Friday, October 07, 2005

Games as social instruments

There's a really interesting (at least to me) article in Wired about latest venture from the creator of Pong. Even more interesting, this comes from the author of Urban Tribes (I'll explain more in a second).

To briefly summarize the article, basically there is a relatively new venture called uWink Media Bistros(.pdf). The whole concept behind this is to create a space where people can interact with one another around the concept of games. It's basically a restaurant that has games (the maker of Pong also owned Chucky Cheeses) and people can use the games as a means of interacting with others -- perhaps even leading to romantic relations.

Why is this good? Well, it helps to create a third space that becomes a hub of activity for people. It builds community, it builds relationships, strengthens ties, etc. You know, good stuff that people desire.

This ties in nicely with the fact that Ethan Watters wrote the article. Watters is also known for Urban Tribes -- a book that explores the notion of family, friendships, and ultimately community for those roughly 20 to 30ish. It's been awhile since I read it, but it was enjoyable. It was mostly a series of personal reflections and interviews with people trying to find their community. It's also a rebuttal to the outsider perspective that people in their 20s and 30s are basically a bunch of self-interested slackers with no ties or committments. Watters tends to argue that the doomsayer theories lamenting the decline of newer generations is wrong -- relationships, families, engagement just looks different in this day and age.

So what's the point of all of this? I think the concept of games and community is a case in point of Watters' argument, though it's not specifically generational. I know many folks, well into their 40s, 50s and beyond who find community through games, or otherwise non-traditional ways of looking at families and commitment.

Community is everywhere we look, sometimes in places we might not otherwise think, but it's there. People are connecting with one another each day -- through games, computers, blogs, or whatever. And sometimes, as in the case of "Ping", it doesn't even have to be very complex. Maybe we just need to remember that the tech isn't the be all and end all, but a means to something much greater than the sum of it's parts. There's something very powerful about that. There's something intrinsically human about that.

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