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Where’s the line? Thoughts on Gaming Life


CNN recently posted an article, “Why Games Will Take Over Our Lives” which I stumbled upon via the always interesting Bill Marceau (@Marceau1). The opening example is an electric toothbrush that tracks how much you use it.

“Jesse Schell, a game designer and Carnegie Mellon University professor, says toothbrushes will be hooked-up with Wi-Fi Internet connections within five years.

The point? If the entire Internet knows how often you brush your teeth and for how long, there’s an incentive to brush more often.”

 On a side note, the incentive to brush more often already exists, it’s called gross teeth and cavities, but that’s not the point. The point is the concept that life is becoming a game. And you’re seeing it more and more – everything from Starbucks points, to Foursquare and even something like airline miles. What this article posits is that there is going to be a proliferation of “life as a game” in the coming years.

 “I jokingly call this convergence of games into reality the “Gamepocalypse”: the moment when every moment of life is actually a game. So many people have been interested in the topic that I made a blog called Gamepocalypse Now.”

 So, here we are facing the pending Gamepocalypse, but I can’t help but be really freaked out by the fact that we are pouring technology and innovative thinking in ways to make life more like a game. If we can figure out how to have a toothbrush with tracking technology, shouldn’t we first make sure every human has access to a toothbrush?

 I’m not trying to get too hippy-dippy-save-the-earthy on you here. I am in advertising and I love innovation as much as the next person. But reading an article like this I just think, is there a line? Ok, here was another example,

“And if you look at the new Nintendo DSi, which is their newest handheld, it has two cameras on it, which at first seemed kind of crazy to people, but the idea is you have one camera that faces out into the world and one that faces you the user, so it can look at your face and study your face.”

Um, ok? Admittedly, my older brothers and sisters still tease me about crying in front of the mirror as a child, but is anyone finding the idea of a face study of yourself a little crazy? I like to think of it as “you can’t have dessert until you eat all your vegetables.” It’s like, “Hey amazing programmers and designers and people who think in ways and on levels I never will, you can’t play the Ninetendo face game until we figure out how to make sure all indigenous children born with cleft palates have access to surgery.” Or, “you can’t have the toothbrush game until everyone has clean drinking water.”

 I think Tom’s Shoes is a great example of getting it right – you get shoes and you give them to someone else. There is still hope that this kind of idealistic thinking can work in a capitalist society. We just have to (all) change the way we think. Better put by a genius,

“For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Only ten years ago the ‘more with less’ technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful.” – R. Buckminster Fuller, 1980

 Bucky said this in 1980. Here we are 30 years later; technology blows my mind daily, and yet there is so much work to be done with our thinking. I’m just putting this out there because I struggle with it just as much as the next person. I recycle, I bike places, I avoid shopping at chains, I’ll pay more for something if I know the company has a good mission, but it just never feels like enough. I’m very curious for other’s thoughts on the matter, especially those working in design/advertising/technology. Does anyone else struggle with advance technology? What do you do about it? Post comments below.

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