It seems far more downbeat than usual, but Raph Koster gave quite a negative keynote at the Worlds in Motion Summit:
He showed photos of Club Penguin, and glamorous Second Life characters with torn jeans — and then followed them with unsettling slides of Darfur and Haiti.
“I look at what we do and I say, god damn, we’re kind of irrelevant,” Koster said, pointing out the schism between virtual reality and the real world we know.
It’s not a very new point, though Jane McGonigal put it across in a much more positive way during her Game Developer’s Rant:
I’m not here to rant about game designers. I’m mad, but I’m not mad at game designers. I think that compared to the rest of the world, game designers pretty much have it all figured out. We’ve invented a medium that kicks every other medium’s ass. As game designers, we own more emotional bandwidth, we occupy more brain cycles, and we make more people happy than any other platform or content in the world. And if you don’t already believe that, if you don’t realize that we’ve already won, then you’re not paying attention to the staggering amount of time, energy, money and passion that gamers all over the world pour into our games every single day.
So why why have we won? Because as an industry, we’ve spent the last 30 years learning how to optimize human experience. We know that our brains are made for playing games. Recently, some of us have remembered that our bodies are made for playing games. And we’ve always known that our hearts are made for playing games. So as an industry, we’ve spent three whole decades figuring out how to engineer systems that fully engage our brains, and our bodies, and our hearts. And we’ve pretty much solved that problem – or, at least, our solutions are working better than other designed experience on the planet. So our systems work better than anything anyone else is making to engage human beings. And as a result, the way I see it, right now, we basically rule the world.
That’s the good news. But the problem is, we don’t rule the real world.
Where Raph says we have a moral obligation to attend to the world’s problems, Jane is saying we have the power to do so.
(CC image of a riot in Paris, from Daniel Meyer)