The text below is an excerpt from the original article by Giovanna Mingarelli, published March 4, 2013 on The Huffington Post.
Do you remember playing DOS games like Pong or Hangman? How about the original Wolfenstein 3D on floppy disk?
My father, a long-time mathematician, started bringing home computers in the late 1980s. I would have been three or four years old and I had no idea at the time the effect that the 1987 IBM PC XT sitting in my family living room would later have on my life. What was my first use of one of the 21st century’s most revolutionary inventions?
Playing games, of course.
I started off with simple stuff like Jump Man: a game created by the now defunct game developer company, Epyx Inc. The point of the game was to diffuse bombs by touching them, where you’d get points for each one you diffused. It was mindless, easy… and kind of fun. Looking back, this was probably my first exposure to operating in a game built around what the current gaming industry refers to as “compulsion loops” — this is a construct which refers to the process of structuring people’s behavior so as to cyclically expect rewards for effort. I.e. run, diffuse bomb, climb latter, get reward, repeat. This construct underpins the architecture of many a game to this day — it’s what keeps the player coming back for more.
According to the Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, Jane McGonigal, there are now over three billion hours per week of ongoing gaming around the world — with numbers expected to triple in the next three years. What’s more, 97 percent of youth in the United States now play computer and video games, with most gamers expecting to continue playing games for the rest of their lives.
With billions of hours spent playing them, and built-in patterns designed to keep people hooked, will games have a positive or negative influence on the world? I think it all depends on what kinds of games we choose to play.