The socialization of virtual

Clive Thompson, a contributing writer for The New York Times, writes:
...By the looks of it, we're entering a new golden age of social, face-to-face game playing. Consider that in the last year, the biggest breakout hits have been music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and the Wii's sporty and casual titles.

Each of these games explicitly encourages social playing -- people hanging out together. (Here's a revealing cultural moment: I was walking down the street in the East Village last month and overheard two female college students complaining vociferously that they hadn't been invited to their friend's Rock Band session.)

Perhaps we're simply going back to the roots of gaming. Though you wouldn't know it from the perennial hysteria about games turning kids into walleyed, anti-social zombies, videogames were originally a social pursuit, because the best games were available only in arcades, and those places were as convivial as Irish pubs. You'd watch one another play, you'd share techniques, you'd talk trash, gossip.

In the late '80s, the rise of home consoles broke up that sociality, making gaming a more solitary pursuit -- something you pursued alone in a basement or a bedroom. But 10 years later, the rise of multiplayer gaming brought the public vibe back to games. That was particularly true of world-games like World of Warcraft, where players log in often for the sole purpose of chatting.

So maybe it's no surprise that we're coming full circle. We don't want to play alone. We want play dates.
Playing alone is fun. There are puzzles and solitaire and running around trees and stuff. Playing together is funner.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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