SciTech

Professor predicts life in the future will resemble a game

Schell predicts that one day, companies may connect their products through the Internet, with various consequences. The more you brush your teeth, for example, the more points you may gain towards rewards from the company. (credit: Maria Raffaele/Art Editor) Schell predicts that one day, companies may connect their products through the Internet, with various consequences. The more you brush your teeth, for example, the more points you may gain towards rewards from the company. (credit: Maria Raffaele/Art Editor) Companies may one day make aspects of daily life into a game. (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Companies may one day make aspects of daily life into a game. (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

To many people, video games are an essential part of life. What attracts people to games varies: for some it’s the competition: For some it’s about problem solving, and for others it’s just recreational. However, according to one Carnegie Mellon professor, life may one day resemble the games that so many enjoy, as more companies and businesses are making products that take advantage of popular elements of video games.

Jesse Schell is a professor of game design and teaches the popular Building Virtual Worlds course in the Entertainment Technology Center. He also owns his own line of video games, Schell Games. He coined the term “Gamepocalypse” in order to describe what he thinks is life’s resemblance to a video game. “We already see games creeping up into our everyday lives in all kinds of funny ways,” Schell noted in an interview with The Escapist magazine.

Schell cited several examples of Gamepocalypse in the same interview, including Starbucks using a point system in order to provide its customers with rewards such as coupons and price reductions. In an interview with CNN, he claimed that people’s lives will be “co-opted by games, sort of like how we saw advertising co-opt huge amounts of lives in the 20th century.”

Schell credits new developments in tracking technology as a catalyst for Gamepocalypse. “Games are always trying to be new,” he said, “and one way to create new games is through new kinds of input.” Schell points at input technologies in games like Dance Dance Revolution and the Wii remote, which tracks the movement of the body and makes it a part of gameplay. Such input technology can also be seen in recent gadgets such as smartphones and GPS systems, which take in a certain location as input.

Schell also noted that camera technologies will be the next big step in input technology. Cameras have necessary functions for capturing facial expressions and determining location, and such technology has already been implemented in the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DSi.

The Internet and Wi-Fi will also contribute to Gamepocalypse growth in the coming years, Schell predicts. “Anything meaningful that you do in your life,” Schell said, “there are ways that you’ll want to hook it up to the Internet.” Indeed, with technologies like Nike+ shoes, which measure the number of steps taken while wearing them and can be connected to computers via USB, connectivity is very much already a large part of life.

Much of this Internet accessibility is a wise market strategy on behalf of companies. Marketers see the power that this game society has, and if they know how buyers are using their goods, they will have a better idea on how to sell them. Interconnectivity between companies is becoming common. For example, becoming a fan of Bing on Facebook earns a user Farmville points. All of these industries benefit from that one decision to earn points.

Gamepocalypse, however, has its downsides. On the one hand, it benefits individuals; according to Schell, “when people observe [changes that the games make that impact them], they change their behaviors for the better.” On the other hand, some sectors, such as the tobacco industry and fast food, might take advantage of their own point incentives and potentially endanger individuals’ health. The choices, Schell admitted, are becoming harder.

Schell currently hosts a blog, “Gamepocalypse Now,” for the discussion of this topic. He invites viewers to send in examples of Gamepocalypse that they observe, and he also has posted a video of a talk he gave on G4TV. His blog is at gamepocalypsenow.blogspot.com.