Just a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend an event called "Afroshoto", held at Boardners down in Hollywood. The event featured a small invitational Super Street Fighter 4 Tournament—8 total players, single elimination—as well as a small concert by a group called the Miles Mosley Band (which I recommend highly).
It was all in all a very successful event, especially for a Sunday night, which is hardly a major bargoing night. The band was excellent, the tournament was impressive (and watching Justin Wong go all the way with
, my character of choice, was nice), and it was awesome as always to be at a public gaming event.
The band leader said something interesting, though, as they were setting up. I can't remember well enough to quote exactly, but the sentiment was something like this:
For the first time in history, technology has advanced to the point that the toys of our childhood have evolved enough to remain our primary form of recreation as adults.
This stuck with me, long after the event itself. The more I think about it, the more I realize not only how true it is, but how
There are a few other analogues you can draw, to be sure. The closest analogue is music, but the amount of time you spend ONLY listening to music pales in comparison to the amount of time you spend ONLY playing games. And sports? Many people play sports as a kid, and then go on to watch a great deal of sports (arguably their main form of recreation) as adults. But how many people actually PLAY sports as their main form of recreation? Certainly some, and probably less than there should be, but not nearly as many people as 1. Play video games, 2. Played sports as kids, 3. Watch sports.
Now, I can't speak for anyone else, but what mesmerized me about watching the Super Street Fighter 4 Tournament was seeing the same game that I play at home, being played by some of the best in the world. Watching particular strings, and strategies that I had never thought to try, and knowing that if I invested the time and the patience, I could perform up to the very same standard. Maybe this is just because I don't watch professional sports, but it doesn't seem to me like the appeal of spectator sports is based around that same thought process.
Also, there's something very important that's missing from the spectator sport experience, I think. If I am inspired by watching a football game, or even a tennis match, not only do I need to go and find other people to play with (one if I'm lucky, many more if I'm not), but once I find them, I must compete against them. There just aren't sports that can be engaged in as anything other than a competition. It can be a friendly competition, to be sure, but it's still a competition.
What about if I got together with 24 other people and said, "I want to set up a raid"? We would, fairly easily, be able to set up a situation in which I can cooperate with a group of other people to take down some third party challenge, and obviously we would have to rely on Blizzard (or really any game developer) to balance the challenge so that it's both fun and difficult, but...the more I think about it, this kind of phenomenon just doesn't exist anywhere besides gaming.
Specifically, the idea of being provided with a third party challenge just kind of doesn't exist anywhere else, with the possible exception of rock climbing, solitaire, and puzzles—and all of these are primarily solitary endeavors. In a similar vein, video games allow simulated competition. Before the invention of the computer, after all, the only way to play chess was against another human being.
So the fascinating question at the heart of this (at least to me) is:
How will the prevalence of games as an adult recreational activity affect society as a whole?
I remember reading an
article in WIRED
a long time ago saying that some particularly wise tech companies were now considering "Being a guild master" as a legitimate indication of your executive abilities, or if nothing else, a serious plus for any organization and HR heavy job.
Being a hardcore believer in the positive influence of games (according to the ESA, roughly 63% of parents think of games as a positive influence on their household), I'm tempted to say that anything that promotes large scale cooperation to take down complex tasks is a plus. What about you?
What positive effect do you see WoW having on your skill set?
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