27 August 2005

Quote of the Day

"Knitting is the new Yoga." -- as quoted from the article on knitting by Rachel Strutt in the August 2005 issue of Boston magazine.

08 August 2005

McKenna + Videogames = Equilibrium

In ways that disturb most folks over 30, videogames are training for life.

While walking up Figueroa Street after a day of SIGGRAPH sessions, I put together two threads that I just hadn't connected before.

Terrence McKenna has written many times about the accelerating rate of change in affairs. Whether its lifetime before bankruptcy of companies or stores; turnover of consumer products; or fashion waves, the time each stable set of patterns lasts before its transforms is shortening. Each new wave of kids have to adapt in their lifetime to more change than their parents had to encounter.

Also, I had been reading an article that was talking about the cognitive effects of videogames. When someone starts playing a new videogame, they conduct experiments to try and figure out what the rules of this game are. The author referred to this process as "adapting quickly to ad-hoc rulesets."

Many of the younger vidoegame players I watch are much better at adapting to ad-hoc rulesets than I am. I've noted this in contexts as disparate as World of Warcraft, where the 'rules' of play are changed by each patch; to God of War, where each level introduces a new minigame. And it carries over to consumer habits: I used to like having stores where I shopped regularly, and I certainly liked having predictable, high-quality health insurance.

Walking up Figueroa is when I made the connection: in a larger sense, videogames are training us for the new modes of life. We're no longer in a world of lifetime employment and multi-decade loyalties. Our established living habits are upended regularly by new products, bankruptcies of longtime suppliers, and outsourcing. The advice telling us to beccome more flexible in our personal and professional lives is actually telling us to adapt to the new world represented by a continuous stream of evolving, murkily documented videogames. We'll need to be constantly conducting experiments to find the new rules of the game, and to make major changes in our behavior as a result.

Perhaps "Raised on Videogames" should be transformed into a phrase describing ideal child-rearing rather than failed child-rearing.