05 April 2010


I watched this talk by Jesse Schell, a professor at CMU. In it he talks to game developers about how games are moving forward into the future. He has some very interesting ideas about bringing gaming into our every day lives-- even to help us become better people. But what I found most interesting was his reference to a book called "Authenticity." Here is a transcript of this part.

"We talk about realism, and we know yeah realism can make your game better sometimes if it's the right kind of realism. But normally we're thinking about visual realism. There's a lot of other kinds of realism that can come into a game. ... Guitar hero you play on a real guitar, and webkins with a real stuffed animal, and even the X-Box achievements is outside the reality of the game-- there's a higher level scoring system.

"But it's not just us that were snuck up on by this reality thing, and it's not just happening to us. Go look at TV-- the people on TV, their heads are spinning--everything has turned into reality TV. Go to the grocery store-- it's not just groceries anymore, it's organic groceries-- more genuine, more real groceries. Go to McDonald's, well you could get a Big Mac, OR you could get a real burger, the Angus burger, made with real this and that and whatever. Everything is suddenly about reality.

"Now, what's going on? Is this just how it's always been? Well I found this really interesting book, called Authenticity, by the guys who wrote the Experience Economy. Gilmore and Pine put forth this interesting concept-- that the most valuable thing in products today is "Are they real, are they authentic"-- which is a bold hypothesis. Then they go further and they say, well, why is it? Why now? It didn't always used to be this way-- certainly that's not what sold stuff in the 80s. It wasn't reality and authenticity that sold stuff then.

"What is it now that people are demanding reality and demanding authenticity? They're arguing that all this virtual stuff that's been creeping up on us over the last 20 years has really cut us off from nature. We're cut off from nature, we're cut off from self-sufficiency. We couldn't be self-sufficient if we wanted to. We don't know how to do it. We live in a bubble of fake bullshit, and we have this hunger to get to anything that's real-- Even if the best we can do is a Starbucks mocha with real Swiss chocolate, we'll take it, Oh it's real! Look how real that seems to me relative to what I'm used to.

"So there's this idea that maybe there's this hunger for reality. You might believe it or not, but once I read this authenticity book, I started seeing it everywhere, everywhere I looked--every ad was about their product being the real one. And I go to see the movie Avatar, and you might say Oh Avatar, that was cool special effects and that was really a lot of fluff, but it's the movie that's made the most money of all time and it's got a good shot at best picture-- What's this movie about? This movie is about the question of: We know technology cuts us off from the real world, and the movie addresses the question of can we then use that technology in order to penetrate back into reality and back into something genuine. So it may be this movie is not just fluff, it may be this movie is resonating with something important for people."