One of the best conferences I attended last year was Supernova, put together by my friend Kevin Werbach of Wharton. I don’t know whether I will get to go to Supernova this year… At any rate, in bringing my CV up to date, I stumbled across these notes from a panel I was on there, written by J. D. Lasica, author of the excellent book Darknet : Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation. Looks like I was saying single-player gaming is an aberration as long as a year ago…
The final session of the day, on Connected Play, was both enlightening and entertaining, with Raph Koster (Sony Online), JC Herz (Joystick Nation), Philip Rosedale (Linden Lab), and Dennis Fong (Xfire).
Raph: Society and media underestimate the importance of games to today’s generation. Games to today’s kids are having as big as impact as rock ‘n’ roll, TV and radio to previous generations. That’s the world now, the game world. “You nongamers, you’re the dinosaurs.”
He said: I get depressed when I hear about games when it applies only to media companies or games as money. Games know more about how to interact with complex datasets than most websites.
More Raph: Games have always been part of human culture and they’ve always been used to educate children. What’s changing is the demographic: the aging of those who play computer games, one of the biggest growths in gaming is among those in their 30s. Over the last year we’ve seen a rising tide of participation by people in their 20s and 30s.
Philip Rosedale took the conversation up several thousand feet by asking: Are we reinforcing or parodying medieval behavior, if the goal of the game is simply killing? But other kinds of gaming offer profound insights into how we are able to change as people. A game in which you use communication to collaboratively create something is very useful.
JC: Game playing can be a creative experience. People make stuff, in Second Life or in the Sims. The making of things has been compartmentalized into the professional class. Making stuff is a fundamental human urge.
Raph: One of the things interesting to me about virtual worlds is they bring back tribes of disparate interests rubbing up against each other. You don’t see that in real life anymore, and on the Internet it’s mostly about forming and staying within cliques, so games challenge that underlying assumption. Disconnected play is a historical aberration. Since computers showed up, we’re trying to network games back together.
Dennis Fong: The mainstream media still portray gaming as a solitary experience, but it’s really a social experience, and whether you’re online in a virtual environment or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re still your friends.