Gaming Should Stay Real

Hm, so this is my first post about games. A friend advised me not to mix too many topics here, but I think all these things interconnect. There is some advantage in bringing them together. Having some bigger plan there :) so I’ll keep at it.

Below you see a talk by Jesse Schell, first posted on – mainly about Facebook gaming. That has become huuuuge business. Jesse Schell mentions some stunning numbers. He’s a very good speaker and makes some predictions about the future that are not far off.

(Taken from a fox @ fury blog entry).

His main point is that many recent gaming successes, including Facebook, are based on small psychological tricks. He paints a picture of the future, where we are surrounded by those tricks – with actual game designers affecting our behavior with social gaming included everywhere.
Games will leave the virtual realm – breaking through into our real life. He mentions that people look for more “real things and authenticity”.
Which brings me to my point, which he doesn’t mention: These games are anything but real. They are fake – and they are frauds.

Why are those Facebook games so successful?
A: They are played a lot because games like Farmville and Mafiawars make you think you have to fight your friends for points. And if you have more points, you feel better. Is there any real value there? I don’t think anyone is a better person because he has more points. So actually – these games make us care about things that are not real at all.
B: They are financially successful because they pull peoples money out in new ways. Michael Arrington (a once insider) writes about it – the title of the article gives the idea: Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell. Interesting reads – in short: Those games scam you into using your credit cards. Or into giving away your personal details for virtual cash, which they then sell to advertisers.
In the talk above Jesse Schell mentions that kids are led by tricks to make their parents pay money for online games – he is well aware that its shady, but doesn’t seem to care. Rather he wants to be as soon as possible on the money making train.

And I think I can answer Schells question “What is it now that people are demanding reality, demanding authenticity”. It’s not really because “we’re cut off from nature”.
When I stand in front of a super market shelf, then I feel like I’m in a war. It’s me against those companies. I want good food, and they want to sell me cheap chemicals. They will lie to me (with advertisement) and they will use psychological tricks (putting smiling cows on the steak package) – and I somehow have to try to look through it. Not really fun I must say.

And I don’t think games should become like that. It’s abuse of people – of our social twitches. And just as the government tries to limit gambling, as it makes people addicted and loose money, so should these games be watched. Unfortunately the business is moving so fast, legislators will have a hard time catching up.

The game industry should stay honest. We should not abuse our power over peoples minds to make cheap cash. At some point people will look through it – and we will have lost their trust, just as the food companies and banks did.
And in the long term – as Umair Haque convincingly argues – I think honesty will pay out in cash too.