Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Visions of the gamepocalyse

<f Schell Games and author of the award-winning book The Art of Game Design Jesse Schell opened his convocation speech with a vibrant harmonica passage, insisting that it helped calm him before the anxiety of a public speech. Schell, who is an assistant professor in the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, discussed how the program thrived by “bringing together different disciplines to teach [students] how to be on creative teams.” By emphasizing this need to be interdisciplinary, he commented on such a growing trend in the contemporary world of technology; that for the development of the iPhone there needed to be both engineers and artists, because with a team of “just engineers it would be too technical and not pretty, but without artists it would only be pretty and not technical enough.” Schell then linked this thought to another “growing trend that has gotten a lot of attention recently,” that consumers are increasingly demanding authenticity in their products. He thus highlighted how “as a society we’ve become so technical, that we hunger for something real.”

Schell pointed to the recent explosion of “social games”, commenting on how video games are “reaching out to reality” with systems of virtual achievements for players to obtain and measure progress. He then highlighted a similar pattern in reality; that “game structures” in the form of accumulating points and progress were rapidly appearing in the real world – from credit cards to Starbucks. In arguing that it has become “increasingly difficult to disentangle reality with games”, Schell wondered about the point in time when these two were inseparable. He offered a scenario that admittedly was not entirely hypothetical: a lifestyle so ingrained with technology and social networks that everything one did would be monitored and saved – a livelihood one could view as “a disgusting nightmare”, or could “encourage us to become better human people”. 

Schell explained the mass appeal of games, describing how “they give us clear feedback” alongside “a sense of progress”; how they provide “mental and physical exercise” with “something to satisfy our curiosity”, and of course the possibility of success and a  sense of freedom. He then referred to the concept known as the Singularity, describing it as the extent one can accurately predict future trends and events. But with technology becoming more and more pervasive, this window of time is rapidly closing, and that soon “we will reach the Singularity when one will not even be able to predict what will occur within five seconds from now.” Schell discussed how this would inevitably lead to many becoming “future-blind”, but because the world is changing so quickly, there is also room to actually practice this art of prediction. 

Regarding the ‘Gamepocalypse’ – the scenario mentioned earlier where everything one did is monitored and uploaded to the Internet – Schell described this road as “long and twisted, with many things along the way.” He discussed these at length, such as the role of “microtransactions” and the unprecedented success of Apple’s app store and its one billion downloads, which he argued would change the way big game companies and their conventional, console-based products, would operate in the future. He talked about how normally “technologies diverge – but in your pocket they actually converge,” explaining how handhelds required having multiple purposes and usages to have mass appeal. With increased customization, sharing capabilities, geo-tracking and more, games would eventually result in a lifestyle of constant monitoring and information, and whether it was horrifying or not “all has to do with people creating things.” As we become propelled into the twenty-first century and beyond, Schell emphasized that the question to ask is what type of person would we become, and how that affects what we have created for the new world.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *