Reality is not as compelling as virtual gaming environments
Castranova (2007) writes of a massive exodus from reality as virtual gaming environments entice larger numbers of people to abandon the boredom of the real world for the more engaging life found in synthetic worlds.
Concerned about this flight, McGonigal (2011) contends that reality must be broken. She argues that if reality could become more engaging, it might be possible to crowd source enough brain cycles to solve many of the real problems that plague society today.
If the popularity of online games is to be looked upon as an escape from reality and if we believe that the corresponding gamification of everyday life will usher in a return to reality, then we must gain a better understanding of these virtual game environments.
a call for the gamification of reality doesn’t mesh with how economists model relationships
Those who call for the gamification of reality do so with the hope that life would be made more engaging and that individuals would, as a result, become empowered to become better people. Better people are capable of building better societies, and, hence, the more encompassing goal is to use gamification as a positive force for social change.
This, however, stands in stark contrast to the way economists model economic relationships. When economists conceptualize choice problems, they like to think of economic agents acting as if they were Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island. Yet in games, just as in real life, prosperity results from an expansion in the division of labor and participation in trade. Both involve social relationships that go beyond the simple world of Robinson Crusoe.
A primary difference is that goals within games are not centered on economic survival but, rather, around the ability to reach a more satisfying stage of game play. As such, social acceptance and individual validation supplant survival as the primary source of motivation. Massively multiplayer role playing games incorporate eighteenth century constructs like guilds or clans to advance game play. This stands in stark contrast to the real world where personalized apprentice systems have been supplanted by depersonalized market mechanisms.
What does this mean about the world we live in and the world that (at least some) would like to see exist? Is it really just another example of nineteenth century utopian thinking that believed that until the problem of scarcity could be solved, it would never be possible to experience a world where everything is truly wonderful?