The study found that the stereotype of the reclusive gamer is outdated; this emerging demographic is social, heavily engaged with the “offline” world, and extremely goal-oriented – with a strong drive to improve themselves and the world around them. The new gamers are not constrained to any single platform, and have many different motivations for gaming in addition to just having fun. Moreover, they expect that online games will continue to move out of the traditional screen environment, blending seamlessly with the “offline” world in new and engaging ways that go beyond just “checking in” with apps like Foursquare and SCVNGR.This isn't shocking news in itself, but it's interesting to see how game developers are thinking about applications for the technology beyond games. That's clearly where I want to go too. Latitude produced a video that's a bit long, but worth watching:
The Future of Gaming: a Portrait of the New Gamers from latddotcom on Vimeo.
The "money" quote to me: "Who wouldn't want to paint the Prudential Building pink and put an elephant on top of it?" Well, I'm not sure I'd be into that.
But I would geotag a power plant and add current air quality data and send it to EPA. I'd also geotag a river or stream down from a coal mine and add water quality data. Or potholes or graffiti with date stamps to see how responsive the local DPW is. Or a Congressman's office with a voting record on the issues I care about or the campaign contributor data. (or I'd tag the Congressman himself with image recognition technology.)
Governments are starting to figure out there are channels beyond the traditional ones, and it involves bringing the physical and the virtual together with large groups of people. A science blogger I know found a story about NASA using online fundraiser Kickstarter to help fund their "official" massively-multiplayer online game. This voluntary funding method might become a model for programs that conceivably have a public benefit but is hard to justify significant taxpayer investment. Of course "Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond" probably isn't something that will merge the physical and the virtual all that much, but NASA has plenty of Earth-based research and legions of fans. Games will be the laboratories to work out the technology, and help the rest of us develop strategic applications beyond "World of Warcraft."
I hope the merger of physical and virtual will break down barriers of homophily and bridge communities. I noted to the folks at Latitude that everyone in the video above were white Americans, and asked if there were other more global examples. To their credit, they were aware of the observation and they've been thinking along those lines as well, pointing to some ideas from the World Bank and a game called Virtual Street Corners.
While there's a long way to go, we've made amazing progress and I'm looking forward to more from the braintastic crowd at Latitude.