Making our games better, making ourselves better – 1/12/14

Published on Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Making our games better, making ourselves better

By Jake Farrago, senior, Becker College

With the next generation of video game consoles now officially this generation, and with PC gaming continually pushing the bleeding edge of technological abilities, we are nearing the end of many disparities that have plagued video games’ pursuit of real world mimicry. The uncanny valley will soon be crossed, artificial intelligences will cease behaving as bumbling toddlers, and digital worlds will begin teeming with immersive life. However, as we tick these boxes and diligently scale the various stages of the hierarchy, our concerns should now be turning to a new aspect of video games. An aspect, whose inevitable arrival will ask us as game designers to think in a way that many of us have only given fleeting moments of consideration to. In the act of creating digital realities, are we not simultaneously becoming gods of these realities in the process?

The assertion that those who create life become imbued with a sense of godliness should not be that which is scoffed at or ignored. Just because the historical legacy of human beings’ own struggle with the concept of a creator is one riddled with conflict, tension, and doubt, it would do a great disservice to allow such bias to prevent us from taking up the omnipotent reigns as we forge ahead on the path of breathing life into digital existences. In fact, it’s a moral imperative that we not deny our critical roles in the creation of life in video games. For, doing so, we’d leave unattended the responsibilities and tasks that are traditionally charged to those in positions of divinity. The most important of these responsibilities perhaps being that of providing purpose and meaning for each and every part of our creations.

Currently, video games only serve to satisfy the player, an individual from our reality who chooses to transport his consciousness into the digital realm in order to entertain themselves. Everything else in the video game, from the blade of grass to the reactive organism, is in the service of this singular endeavor. Which, shares some self indulgent parallels with the gods of old, such as those present in Greek mythology. As it goes, those deities pursued as much gratification through meddling in the worlds of their creations, as we currently do through interacting with the various video games at our disposal. However, this approach will need to be transformed in tandem with the evolution of technological complexities present in video games. One day it will no longer be acceptable to dabble in these digital worlds with little concern for the repercussions of one’s actions. If you destroy an artificial intelligence, a truly intelligent one, what happens to it? While the game code may simply say it ceases to exist in its current state, what happens to its intelligence, its spirit? As game designers, are we prepared to create beautiful digital landscapes and profound virtual beings whose only express purpose is to serve at the beck and call of any whim our players may have? Personally, I find the prospects of such a state of affairs just as displeasing as the archaic religions that preach a god who demands we serve his commandments blindly and without question. Though, then again, when faced with that analogy with the roles now reversed, perhaps we’ll finally be able to empathize with the pressures that face those in a position of omniscient power.

Essentially, this line of reasoning leads to many questions being raised. Far too many to be covered in any one sitting. But, what may be more important than considering the countless forms this issue will take, is how best to go about addressing them. And, since I have no doubt that there will be countless ideologies that will spring forth in effort to achieve this very goal, I suppose now’s as good a time as any to throw my humble hat into the ring for consideration: If we make an effort to study the very existence that we’re witness to in our own lives, through unblinkingly looking within and without, we may discover how to not only better our creations, but also how to better ourselves.

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