The Games of the Future?

In order to jump start posting more often I’m going to deviate slightly from my technical articles and ramble a bit to get back into the blogging mood. Please bare with me, the next article I write should be back on track.

A sore yet fond subject of my past is video games. Like so many people my age, my past is filled with countless hours of playing video games. Honestly, I remember the happiness and sense of accomplishment I felt from playing games and I have actually built lasting friendships with people I knew only though online personas. However, I stopped “playing games” sometime around 2005, and I’ve since frowned on the subject.

I look back on my gaming history with some resentment because at some point I concluded that I was wasting time. Time that I could spend learning, earning, growing, and doing something of importance. Whatever triggered this I don’t really know. While being “game free” I’ve noticed some things that have disturbed me.

There is a LOT of game playing going on. Not all gameplay is bothers me. Everyone needs some entertainment and games happen naturally in social activities. I mean excessive gameplay. I can’t even completely describe exactly what qualifies as matching this description.

I decided to look at myself to see if my time spent without games has had a positive affect on me. I’m a little biased but I think that things have turned out well for me. Sparing you the details I feel I have a successful challenging job where I feel I can make some kind of impact on the world. Cheesy I know.

But, looking deeper I noticed that my time “without games” was in fact not game-less. Where before I spent time playing games with seemingly no positive impact on my future, I was applying some of the same concepts (experience, points, etc) improving myself. I know you didn’t come here to listen to me talk about myself, so how can I turn this into something constructive? While I was thinking about this I recently came across two presentations that describing a potential future of video games.

Briefly, the idea that appealed to me was that games could be used to improve lives positively. There is an obviously subjective angle to what is considered life improving, but in general there are plenty of things that can be agreed on. Improvements to your health (exercise), being part of a bigger picture (saving energy and gas), and the ability to motivate yourself and do a good job. These are not your traditional video games, but it is taking the addictive desirable qualities of video games and applying those to real life aspects, and that is what appeals to me.

An example that stood out to me was some recent hybrid cars. These new cars give the driver live, accurate feedback about how efficiently they are driving their car. This extra information gives the driver an incentive to improve their driving. Be it to improve milage, save gas, prolong the life of their vehicle, or whatever. The ambition to be the best or be very good, crucial to many areas and notable in video games, is being used for good.

I am seeing this more and more and I’m liking what I see. I really hope that more and more people recognize these concepts and use them for the right reasons. I really hope that the idea of positive activities being games takes off.

The two videos I saw were Jesse Schell “When games invade real live” and Jane Mcgonigal “Gaming can make a better world”. In fact, this page lists 5 videos including both of these meaning the others are likely pretty good too.

Inspiration #2

Some more links that focus on a few topic areas. What does it mean to be an expert and how can you become one? Then, Hacker Culture, and how it means and is something totally different then what you think it means. Coupled with that is really the idea of stereotypes and making uneducated assumptions… leading to asking better questions and self-motivation. One last one at the end is just a recent standout I came across. Phew, that was a mouthful. Now on to the links:

★ Are You An Expert? – Coding Horror – Jeff Atwood – Jeff nails it right on the head and with some really awesome examples to illustrate the point. Quote: “Being an expert isn’t telling other people what you know. It’s understanding what questions to ask, and flexibly applying your knowledge to the specific situation at hand. Being an expert means providing sensible, highly contextual direction.” The comments are also pretty great.

Again on the Theme of Experts – James Bach – This talk masks itself on the subject of Software Testing but I believe that any person can benefit from what Bach is talking about. His focus is how someone becomes an expert and what an expert really is. There are some really valuable slides on just this subject. You just have to be sure to make it to the end of the video where it gets good. Question everything.

General Advice – Bill Gates – Straightforward and to the point. Life is unfair and you have to work in order to earn things. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you change your views on laziness and take responsibility for your life the better.

The Conscience of a Hacker – The Mentor – Short and sweet. I thought this was a brilliant depiction of the hacker self-motivation principle and the resistance and stereotypes encountered in doing so.

Hacker Culture and More – Eric Raymond – My definitive source to point people to when I need to educate them on Hacker Culture. Equally as important is his essay on “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way.” I’m an avid fan of encouraging people to ask smarter questions, now I have a place where I can point them to and demand they take initiative.

★ Your Shit Does Stink — Good Friends Are Hard to Find – Steven Bristol – When you really care about a subject or a project of your own and you share it with others you don’t just want a nod and the words “thats cool.” You want a critique… you want to prove its worth… you want a contrasting point of view! This short article sums it up barbarically. But its true.

The last article reminded me of a House episode, where House fires the one doctor who thinks exactly like him and “seemed” to help in some of the medical cases. Why? Because without friction the two didn’t feed off each other. By always agreeing and thinking the same the sum of the two doctors was no greater then either individually. Lesson learned.

A Little Inspiration

If you haven’t noticed, I normally start out each blog entry with a little anecdote. I try to let you know what made me write this. Its one of my favorite parts about writing these blog posts, because it can typically be outlined like:

  1. I run into a problem.
  2. I come up with an idea to solve the problem.
  3. I implement my idea and post the results.

Thats a lot of I’s… well, thats because it was me. Take a step back, remove those I’s, and there lies the framework, one of the true core of my motivational system. Find problems and solve them. This certainly isn’t something new for most people, but…

Sometime in the last year I “woke up.” I don’t know what I was doing before… I was certainly functioning just fine, but I wasn’t thinking like I am now. I’m much more “aware” now, and I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. Mostly in philosophy, socially, and individually. So, when this happened I started following some sources and (partly because all of the technical blog posts that I want are too length to finish tonight) I’m going to start a new category “inspiration.” I’ll be posting links to material/media online that will hopefully inspire you to be more productive, be a better person, be more aware, and hopefully put a smile on your face.

I realize that for this to have any impact on you as an individual that you must have already “awoken” yourself. Congratulations, and keep up the great work.

– Joe P


My Favorite

Tony Robbin’s TED Talk, Why We Do What We Do – I’ll admit that even to this day I still haven’t completely grasped the significance of everything in this talk. But, this is clearly one of the most inspirational video’s I’ve ever seen.

And More

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams – This gained quite a bit of popularity. Its still something amazing to see.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Audiobook (Free) by Stephen Covey – I just started listening to this (January 2009) and its pretty great. My High School Vice Principal gave every graduate in my class this book on graduation… I was not motivated enough then, but I am now.

The Junior Developer – My Number One Hurdle: Fear – This is one of a number of articles that impressed me from “The Junior Developer.”

How I Turned Down $300,000 from Microsoft to go Full-Time on GitHub – Tom Preston-Werner – Quote: When I’m old and dying, I plan to look back on my life and say “wow, that was an adventure,” not “wow, I sure felt safe.”

Spend Less Time Reading Blogs and Do Active Learning – I fell a little too deep into this habit. Reading everything there is to know on the subject, and thinking that I knew what I was talking about without ever having done any real work on the subject. Active learning is the most fundamental principle that drives this blog and why I challenged myself with this new years resolution.

Control Your Attention – Quote: Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist impulses.