of and interest in the real world. This sounds silly when you haven’t experienced it, but I’m always shocked to hear how literally players are willing to express this feeling, especially when I remember to insanity issuing from my own mouth right before I quit (“Isn’t all of society a game?”, “The goals and rewards are just more interesting in the game than out here”).

The comments on the article linked above are an excellent microcosm of the problem, with anonymous visiters actually debating whether the pictured situation is worse than the way humans currently interract in society:

Anonymous said…
So what.
Why is glory in the real world better than the glory in a fake one?
If a game can be designed that has more opportunity for a meaningful life, perhaps it is a good thing.
Evolution made us to survive, not to live.

People aren’t just playing a game, they’re experiencing massive shifts in lifestyle and ideology that are necessary to support their interest in and compulsion to play the game. Things they would otherwise believe in (family, friends, romance and, nightmarishly, politics) lose their sense of immediacy and become abstract and neglected. Alternately they can be replaced or hijacked by flimsy in-game versions (Guilds replace families, romance happens between battles and politics becomes how you feel about the “administration” of the world by the game developers). Either way the end result is a simulation that propagates itself; sucking people in, then, in the context of maximizing fun, changing the way they feel about the world to keep them in.

The painting above is scary, but the current reality is almost worse. Horror myths about getting lost in the Holodeck or addiction to “virtual reality” have been around as long as computers have, but the idea that we already have virtual drug addicts eschewing reality in favor of a game, even though the “virtual reality” on offer is only keyboard-and-mouse based paints a worrying picture of a future where immersive environments are available. Who will be able to say no? And if the games are any good how will we avoid succumbing to their ideological influence?

(The image itself is from Pyxelated on the DeviantArt community site. Prints seem to be available for sale.)

7 Replies to “The future of gaming – I can’t help feeling this is all too real”

  1. Good note, man. The power of video games is definitely becoming harder and harder to ignore, but I think the industry is aware of its ideological influence. I was listening to a podcast from the IGDA (International Game Developer’s Association) on the education of future game developers, and a big part of the new curriculums involve producing well-educated individuals who will be more intimately aware of their creations.

    Now, one thing that I think needs to be said on the part of WoW is that you get your most bang for buck by playing casually. The bottleneck in end-game content is there specifically to deter people from pouring in an unhealthy amount of time into the game. It’s scary that despite this, people still push themselves through ridiculous amounts of playtime for minimal reward. Now that the expansion’s coming out with content that will easily outshine whatever phat lewtz they’ve gotten, those people are realizing how much all of that work was really a waste.

  2. I think you know entirely too many “crazy” people (or 12-year-old boys with nothing better to do than play video games).

    I can’t say I’ve “experienced a massive shift in lifestyle and ideology.” Go outside the box a little more.

  3. Go confront some people with WoW/MMO habits that are stopping them from getting on with their lives. The ideological shift hides behind just having fun playing games, serving as the justification when the behavior is challenged. Maybe the players already felt that way, but I can’t help feeling that four years ago there werent’ nearly as many people who thought that real life was too lame to worry about.
    Were you searching for MMO addiction when you found this? Check out WoWDetox to hear some stories about how gaming has changed people’s lives.

  4. Im a 16 year old girl that plays WoW and i dont see what the big huff up is about … sure sometimes i would rather be in my room and happily play it but id never seen it as an addiction … wow has never stopped me going out to see my friends or enjoy the real world. Infact ive met a lot of good friends on wow which i will happy met up with and see at weekends, You should really look outside the box more, millions of people play wow im sure not many lock themselves up in there rooms and throw there lives away to play it. Yes MMO addition exists but i think you need to look at both sides of the point.

  5. Sky, you are right, there is another side to the WoW coin where people can potentially live happily and successfully alongside their virtual lives in the game.

    I’m not trying to accuse every WoW player of being addicted, but I do think that a large proportion of players are addicted, many of whom would rather think they just like playing. IMHO, if you can’t quit then you’re addicted, and a lot of people have big problems when someone encourages them to quit.

    As always I’d compare it to drugs and their addictiveness. WoW may not be the most addictive thing in the universe, but when you choose chemical drugs to do (at least for me) the most important consideration is their addictiveness, because that is the main danger of any drug, becomming addicted and letting your life/body be overrun by the drug. When talking to people about wow, I emphasize that it is the most addictive game ever produced, and that for their well-being, they are better off playing other games instead, because while they might come away unscathed, there is a huge chance they could get caught up in the world and lose their jobs/lovers/friends.

    WoW doesn’t kill you or your life, but it is the most dangerous game ever produced (due to its mix of time-addictiveness and broad appeal, unlike most games that either end or aren’t interesting to *most* people).

  6. As you deepen your experience of the game you lose your grasp of and interest in the real world. This sounds silly when you haven

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