Game designers used to be innocent, you know?

They used to create games that were simply FUN. But at some point, someone read something about operant conditioning and thought “um… that’s already in videogames. But what if…”, and videogames became Skinner Boxes to bring us all and in the darkess dim light of our living rooms bind us.

David Wong shows in this article that we are just rats pressing some levers to get food. But damn it, its terribly entertaining!

Some pearls:

“Your brain treats items and goods in the video game world as if they are real. Because they are (…) If it takes time, effort and skill to obtain an item, that item has value, whether it’s made of diamonds, binary code or beef jerky.”

“(…) people pay thousands of dollars for diamonds, even though diamonds do nothing but look pretty. A video game suit of armor looks pretty and protects you from video game orcs.”

“The terrible truth is that a whole lot of us begged for a Skinner Box we could crawl into, because the real world’s system of rewards is so much more slow and cruel than we expected it to be. In that, gaming is no different from other forms of mental escape, from sports fandom to moonshine.”

But it’s not just a matter of addiction. It’s the pure power of fantasy and imagination striking not a chord but  a whole sonata in us. Nothing better than Frank Budgen’s Double Life PlayStation ad to sum up what playing a videogame means:

For years, I’ve lived a double life.

In the day, I do my job – I ride the bus,
roll up my sleeves with the hoi-polloi.

But at night, I live a life of exhilaration,
of missed heartbeats and adrenalin.

And, if the truth be known,
a life of dubious virtue.

I won’t deny it – I’ve been engaged in violence,
even indulged in it.

I’ve maimed and killed adversaries,
and not merely in self-defence.

I’ve exhibited disregard for life, limb and property,
and savoured every moment.

You may not think it, to look of me,
but I have commanded armies,
and conquered worlds.

And though in achieving these things
I’ve set morality aside,
I have no regrets.

For though I’ve led a double life,
at least I can say – I’ve lived.

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