Computer game designer Will Wright, designer of SimCity, The Sims, and many other blockbuster games, has an article out in Wired (“Dream Machines,” April 2006) in which he considers the importance of gaming. He argues that people often misunderstand the importance and value of computer gaming. He argues that such gaming has much in common with the scientific method of trial and error in the pursuit of workable solutions. He writes:

Through trial and error, players build a model of the underlying game based on empirical evidence collected through play. As the players refine this model, they begin to master the game world. It’s a rapid cycle of hypothesis, experiment, and analysis. And it’s a fundamentally different take on problem-solving than the linear, read-the-manual-first approach of their parents.

Increasingly, in such gaming, he argues, players aren’t just consumers, they are producers. According to Wright, this distinction accounts for some of the misintermpretation people often have of computer gaming, because, as he puts it:

watching someone play a game is a different experience than actually holding the controller and playing it yourself. Vastly different. Imagine that all you knew about movies was gleaned through observing the audience in a theater – but that you had never watched a film. You would conclude that movies induce lethargy and junk-food binges. That may be true, but you’re missing the big picture.

Wright seems intrigued by the future possibilities of this breakdown between consumer and producer. Though a significant part of life in our postmodern world is tied to the signficance of the choice implied in consumerism, perhaps such gaming is part of the postmodern shift in which such simplistic binary oppositions breakdown.

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