Beyond the rabbit hole: cyber worlds and androids
As our immersion in the virtual world of the computer game increases, we are witnessing an evolution that might replace those daft-looking goggles and gloves with unfathomable brain-computer interfaces. In recent times, there have been many theories and talks about the development of nanotechnology that may allow players to fully immerse themselves into this virtual world via implants. Technological singularity is another futurist speculation that is said to enable an unpredictable progress of technology resulting in the creation of a super intelligence. This is the well-known prediction that our beloved computer games will become smarter than us, imprison us and use us as human batteries or simply wipe us out and inherit the Earth with a leisurely “hasta la vista”. As highly unlikely as this is, it remains an interesting thought (for now) that has fueled games with some amazing post-apocalyptic plots at least.
As for the prospect of humans merging with technology, it is important to mention the Blue Brain project started in 2005 by IBM and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The project aims to create a simulation of the mammalian cortical column in an attempt to reveal secrets of our cognitive processes. This has lead to numerous speculations about the possibilities of mind uploading, which comes with its own share of ethical, political and economical problems and issues. Either way, choosing the red pill and going on a tour of the rabbit hole seems like an appealing option to me – one can always dream.
The crucial factor: the gamer
Computer games have always been a point of dispute, with numerous critics stating that games turn teenagers into mindless zombies without any social skills, couch potatoes, socially inept weirdos or serial killers. It is interesting to note that a majority of these critiques come from people who don’t actually play or know much about computer games at all. In recent times, there has been somewhat of a revolution in the gaming population to where the average age of gamers is about *30 to 35 years old, meaning that adults play games just as children, teenagers and even older generations. So much for games poisoning the minds of the young. One of the reasons for this is the rise of the ‘casual gamer’, categorized as playing less demanding games for simple entertainment. The gaming industry is increasingly producing titles that satisfy these types of gamers (and making huge profits for it). While the quality of these games is often argued over, their influx brings games into the lives of people who never considered playing before due to prejudices, or the levels of complexity that requires more time, effort, skill and concentration than other forms of entertainment. All of this change was enough to pop the bubble around the gaming community and open it up to a more mainstream audience.
There will always be players who want a pleasant diversion from everyday life, as there will always be players who require a more complex and demanding game to satisfy their needs. Far from turning us into zombies, the computer games of today are accepted as healthy, educational, stimulating and social. Games can offer a good fitness session as many mothers know, or even a party experience in which playing with friends or a partner does not spoil relationships, but bring us closer together in sharing the fun of playing computer games. However, sometimes it is necessary to get into a fight with one’s partner for intentional and sadistic killing of one’s Luigi with his Mario…just saying.
Until death do us part
Looking into the future, I find that I am rather optimistic about the direction computer games are taking. Games will eventually be completely free of their stigma of ‘corrupting the youth’, simply because this statement is not true in practice. I find that computer games are evolving like other art forms, for example literature and film, and will soon be equally appreciated for their intellectual and aesthetic benefits. Games are starting to hold a diverse audience who are capable of choosing what games they play according to their preferences, as is the case with film, music and books. The rapid development of technology leaves us with a lot of speculation and anxiety about the future, and while it might eventually alienate us or make us completely dependent, it can also give us the means to realize our true potential and further our creativity.