Musings of gamification: inspired by the episode of ‘Black Mirrors’

My first reaction to the episode was ‘I don’t relate to this at all, this will never happen, gaming isn’t even a thing!’. I was never into video games as a child or teenager, never wanted to play at timezone and definitely have never been interested in the pokies as an adult. So I don’t really understand ‘gaming’. A few years ago a friend proudly told me that he was one of the first owners of ‘bitcoins’ and I said to him, ‘I just don’t understand, I mean money is already basically a weird made up thing, and now virtual money? What can I buy with that? Some virtual food? A virtual holiday?’, I just didn’t get the point of it and I couldn’t relate. More recently the obsession of Pokemon Go completely baffled me. I’d much prefer to look at an actual rainbow over a mountain or search the ocean horizon for a breeching whale than try and catch a Pikachu type character that, well, doesn’t even exist (or so I thought). These virtual activities just haven’t impacted my life very much.

And then I start to wonder… these ‘virtual things’ or I suppose to put it in the correct term, this ‘gamification’ it is real too isn’t it? I mean, it’s happening, we are conscious and it’s going on, so it must be real. Maybe it’s a different kind of ‘real’. And thinking further, to many people the virtual world is very real. During the Pokemon Go craze I listened to the radio one morning and heard of accidents of car drivers while playing Pokemon Go. One truck driver in Japan even killed a pedestrian while driving and playing,To these drivers that Pokemon Go game was extremely real! More real in fact than what was physically going on in front of them. I then start to realise the emotional effect that online gaming has on people. A disconnect with emotions and a lack of presence in the moment around oneself. Did Pokemon Go perhaps hinder this drivers ability to be respectful to the actual moment he was in? To care that he could seriously injure another person or himself if he was distracted. This is also seen in ‘Black Mirrors’ as characters often show a lack of empathy to one another, for example, the bike rider is often horribly rude to the cleaner when he is disrupted from his gaming life.

So then I find out that the episode of Black Mirrors was supposed to inspire us to be active instead of passive online. Well, sorry, it didn’t at all. The two main characters participated heavily and it lead them into another realm of unhappiness. They were given more material possessions but they did not acquire any type of freedom, emotional contact, spiritual connection or creativity. My lesson was more along the lines of: material possessions don’t lead to happiness and giving up self determination ultimately leads to being unfulfilled. Imagining what I’d do in that position, I think I’d start a revolution. The cleaners would be my first friends and any others with some spark or space. Nothing violent, something similar to Russell Brand’s vision of a revolution which involves a lot of emotional healing, non conforming and meditation….. but I think I’m going off the point here.

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