Digital ecologies: Can computer games change the world?

Posted by Ian on Oct 23, 2008 in blog | One Comment
Sales of computer-games have overtaken music, DVDs and film in annual earnings. Hundreds of millions of people are now gamers, and all the statistics point to ever-increasing numbers. Vast populations are growing up in a world where they have never not known or experienced gaming. (for lots of statistics see this report) With this becoming an increasingly dominant social pattern, it is critical for artists, designers, social scientists, policy makers and pretty much everyone else to examine ways of effectively interacting with the gaming industry and with gaming communities to help enact social change.

I recently watched a video by Michael Highland titled ‘As Real As Your Life‘ as part of game developer Dave Perry‘s presentation at TED (seen above). Three critical things were revealed to me during the film:
1) Gaming is now a part of many people’s emotional life world
2) Too few people at the heads of cultural institutions and governments are aware of the social power of these gaming communities
3) If games are becoming more like ‘real’ life and if people are investing ‘real’ emotional and mental energy in the becoming of their gaming life worlds, then this presents opportunities for games to help role model behaviour or create awareness of and willingness to work towards resolving social and ecological crises
The sheer size and economic impact of some games is staggering, such as:
Second Life (see economic statistics here)
Project Entropia
Battlefield 2 (see player stats here)
Warcraft (player census here)
I feel there is an opportunity to engage with these digital life worlds to enable reflection on social behaviour in our shared world. If we are to meet the challenges of issues like global climate change head on, then we should enlist all our skills whether it be planting digital trees in Second Life or planting trees in the Philippines.
And to close with an inspirational digital/real lifeworld ecological intervention, the RSA’s Arts & Ecology programme has been supporting artist Dirk Fleischmann, through a partnership with the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, whose been planting digital trees in Second Life and planting live trees in the Philippines to off-set his carbon footprint in Second Life.
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1 Comment

  1. Davy
    24 October 2008

    I think you are right. Video games are a new mass culture platform which up till now has been treated as somehow removed from the mainstream. It seems that some are recognizing that it is worth reaching out.

    For example, the Maldives started a trend of opening embassies in Second Life which has been picked up by other countries.

    Also, check out what Obama’s campaign have been doing with some of their oodles of money:


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