Back after a relatively long vacation, school vacation. Partly used their vacation as my excuse to take some time off for myself too. Well, not entirely off. I’ve been playing games. Actually, we’ve all been busy playing games, trying new games, exchanging gifts and tips, me and my kids. It’s been a lot of fun. At the end of this vacation, their off to school and I have a lot of catching up to do on my reading, writing and following and I have to admit that my game-crave is bugging me. I am beginning to think I am addicted to games.

Looked into addiction to games and found multiple groups of Farmville addicts, several addiction calculators and self-tests, and similar items relating to other games too. Here is a post Michael Arrington wrote about his addiction to Fishville about 4 months ago. Games, especially good ones, are addicting.

I started to take in the claim that games are designed to be addictive. Actually, I am pretty sure they are. Especially those with micro payments built in them. Because even if for some of us it seems completely idiotic to spend a nickel on a virtual sofa, other people do not perceive it as spending money on virtual goods, they see it as spending money on entertainment. It’s like my first online magazine subscription more than a decade ago: I remember thinking “Why is it OK to subscribe to a printed magazine but not to an online one?”. We spend money on movies, and books, cable TV, music and toys, we buy video games DVDs in a shop – so why is spending money on online games so difficult?

I cannot imagine going through a whole day without any play. I open my day with Sudoku. It’s my morning exercise, a sharpener. I might be playing more games then others, trying to figure out how to create my own game, but even without the work necessity, looking around me, are people playing games. Kids, of course, are much more play oriented. Many adults, however, feel ashamed or embarrassed about playing games… “Oh, no, it’s not me playing Farmville, it’s my little son, who has no Facebook account of his own…”. Yea, right.

It’s OK to play!

In fact – “It’s got to be serious if the New York Times puts a cover story of their February 17 Sunday magazine about play. At the bottom of this it says ‘it’s deeper then gender, seriously but dangerously fun, and a sandbox for new ideas about evolution’. Not bad… except if you look at that cover – what’s missing??? You see any adults??”, says Dr. Stuart Brown, a pioneer in research on play from the National Institute for Play in a TED conference about two years ago, just before Farmville broke records.

Then he goes on demonstrating the importance of play in the animal kingdom. It must be an existential factor if you see animals ignore their predator instinct in order to play, just for fun. His description of the hungry bear and the playful dog can take me to so many school yards…

And then yesterday I watch Jesse Schell’s amazing TED\DICE talk again (watch the full talk, I recommend it, or go for the excerpt) – about the invasion of games into our reality. An excellent talk demonstrating our ability to transform any task into a part of a giant game called our life. His ideas are as inspiring as they are crazy. And talking about it with some high-schoolers I know he is right. So really, you should face it: you are playing, whether you like it or not, the only question is are you having fun in the process.

This page linked me to Jane McGonigal’s TED 2010 talk about her belief that we must play more in order to better our world. My feelings exactly!

“My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games”, she says. She goes on to present the calculation of how many more global hours should be dedicated to playing games and explains:
“Here’s why. This picture pretty much sums up why I think games are so essential to the future survival of the human species. This is a portrait by a photographer named Phil Toledano. … This is a gamer who is on the verge of something called an epic win. An epic win is an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive you had no idea it was even possible until you achieved it. It was almost beyond the threshold of imagination. And when you get there you are shocked to discover what you are truly capable of. That is an epic win. This is a gamer on the verge of an epic win. And this is the face that we need to see on millions of problem-solvers all over the world as we try to tackle the obstacles of the next century. The face of someone who, against all odds is on the verge of an epic win.”

Going back to Dr. Stuart Brown’s presentation I give another look to his slide of the goat: “If you’re having a bad day – try this. Jump up and down, wiggle around, you’re going to feel better”.