So much brouhaha over Facebook acquiring a game manufacturer. It's a great reminder of where the revenues from your ad clicks and no-longer-private data are being spent. More fun and games. More distractions. More goofing around. More wasted time. It's also a great reminder why "nobody trusts Facebook."
I know, I know... "Pfff. What a fuddy-duddy. It's not wasted! What do you have against fun and imagination? It's virtual reality, for God's sake!"
I have nothing against fun and I have great respect for imagination. But I do have a list of "againsts." I am against ignorance. I am against injustice. I am against fraud. I am against war. I am against lies. I am against tyranny. I am against disease. I am against death. And, as I said, I am against wasting time.
I know, I know... "What a bore you are. Wasting time by your standard..."
Yes. By my standard, which may not be yours and is certainly not that of Facebook's management team. Spending so much time and investment on making and playing games is not what I consider a priority in a world full of ignorance, injustice, fraud, war, lies, tyranny, disease, and death. To me, these are the priorities that require the investments of our intelligence and resources. If creating and playing in a virtual world of death and destruction is more valuable to someone than creating a real world where they don't exist, I will wish them well, shake their hands, and we will part ways. My imagination is busy on a reality that isn't virtual.
Philosophically, I'm not an Epicurean, but I get it: fun matters in life; otherwise, what's the point? But according to Plato, Socrates famously opined it is the unexamined life that is not worth living. If that's true, can't we use games for more than just fun? Can we use them to examine life? It's probably just me, but I don't think of life as a game. Granted, I'm more serious than anyone I know. But, with so much suffering in the world, how do people justify all the time and investment in fun? I'd really like to understand this better.
Two billion dollars. That's how much Facebook is paying for this gaming company, and that's just the beginning of their investment. If I had access to $2 billion, fun and games aren't where I'd spend it. I'd spend it on attacking my againsts. But it occurs to me that, perhaps, one of the key reasons there are so many againsts is because they aren't fun to attack. This is where we could use the amazing creativity of game designers.
Imagine it for a moment. If someone in a virtual reality environment could jack the guns from government arsenals instead of jacking cars from unsuspecting drivers, maybe we wouldn't be in a perpetual state of war. If someone could break into someone's mind and cure their ignorance instead of stealing or altering their memory, maybe we'd be better able to address the plethora of society's social issues. If someone could "take the form of god characters who can spawn monsters" and, instead, attack the monsters of injustice, maybe we'd better learn what it means to be fair and just. It could be that playing games where pirates dream of a utopia where man is free to live beyond the reach of kings and rulers helps teach people why tyranny is bad. But, from my perspective, it doesn't appear to be working.
Not being a game designer or player (not to mention being a fuddy-duddy), I don't know how to create a game that would help solve the againsts. And anything I can imagine wouldn't sell because it wouldn't be fun. No fun = no impact. But I do think organizations like Hello World Open have the right idea. They're running a contest to create virtual race car games using artificial intelligence. At least advancing technologies like AI have real world applications to give us super-intelligence and liberate us from disease and old age ailments. It sure seems a whole lot more beneficial to society than selling goats with VR goggles.
I know, I know... "Whatever. You're not the target market anyway."
I get that, too. Teens and young adults are the primary audience for these games. I also get that they don't necessarily have the exposure to or experience with these againsts. So I can't fault them for grabbing only what's in their reach. But the Facebooks of the world target games at them. What if, instead, Facebook did a better job educating them on the againsts? Would they still choose games?
What I find especially interesting is the popularity of role-playing fantasy games. Just like a good story, good role playing games require a lot of character development. Yet it is the sixth definition of character - "moral excellence and firmness" - to which we should probably pay more attention. In a world with ample fantasy games, is it irony that so many popular fantasies revolve around killing, looting, destruction, and magic? Character development, indeed.
I support an individual's freedom to make whatever allocation he wants in pursuit of whatever he thinks makes life worth living (so long as it doesn't include forcing me). So if you want to use Facebook to play FarmVille, buy animated milk for thirsty cartoon goats, and occasionally click on ads which fund Facebook's investment into more games, knock yourself out. At minimum, we can agree you should have the freedom to play games, Facebook's management should have the freedom to invest in games, and I should have the freedom to go bang my head against the wall for a lack of imagination to convince you otherwise. But I sure wish I was smart enough to convince you to instead buy real milk for starving children in war-torn countries.
Again, I have nothing against fun, games, or entertainment. I simply question the amount of time and investment. I also question the content. I imagine companies like Facebook are just giving the world what they want. But I have a hard time understanding why it's what we want. Maybe it's because life is so full of misery from againsts that we need fun distractions. If so, my preference is to attack the root causes of misery. I'd appreciate someone explaining where I'm wrong, or that my logic is unsound. I often feel empty and frustrated that I lack the creativity to solve the againsts. I must be missing a critical premise (or many) somewhere. So go ahead and shoot at my errors. Here's a virtual gun...
I know, I know... "But where's the fun in that?"