Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World is often best remembered for showing the dark side of genetic engineering. What seems to get less publicity is the novel’s study of rigid socialization and using pleasure to control the masses. The latter is what interests me as a gamer.
In the novel, the hallucinogenic drug soma is distrubeted to all citizens by the government. The drug takes users on a vacation without ever having to leave their rooms. If reality’s hard, they can take soma and enjoy a week at the nicest hotels in the sunniest locations, and still show up to work the next day. It’s more than a recreational drug; it’s a literal opiate of the masses.
Now, I’m not suggesting that video games will come to become a government tool to suppress dissidence and promote mindlessness. But I am suggesting that can become an eerily similar escape, one that people may turn to rather than take action or initiative. I’m also not the first to notice this connection. It’s one of the reasons video game company Soma chose it’s name.
Video games are constantly evolving. Graphics constantly improve and become more realistic. Story-telling is improving, unfortunately not as fast as the visuals, but enough to add another layer past the graphics to emerge you further. The scope of games is also much bigger; open-world games are more common than ever, and if the graphics and story are excellent you will find yourself emerged in a huge world full of possibilities, drama and rewards.
First, we need to establish that most video games are designed to be addictive (Yeah, it’s from Cracked. So?). They draw on the model of the Skinner box, making games that behaviorally condition gamers, getting them used tot he fact that certain conditions need to be met for their rewards. And people love these virtual rewards. It’s most readily seen in MMORPGs and psychologists have confirmed video game addiction is real.
Think about how addicting games are now, and how much escape they provide. Technology may soon evolve to the point where they provide virtual fantasies on the same level of Huxley’s soma. Again, I’m not suggesting games will be used for sinister, authoritarian purposes, but imagine video game addiction on a larger scale, as common as nicotine or alcohol addiction. More families torn apart and more dreams and lives ruined by video games. Fewer people taking the initiative to improve their lives and more people complacently going home and gaming. Read the rest of this entry »