Thursday, December 9, 2010

Life is a game

A reader sent this as a follow-up to the last post, a NY Times piece on gaming:
“Gamers are engaged, focused, and happy,” says Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University who has studied and designed online games. “How many employers wish they could say that about even a tenth of their work force?
***
In the past, puzzles and games were sometimes considered useful instructional tools. The emperor Charlemagne hired a scholar to compile “Problems to Sharpen the Young,” a collection of puzzles like the old one about ferrying animals across a river (without leaving the hungry fox on the same bank as the defenseless goat). The British credited their victory over Napoleon to the games played on the fields of Eton.

But once puzzles and gaming went digital, once the industry’s revenues rivaled Hollywood’s, once children and adults became so absorbed that they forsook even television, then the activity was routinely denounced as “escapism” and an “addiction.” Meanwhile, a few researchers were more interested in understanding why players were becoming so absorbed and focused. They seemed to be achieving the state of “flow” that psychologists had used to describe master musicians and champion athletes, but the gamers were getting there right away instead of having to train for years.

One game-design consultant, Nicole Lazzaro, the president of XEODesign, recorded the facial expressions of players and interviewed them along with their friends and relatives to identify the crucial ingredients of a good game. One ingredient is “hard fun,” which Ms. Lazzaro defines as overcoming obstacles in pursuit of a goal. That’s the same appeal of old-fashioned puzzles, but the video games provide something new: instantaneous feedback and continual encouragement, both from the computer and from the other players.

Players get steady rewards for little achievements as they amass points and progress to higher levels, with the challenges becoming harder as their skill increases.

Even though they fail over and over, they remain motivated to keep going until they succeed and experience what game researchers call “fiero.” The term (Italian for “proud”) describes the feeling that makes a gamer lift both arms above the head in triumph.
The article makes a strange argument, essentially that if hardcore gamers saw real life more as a game, they might be more interested in real life. If that is the prescribed therapy for ennui or a persistent sense of the meaningless of life, then sociopaths have been self-medicating for millennia.

81 comments:

  1. Video games provide what everyday life at work and in the local community cannot. It's the next best thing to have a go at becoming a real epic hero, and it provides what modern atheism.

    No one really have a sense of connection to their gods anymore, and even if they 'feel' there's a god they don't hope to ever meet him. In games they meet all that is grand and 'larger than life'.

    Games provide all the things people are taught can never be their real life, for real life is 9-5 jobs and TV dinners. An endless zombie-killing meaningless void.

    You can even say it's a substitute for Religion ... the real thing, that is.

    I know the 'flow' mentioned i the article. I've experienced it in connection with my martial arts training, and even in connection with walking. It's equivalent to a meditative state, and if you practice some form of religion (as you've stated elsewhere that you do) you may experience it too, with some training and persistence.

    The psychology of gaming is not hard to understand (for me), but it sure is interesting. I've always wanted to be part of something like that: The creation of games and studying of how it works with the human brain in our modern day setting.

    But that'll probably never come to pass. I'll have to stick with my personal project which involves at least some of the same ingredients. :)

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  2. Edit:

    ... "and it provides what modern atheism" cannot.


    ..."An endless zombie-killing meaningless void". - Or: An endless zombie-killing flat and two-dimensional plain.

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  3. I've been a gamer since a young age, on one way or another :)

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  4. As the article says video games provide encouragement, a definitive reward and end to the game. If life were a game it would be a long and boring one with no distinct end and most would switch the console off before the end. We merely create games to make life that little bit less dull.

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  5. But that's just my opinion.

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  6. This notion of looking at life as game is inspirational for an intellectual and an empath. Ability to see life as game could provide with enough detachment from emotions and make life much easier on them.

    This view of life as games is in alignment with how a socio sees life, isn't it? So, is a socio always in flow and happy while gaming? If not, what gets in the way?

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  7. When you can receive a shit load of presents without giving any back then come back to me! aha

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  8. If that is the prescribed therapy for ennui or a persistent sense of the meaningless of life, than sociopaths have been self-medicating for millennia.

    As much as I would whole heartedly agree, I do not think it has been exclusive, if you will. People love to play life games, the more bored, the more exciting and dangerous.

    In the end, it's about keeping yourself entertained, stimulated; that's something everyone has in common. The one big difference is the lengths at which we are willing to go for them.

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  9. "He thinks he's got some kind of immunity to her headgames? That kind of arrogance is just laughable. I don't care if you are coated in teflon - if shit is being flung and you are anywhere in the vicinity, some of it is going to land on YOU."

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  10. "If life were a game it would be a long and boring one with no distinct end and most would switch the console off before the end."

    Thats the thing. Life IS a game, and it is a very long and boring one. Thats why it's up to us to create as much excitement and chaos in it as possible. I don't want to play the game(as most people do), I want to design it, or redesign it, so that I can play it however I want to play it. For me, thats the whole point of aiming to reach a position of power in this world

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  11. This is truly interesting. I have only one comment : "If that is the prescribed therapy for ennui or a persistent sense of the meaningless of life, THEN sociopaths have been self-medicating for millennia."

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  12. While at it: 'meaninglessNESS' of life, not meaningless of life

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  13. I get what you mean Misanthrope. But I have a very short attention span.

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  14. You're right anon 8:51, sorry i missed it.

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  15. I like Left for Dead 2 and Fallout. Falllout constantly gives you moral issues to face. I let a couple of my friends borrow it and it surprised me that they made merciful moral choices even with it being a videogame. It surprised me that given a open world where you can do what you want you would not choose to cause havoc.
    I opened up google news yesterday and I saw a article on this game called World of Warcraft. Scary that this game takes over peoples entire lives. People will spend all their time in the day playing this game and substitute their friends for online friends in this game. Ridiculous.
    I look at conversations as chess games. Every sentence is a move and every move is crucial.

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  16. Do you think M.E. is sitting somewhere at a desk with a computer hitting the refresh button and reading our comments?

    If so Holla back M.E. !

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  17. M.E. (Just kidding)December 9, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    Whaddup? I'm ME, holling back from the clouds... Whaddaya want my son?

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  18. Religion isn't the only thing that induces the trance state, a well-documented if not well-understood phenomenon.

    Video games, running, martial arts, progressive relaxation, intense thought, hell even cooking can. Nothing religious or spiritual about it and if you ask me you can probably get more fulfilment from removing the religious and spiritual from it because it means it was in your control, not some imagined deity. Control is power, power over the self is required if you want to effectively control others after all :P If not, whatever you have won't last long enough to be interesting.

    I've played Fallout, and the problem with the morality systems of such games is the best in-game payoffs almost always result from doing the "morally correct" course.

    It's probably because of social mores they don't, but if you ask me manipulative-bastardry and pragmatism should be most rewarded :P

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  19. You must have not played the new one :)

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  20. Hmmm, we've all been self-medicating for millennia - just with different tonics.

    The goals in virtual games are clear, and compatible with the gamer, in so much as they CHOSE to play them.

    So much of our life is about the illusion of choice that momentarily being in control is intensely rewarding for many - if not all - of us.

    Likewise, the rules of virtual games are clear, unlike those day-to-day, which are hidden, fluid, iniquitous and larger than us all.

    In virtual games we also have the satisfaction of being emotionally connected to our end product or goal, plus immediate rewards and feedback are forthcoming. This is in stark contrast to how many of us experience the majority of our time.

    My self-contained universe, where everything is black-and-white, is creative writing – combined with clarity of goals it gives me blissful flow.

    Virtual games are just one way of buying that instantly, instead of creating it as say, a runner or knitter or worshipper might.

    I guess you could say they're currently the most popular commodification of psychological flow...

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  21. Oh, and much of our meaningless modern work is the antithesis of flow, where many of us do not get to see our end product (unlike, say, both genders in agriculture) so have no REAL understanding of its significance (food, warmth, shelter) or our connection to it (survival.)

    Hence, virtual games have taken over the sedentary Western world and become the opiate of the masses in societies largely devoid of faith and physicality (AKA: how the rest of the world obtains flow naturally) because of their easy accessibility.

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  22. This reminds me of a show that was on last night. It about video game addiction, and was about as absurd as a sex addiction. Only in america the most prudish country on earth would sex to an extent be considered an addiction. Anyways I am sure the masses will have some over reaction to breathing eventually.

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  23. 'Anyways I am sure the masses will have some over reaction to breathing eventually.'

    that one's covered too. it's called yoga. I hate being told how to breathe. true story. :)

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  24. no lie. panorama is on now - about game addiction.

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  25. my internet connection is really temperamental tonight (ie. it doesn't want to connect most the time). do you think it has anything to do with the cold weather? seriously, i have no idea what it could be...

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  26. Who cares about the details of Notme's life? Who comes here to find out if the water is frozen or the internet is functioning for Notme? This is sociopathworld. Did you see anything that said Notmeworld?

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  27. heavy traffic because of cold weather keeping all inside and glued to the computer?

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  28. anon 5:56 be nice, man

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  29. it's ALWAYS a Notmeworld as long as I'm in it sweetheart.

    Besides, i thought a geek like you would be able to help me with my computer issue. hehe.

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  30. 26

    possibly. i'll call the techies tomorrow.

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  31. Notme leaves my member flaccid with the endless babbling.

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  32. babblebabblebabblebabblebabble Mwah!

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  33. is there such a thing as male pms? what's with all the touchy anons lately. it seems to match the moon cycles. someone should study it.

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  34. Lately? I think it has been very consistent

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  35. it's fine. i like touchyness. it keeps the wheels in motion.

    besides, anon at 6.00 is my knight in shining armour, it seems. :D

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  36. I'm guessing the complaining anons are not the same anons that actually contribute here.

    I was hoping for a comment orgy when I got home from my excessively long day a work. hmph.

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  37. SW is not a very good distraction tonight. Where my socios at?

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  38. Post! :) Anywhere exciting?

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  39. I'm big on *hmph* and *pout* also *giggle* and *squee*.

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  40. In that case, you have made much better life choices than I. I was at the lab all evening trying to see if something worked because the boss man needs a report tomorrow for the vp. Nothing exciting is happening over here at all.

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  41. post, that picture is far too sexy for a socio. not sure why, maybe because something erect connected to mouth. who knows.

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  42. Engineer a supervirus. That should perk things up a bit. :D

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  43. @45: Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe. Then again, perhaps ceci n'est pas une pipe.~

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  44. That wouldn't raise any red flags at my work :-P "Hey, you know that new girl down in R&D? Well, I know she is supposed to be making (lets say tables and chairs), but she keeps ordering viruses and mutagens. What do you make of that?"

    @45 Is my picture too sexy, too?~

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  45. what is it, a tree?
    in which case, yes. trees are hot.

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  46. Postmodern, you haven't posted anything on your blog for a while.
    Shame.

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  47. I've been busy. We can't all be drivel machines like Notable.~

    I have some things I'm working on. When I've got them in a readable and sufficiently interesting form, I'll put them up.

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  48. nice. i'll look forward to it.

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  49. pythias... your picture is not sexy. what's on the bark, assuming it is a tree. how did you choose that? Post's picture is really driving me crazy, the shiny white hair, sophisticated looks, soft jacket with a lifted collar, damn, it says come in my coat.

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  50. @notme It is a telephone pole.

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  51. post, just checked your blog. no kidding, you're a teacher? you talk about game theory but does not look like you refer to mathematically defined economics oriented game theory. r u making up your own game theory there?

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  52. Oh Anon, now I'm going to cry.~ My telephone pole has old rusty nails and staples on it. How does that not say "sex"?

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  53. No, I'm not a teacher, and I'm not referring to economics oriented game theory. I have a rough background in the mathematical aspects of game theory, and trying to work that into real-life application takes a great deal of the rigor out of it. ~shrug~

    There's a reason I prefer category theory.

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  54. why a telephone pole Pythias?

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  55. Though I agree completely, of course. (@Anon) Post's picture makes me assume he is an attractive, distinguished, white-haired, be-piped philosopher with thoughts so deep he can't be bothered to look at the camera when having his photo taken. Quite appealing.

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  56. rusty nails on a pole... sexy? sorry, rusty nails on a hand rubbing a pole maybe sexy.

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  57. Except for the white hair, Pythias, you've got my number. :D

    The hair will go white eventually, I'm sure. ;)

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  58. post, you refer to yourself as mathematician, given that it ain't game theory what mathematical theory is your cup of tea?

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  59. i've always loved old men. (not sexually). I think it's partly cos I never had a grandad in my lifetime. And all my uncles were crappy. :(

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  60. Number theory, logic, proof theory, category theory. I'm fond of abstract mathematics, generally. Topology's proving to be fun, as well.

    Yourself?

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  61. i fantasize an old man who take his teeth out and go down really soft

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  62. nonconvex optimization

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  63. I went out for pizza with a coworker, and it was good :D

    More drivel inbound in T-Minus 45 minutes.

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  64. g'night folks... will take sexy thoughts of my old tooth-free mathematician to bed now.

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  65. Sounds exciting, Anon. The little bit of literature I could find on the subject looks to be worth a read, but I imagine there's a fair bit of background I'd need to fully grasp most of it.

    I'm just an undergrad in pure math, so I imagine you've got a good deal more to work with than I do, overall. :D

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  66. Oh good, my mental image of Post can remain intact.

    @Anon: If I had a disgust response, I think you would have triggered it. :-P

    I'm hoping all that you are talking about is theoretical, because otherwise I took nothing away from that minor in applied mathematics I got three or four millenia ago, as I've no idea what you two are talking about.

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  67. the clock on this blog relates to no reality i know of, however i look at it. apart from that, i love the colour scheme, it's perfect and the text is so readable. M.E, you are an artist my friend.

    Notable. i'm waiting for your post. :)

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  68. It is Pacific Standard time (US)- like for Californians.

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  69. I finally wrote my piece on female sociopathy. I'd love to see some feedback, especially from Pythias!

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  70. I just got denied buying a firearm. Maybe the system does work. ~

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  71. UKan. It took me a minute to really grasp how incredibly funny you are.

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  72. I guess ill take that as a compliment.

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  73. Zombie movies are okay like 28 days later.But vampire ones are just corny.

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  74. Pig sperm and beautiful salad leaves.

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    film izleyebileceğiniz en iyi adrestesiniz.En iyi yerli filmlerin hd kalitede bulabileceğiniz ve türkçe dublaj film izleyerek keyifli zaman geçirebileceğiniz bir film sitesi üzerinde çalıştığımızı ve sizler için en iyi aksiyon filmleri izleyebileceğiniz güzel bir site yapmaya çalıştığımızı belirtmek isterim. Kaliteli animasyon filmleri izleyebileceğiniz ve en önemlisi tek part film izleyebileceğiniz bir sistem kurmanın gururunu yaşadığımızın bilincindeyiz. Keyifli zamanlar geçirmeniz dileğiyle.

    ReplyDelete

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