As much as I enjoy getting online to riddle my opponents full of bullets from my virtual high powered rifle, I often find myself wondering, is this really all there is? Can video games accomplish anything more than an overload of hyper real violence and mayhem—that is, can they be anything more than just totally awesome fun? Do they need to be?
Yes, I think they do. They need to do more, and I’m not talking about the lame “is it art” debate. I mean they need to be more connected with the larger community of which they are a part, they need to start becoming something that can change lives, not just allowing us to escape from them.
Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have taken a few baby steps toward increasing interaction between the game world and the internet, but I am skeptical about what benefits gamers or the internet will see from letting people autopost their game progress or game purchases on Facebook and Twitter. I will keep them in mind, however, if I ever need to get myself unfriended as quickly as possible.
What caught my eye this morning was an announcement of video game support by the US President. The MacArthur Foundation is teaming up with Sony to hold the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition: Reimagining Learning ,with US$2 million in prizes up for grabs. The competition has two parts, 21st Century Learning Lab Designers, and Game Changers, in which contestants can receive awards for creative new games or additions for Sony’s LittleBigPlanet, a popular and award-winning PlayStation 3 game that includes a comprehensive level creation tool. Sony’s supporting the event by donating “a significant number” (I’m guessing -4?) of PlayStation 3s and LittleBigPlanet copies to community-based organizations and libraries in low-income communities.
This sounds like a step in the right direction—merging game play with social action. And LittleBigPlanet, with all the social interactivity built into it, is a great place to start. I do wonder, though, how the people Sony is giving a chance to create levels will ever get to play their levels later—the game is PS3 only, and other than watching YouTube clips, the levels are downloadable only through Sony’s PlayStation Network. I’m also not really sure how it will relate to “Reimagining Learning”, but when you see the astounding variety of levels created in LittleBigPlanet, like
I feel optimistic contestants will come up with some pretty good ideas.