Infovore has a very interesting article about the future of the world as run by gamers. This is no mere conjecture: a generation of people who have grown up with games as part of their everyday lives is now coming into power. The question then becomes “what skills would someone who has been a gamer all their lives have?”
Among the skills listed are resource management, understanding of complexity, and dealing with failure as a fact of life. I love the section regarding failure:
When we learn in games, we learn by failing; we learn whether or not we
can really make that jump, or if that enemy really is vulnerable to
fire. Part of understanding the complex systems of games is making
mistakes. And, as we become more experienced, we learn to discern
between something being “possible but not by me (yet)” or “impossible
for anyone”. Once you learn that progress comes from failure, you stop
seeing failure as an absolute, and more as a step on the path.
Furthermore, the article goes to mention one of my favorite games:
And some games really place the notion of exploratory failure at their
core. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time makes failure an integral
part of its gameplay by giving the player a limited ability to rewind
time. Mistakes are not instantly punished; they’re only punished if you
don’t learn from them (and make them when you have run out of the magic
rewind power). I think it’s dangerous to remove any notion of challenge
from games, but there are ways to make that challenge scale up-or-down,
and Sands of Time balances challenge and exploration very, very nicely.
One of my favorite parts of the article, itself a quote from another article (“Games without frontiers” by Clive Thompson):
“Constance Steinkuehler — a game academic at the University of
Wisconsin — was spending 12 hours a day playing Lineage, the online
world game. She was, as she puts it, a “siege princess,” running
150-person raids on hellishly difficult bosses. Most of her guild
members were teenage boys.
But they were pretty good at figuring out how to defeat the bosses.
One day she found out why. A group of them were building Excel
spreadsheets into which they’d dump all the information they’d gathered
about how each boss behaved: What potions affected it, what attacks it
would use, with what damage, and when. Then they’d develop a
mathematical model to explain how the boss worked — and to predict how
to beat it.
Often, the first model wouldn’t work very well, so the group would
argue about how to strengthen it. Some would offer up new data they’d
collected, and suggest tweaks to the model. “They’d be sitting around
arguing about what model was the best, which was most predictive,”
That’s when it hit her: The kids were practicing science.
At one point, Steinkuehler met up with one of the kids who’d built
the Excel model to crack the boss. “Do you realize that what you’re
doing is the essence of science?” she asked.
He smiled at her. “Dude, I’m not doing science,” he replied. “I’m just cheating the game!””
The conclusion that comes from this article is that
Well, if [gamers] can handle complexity, and they’ve stocked up all the
magic item chests ready for when scarcity hits, and they’ve failed
enough times at the low-stakes games that they know they can make it at
the high-stakes ones, and if our environment is one carefully planned
out for effective growth rather than rammed together for efficiency,
and if they understand how to handle the ever-more complex forms of
communications necessary to deal with the large, distributed teams of
people necessary to understand complexity – and if they can create a
world that supplies and consumes the data necessary to make smart,
informed, decisions – then they might just make it awesome.
No-one would ever tell us that games were a waste of time.
Sheer brilliance, I must say.
I’m an RPG gamer myself, for the most part, so I guess that part of the skillset that I’ve developed as a gamer include resource management (potions can be damn scarce!), critical analysis decision making (do I apply the skill points to THIS stat, or THAT stat?), and just a tenacious doggedness at slogging away at something (random battles, in the case of RPGs) to attain a greater goal (levelling up…usually to defeat the next boss and get the storyline to progress). What do you think? What skills do you think that games has brought to you life, other than brilliant hand-eye coordination, an itchy trigger finger, and crap driving skills?
Go read the article: the future might just be looking damn bright…in a pixellated kind of way.