Last week when Don Heider came to speak to the class I recall him referencing a TED conference about gaming. While I am unsure if this is the one he was specifically referring to, it is still worth watching.
Jane McGonigal, game developer, discusses how the gaming environment can be channeled into productive activities such as solving the oil crisis, world hunger, and social injustices. She suggests that gaming can make a better world on the basis that it is helping to create a more collaborative society in which people are more likely to collectively work together to achieve a common goal. The sole reason being that games provide the player with numerous types of motivation to keep the player going as he/she attempts to achieve their goals. This is something that is totally lacking in society today. Although we do offer words of encouragement and praise to individuals for their hard work, it is often earned for going above and beyond what was expected of the individual (and this does not usually occur on a daily basis, but rather one a month, every other month, or even once a year). Whereas, in a game, it doesn’t matter if you did the bare minimum or if you exceeded the game’s expectations–the player still receives several forms of encouragement through earning points, items, money, titles, etc in addition to the praise and encouragement one receives from fellow players.
While Heider discussed with us his experiences with Second Life, I had thoughts that were both optimistic and similar to that of McGonigal’s. While this may go to the extremes, I believe that many people go into Second Life, not only to escape the realities of everyday life and to waste a few hours here or there, but rather to develop themselves as a person. As Heider said, many users not only create their avatars in their own image, but they also improve upon them ever so slightly/drastically. Additionally, many Second Skin users fashion their avatars into certain roles. Using Ric Hoogestraat from the Wallstreet Journal article as an example, Hoogestraat enjoys designing shopping malls and lingerie for his shop. Although this could be seen as just a silly hobby to one, it definitely sheds some light on the user. For one, it can be inferred that Hoogestraat enjoys making/designing things. That being said, I believe that Second Life could be used for good. When i say good, I mean good for the individual. By taking notice in the things that one does in Second Life, one could be aware of strengths and aspirations that the user has been ignoring in their waking life. I know it is a fair stretch, but games like Second Life could definately be used to channel people’s skills into something they could use in the real world.