As I read more and more about how games can transform society I can’t help getting sucked into the positive and optimistic world that is painted. As a gamer I can relate to the content and I agree with some of the facts being presented. Gamers are truly incredible problem solvers that can collaborate together for that “Epic Win”. However, there is an unexpected bi-product of gamification that I feel is not getting enough attention.
I would hesitate to say I’m an expert on the subject of games transforming society as I have no Ph.D and I don’t have any books published, but as a very avid gamer and an indie game designer there is a competitive side to gaming that drives a lot of what forms these “Epic Wins”.
In watching Jane McGonigal’s (@avantgame) TED talk in 2010 (http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world) she brings up World of Warcraft (WoW) and how WoW captured the attention of millions of people of varying ages for countless hours. I was one of those people that spent countless hours within the World of Warcraft. The question presented by the talk is what could a person like me accomplish if real life tasks were presented in a game type format? A great question and one I’ve asked many times, but the real question I would ask is why…? Why the hell would I spend approximately 3000+ hours in a game world. Two reasons, but I’ll only touch on the first: Competition. I played WoW evening upon evening, weekend upon weekend because I wanted to be a part of the best guild and beat the best content that was in the game. I wanted to win. I was competing against the world for a chance at cyber glory.
Take a look at what is becoming one of the most exciting gaming phenomenons of our time. eSports, particularly League of Legends (LoL), is quickly capturing the attention of almost double the amount of players then WoW did. As of Jan 27, 2014 the game’s maker, Riot Games, stated that there were 27 million players worldwide. Why would so many people play a computer game? It is the drive to win, to be the best that fuels a lot of gamers. It’s what makes some games so addicting. Some of the most successful mobile games allow social media posts or have leader boards to keep pitting other gamers against each other.
I’m sure there are many more reasons why people play games, but competition is a big driving force in an industry that I believe could easily make a very large impact on our world. If we don’t spend the time looking into why people play games and the impact competition could have on a gaming society we won’t be able to unlock what we’ve already discovered about gamers and their potential of achieving great things.
In future articles I’d like to touch on how the competitive side of games changed how and why I played games, how games changed me as a person, why competition is a good thing for games, and many other aspects of the future of gaming and why it will be so important in the era of tomorrow.