Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Read This And Earn 500 Points: The Reverse Virtual Reality World Of The Future...

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 27, 2010

I don't pay much attention to games. I used to play games as a kid, and I used to play Halo as an adult. But that was years ago.

Today there are games everywhere, Farmville on Facebook, games at fast food places, games based on watching TV shows. I've managed to avoid all those too.

But I'm probably in the minority. Because games have become one of the most lucrative commercial endeavors, which means lots of people are playing. And game culture is having an effect on our broader culture -- especially the game culture of earning points.

Kevin Kelly points to a fascinating talk by Jesse Schell, a games designer. In "Design outside the box" Mr Schell starts by explaining out how much money is made by very simple games, such as Farmville and Club Penguin.

But its the latter part of his talk that is even more interesting, when he predicts how games will be embedded into our reality. With the use of wireless sensors, a lot of real world game play is possible.

For example:

- people will be rewarded with points by their insurance companies for walking.

- kids will get points for doing well at their music lessons.

- people will use public transport to earn points that are redeemable through tax credits; and so on...

Kevin Kelly notes:

On second viewing I realized that Schell had also outlined a version of an attention economy -- where points are distributed for paying attention -- to ads, or other activities, or other people. Some aspect of his vision seems pretty inevitable.

Foremski's Take: I agree with Kevin Kelly and Jesse Schell that the intrusion of games into our society is inevitable. But It's a scary future.

I can imagine people doing all sorts of weird things because some advertiser pays them points, for say, shouting out their name at noon: "JACK IN THE BOX!" and monitors it via a cell phone, and its GPS location, for extra points in an urban area. And there will be even weirder, crazier stuff going on, as games becoming ever more embedded into our reality.

Foursquare already gives us a tiny glimpse of a world where games are embedded into reality -- its a form of what could be called a 'reverse virtual reality.'

And 'points' are a perfect example of a reverse virtual reality (RVR), they are a virtual currency with real benefits.

The opportunities for abuse, in constructing points based RVR game play, are huge. Yes, people will be encouraged into healthier behaviors but they will also be taken advantage of by their willingness to do things for points.

We won't need to fear subtle mind control by governments, or a Big Brother, people will do and say all manner of things, not because they love their Dear Leader, but because they earn points.

- Monitoring of behavior, and the scoring of points, will be carried out by cheap sensors networked together through the ever spreading wireless communications layer that will soon be ubiquitous, even in remote rural areas.

- Collation and redemption of points will be in online worlds where even more points can be earned, by taking part in immersive experiences that strengthen brand association and loyalty. Scary, very scary.

- And of course, the tax man will take his share. How, I'm not sure, but there will be a way. And since government will benefit, it benefits the government to regulate it and encourage it.

But what if you don't want to participate in the brave new RVR world?

Of course, you won't have to, there's nothing that says that you must, no laws can compel you, in fact, there will be laws that protect you from discrimination through having to have RVR points, in housing, employment, and education.

However, we are social animals, we are very social animals. Monkey see, monkey do. Peer pressure will compel us into RVR game play to an enormous degree. Decrees against RVR game play will find few takers.

And as the real world becomes ever more tied to the virtual world, outcasts from this RVR society, like outcasts have always done, will once again form communes in the woods and remote areas of the world. Will you be one of them?

I'd like to think I'll be one of them, but then I'd have to walk away from all those points I've accumulated over so many years...

Take a look at the video - it's really worth it.

DICE 2010: "Design Outside the Box" Presentation Videos - G4tv.com




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