Courtesy of the greatest webcomic in the universe, Penny Arcade.
Speaking of video games, last night, I watched the first part of Will Wright’s Spore demo from GDC, and… wow. Seriously, WOW. See for yourself:
I also saw a presentation by the Second Life guys earlier this week. They pitch their online world as the Metaverse from Snow Crash, and it really is. There’s no explicit gaming aspect to it; it’s not WoW or CoH— it’s an entire virtual world, with such seemingly mundane things as land auctions and shopping malls. Users can even build objects and sell them to other users. The economy now moves more money than Monaco. They also mentioned that they’re picking up more and more users from places where the standard of living is somewhat lacking, where Second Life can actually compete with real life. (It’s too bad they can’t call it Better Than Life.)
All this is interesting to me because these are not games in the traditional sense; they’re more like simulation engines. I like to describe The Sims (which should be regulated as a controlled substance) as a dollhouse: it’s a toy, which you can use to play any number of games of your own design. The parameters are finite, but the goals are open-ended. It makes the user experience much more personal, because it’s likely that no one else is doing exactly what you are– there’s no linear storyline to follow, no precise combination of moves that will defeat the boss on each level.
The good news is, I’m pretty sure “god games” encourage players to think in more creative ways. The bad news is, it’s going to be a few more years before we have holodecks and can actually escape real life. Dammit!