Saturday, September 22, 2007

Boredom as exploitation, Part I: Say It Ain't So, Blow!

An article on the dangers of video games:

A prominent independent developer labelled modern games such as World of Warcraft "unethical" at a recent Melbourne conference.

Jonathan Blow, creator of upcoming time-bending game Braid, told the Free Play conference at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image that games can be art but he is concerned about what they are really teaching players.

"I believe that games are important to the future of humanity," Mr Blow says. "It sounds like a grand statement but it's obviously true for other forms of art that we're very familiar with. Films and novels have drastically shaped the society that we live in; without them our lives would be very different.

"I don't think games are there yet but if we are good about it we can develop games into a medium that's more relevant to the wide swathe of humanity."

Mr Blow believes developers need to think about what their games are teaching players when they reward them for performing certain actions.

"That kind of reward system is very easily turned into a Pavlovian or Skinnerian scheme," he says. "It's considered best practice: schedule rewards for your player so that they don't get bored and give up on your game. That's actually exploitation."


Halo III comes out tonight. No boredom at the Munger house for a long time.

Of course, Mr. Blow may be right: Wow may just be too sexy.