Friday, February 22, 2019

Is There Ever One Future?

Twitter thought that it was very important for me to see this:
So I read it. And I agree with this bit:

What made the virtual concert on Saturday afternoon so fascinating for me, was that this was the first time I really understood what some other commentators have already been saying. Fortnite is not just a game that kids play – it’s a place they go to hang out.

This article from Quartz compares the game to a skate park. Kids get home from school, log-on and hang out with their friends in a virtual world. The actual game aspect serves as the backdrop.

What I don't agree with is how the post goes on to make hyperbolic assertions that everyone will live in, and enjoy, this future. It's predicting a technological singularity for video games, snaring everyone in the same, homogeneous MMORPG. It's an investor's idea of what the future holds for gaming.

On the other hand, there's Jesse Schell, who has developed video games, written books about them, and teaches classes about new technology. He takes a more pluralistic view:

People always talk about platforms, platforms, platforms, but really it's about, "Where do you play?"

There's a reason we don't play MMOs in the living room. For like the entire history of MMOs, we've had one or two go to the living room, and they've all died. And they've all done really well at the PC desk.

So what I always say is, "houses have multiple venues." One of them is the hearth. And that's the living room. The family gathers together, and it's a group thing. And then you have the workbench. That's where usually the PC lives. It's a place you go privately, you do hard work, it's very lean-forward. Usually the PC's there.

That's from a Gamasutra interview with Schell where he discusses current applications for virtual reality. His book, The Art of Game Design, discusses these venues in greater detail, but the idea is that people have different reasons for engaging in play, and so they end up playing games in different places.

The problem with the Akre post is that it doesn't allow for that kind of diversity. It just folds everything into the Oasis from Ready Player One. And that brings its own set of issues. Vox has already tracked how attitudes have shifted since the book was published in 2011. (Some people still like it. And that's great! It's okay to like terrible things. It's less okay to declare that those terrible things will be the future for everyone.)

Overall, the tone of the post is consistent. It's a narrow view of a favorable future that is designed to appeal to people who like online games, esports, twitch streaming, Ready Player One, and the Super Bowl.

It's just weird that Twitter's algorithms thought I was one of those people.