Video Games can Save the World

Many Worlds

Many Worlds

Dean Takahashi has reported on a contest being run at Linden Lab (makers of Second Life), “We can argue about whether virtual worlds are a waste of time or great entertainment. But the folks at Linden Lab, which runs Second Life, clearly believe that virtual worlds can improve our lives in the real world. The company announced today that it’s holding a contest where it will pay $10,000 to whoever creates a project in Second Life that most improves daily life beyond the virtual world.”

The idea that games could be used to improve life in the real world is of great interest to me. Primarily because I think the real world is in very real danger. Over population, air/water/food pollution, dwindling resources, global warming, and the “last hours of ancient sunlight” are ever increasing threats combining to ensure that life as we now know it on planet earth is an unsustainable concept. It’s not that some thing (singular) has to change. Everything we understand to define “modern life” must change.

The question is: Can you give up all your modern day entitlements? If that guy can drive a Hummer, why can’t you? If that girl can jet off to Lisbon, why not you? He can have a 5000sq/ft house in which he lives alone! Where’s yours?! Without that watch/bag/car/house/dog/TV/travel/etc/etc YOUR LIFE IS UNFULFILLED AND INCOMPLETE!! Ahg! What to do!?!?

Our problem is marketing and advertising. From the moment we’re born we’re told we’re “not enough” without the latest and greatest . All fine and good until the “me, mine, more” culture runs headlong into a few billion too many “me”. There simply isn’t enough stuff in this world to make all the other stuff in this world that we’re constantly being reminded we must have in order to be complete.

I heard not long ago that at present consumption and growth rates, in order to sustain China’s booming economy and development, we would need another planet in about 50 years. Does that frighten you? It should. China is just one of several 1 billion+ person nations currently transforming from 3rd world to 2nd or 1st world.

As Maryann Bird sums it up in this article from “Share the World’s Resources”:
In short, we need to think and debate – as individuals and as communities — about how to achieve more with less, wherever we live. In the developed world, do we really need to fly so much? Do we need a car, or multiple cars? (And how should vehicles be powered?) Do we need more than one house, or to use so much household energy and water? Do we need bottled water, and its plastic bottles? What about our lifetime worth of electronic gadgets and appliances (dramatically represented by artist Paul Bonomini’s “WEEE Man”, now a permanent part of Britain’s Eden Project)? Do we need more furniture, more clothes, more food and flowers flown to us from thousands of kilometres away? Should we have large families, adding to the consuming, demanding masses?

She makes a point, but do YOU honestly think everyone on the planet is suddenly going to stop wanting more? Sure, a few of us are getting on board. We live conservatively, ride bikes to work, and recycle what we can. But we all know – it isn’t enough. For every person who’s discovering they can live with less, there are hundreds who are struggling to “make it” just so they can have MORE.

And this brings me to my point: The world is doomed unless we can give those who want more exactly that. The trick is to do it in a way that satisfies their needs without further taxing our limited world resources. And that’s where we need another world. More to the point, many “other worlds” – game worlds!

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait for NASA to figure out how to get us to Mars and terraform the planet. Games are already taking us there, and other fantastic places. Second Life and other online worlds like it offer the chance to have that 2nd or 3rd house, be transported to that far-away (both geographically and temporally) places, and attain all the wealth, power, and booty one could ever wish for.

To see what’s happening here in China gives me some hope that games might actually save the day. Here, few have the options afforded those in the West. They long ago realized that struggling to attain riches, fame, and power in the real world was in itself unrealistic. There are simply too many other people competing for too few resources. Think about it this way: There’s 1 girl for every 1.2 guys in China. Talk about limited resources.

What to do? Go online of course! All over China people spend their days inside “wang ba” (Internet Cafes), chatting online, socializing, and playing MMOs. They escape from the hopeless reality outside into the world online. Many of them monetize their time by gold farming and other virtual means. And guess what? It works!

Game makers have been perfecting the concept of “Virtual Worlds” for decades now. Soon, the virtual world will be all but indistinguishable from the real thing. In some respects it will be better – and in a very important respect it will be hugely superior: When you build, market, or buy something in the virtual world you’re buying bits and bytes. The impact on real world resources is insignificant.

So, if you ask me, game technology can save the world. And those parts of the world that most need it – the places where development is outstripping resources – it’s already happening.

If I were to enter the above-mentioned contest, I’d submit the following:

A universal avatar/ID assigned at birth and used throughout life for all interactions online. This would link into an all-encompassing Uber-Portal that connects together all past, present, and future online experiences. Some day I’d hope to “walk” from my office, into “Universe of Warcraft”, then into the “iTunes VR Store”, all on my stroll “home”. When finished, I’d unplug my implant/take off my goggles, and already be at my real home. As would everyone else.

We have the tech, we have the need, what’s required now are the connections and the spaces.

3 responses to “Video Games can Save the World”

  1. that’s a bad ass idea.

    kinda reminds me of that movie “They Live!” even though that’s almost a completely opposite concept.

  2. Seeing this as a post from 2 years ago.. you actually predicted what’s going on right now in Second Life. lol!

    With all the “Sim” around the SL world, it’s like a pocket dimensions here and there and each has their unique taste and builds depending on their owners.

    Tons of games are developed and run in SL nowadays and yes.. with only 1 avatar needed since the day you join SL… some sports games are so nicely build that they are actually better than most single/solo games in the market. the HUDs and such with the scripts enable game play with “leveling” up and the “Virtual Servers” technology enable you to store/read infos of your players .

    There are games with their own economy structure. Some are so well “schemed” that the games themselves become a money sinker for those who got addicted to them. Successful examples are the 7seas fishing and those breeding games..

    Looking forward to see what Spicyhorse has to bring in Second Life.

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