Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shaping virtual environments

Going off topic, (thanks to a Creative Writing class assignment) let's talk about the one thing I probably know the least about in the world: video games.

I can probably count on one hand the times I've actually played any video games. I've never seen the appeal of sitting in a basement pretending to do something you could actually be doing in real life (unless it's shooting a bunch of people-- I don't see the appeal of that, period). It just seems lazy, and don't get me wrong-- I love to be lazy. But if I'm going to be lazy, then figuring out a bunch of buttons and controllers actually seems like more work than it's worth.

But from the limited exposure I've gotten to a few games in class, I DO see some value in it all. First off, clearly not all games are just about racing or killing. There are some interesting and psychologically complex games out there that offer a whole other level of interaction.

Most importantly, I am intrigued at the possibilities that come with the creation of a game. When constructing a video game, you are shaping a virtual reality of your own choosing-- the rules follow your logic, the choices possible are in line with the values you map out for this little world. You've created a paradigm all your own that people, if they so choose, must operate within. Basically, the creator of the game is God.

What incredible, and destructive, potential these games have. And they can be used for good or ill. It makes you think about what ulterior motives companies may have for creating certain games. Thousands of kids (and adults) spending hours in a virtual world where you are rewarded again and again for killing without thought-- I wonder who could benefit from that...

But then again, these games could also serve a rehabilitative purpose. It might do good for some to spend some time in a virtual landscape that provides positive feedback for respecting human life, cooperating, etc etc. I guess it's the same as how people argue that competitive board games are not good for children, while cooperative ones teach them positive lessons.

These are certainly not new ideas, but it's the first time I'VE really though about it. Pretty fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article Sandy. I can also count the number of times I've played video games on one hand, and had never given it much more thought. It would be interesting to do a study of the values presented in the most commonly played video games, and pull out the common value/moral threads. I hope it wouldn't be all about killing.