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Changing The World With Videogames

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the one-dork-atta-time dept.

Games 33

Will Wright gave the keynote address at the Texas SXSW event, showing off Spore to a packed crowd and offering up hopes that 'Toys' will change the world. His hope is that offerings like Spore might force kids to rethink their understandings of nature. Likewise, non-linear storytelling via 'branching' gaming is what he sees as the future of the medium. He cites the movie Groundhog Day as an example, a movie which told the same story over and over again but never did it the same way twice. "'I think if we can teach the computer to listen to the story that players are telling,' Wright said, a game could detect patterns of what the player wants, and adjust music, lighting, and other immersive elements to reflect the story that a player wants to play. He thinks this modeling would best be accomplished by networks that constantly mine and refine player information." Alice, of the Wonderland blog, helpfully provides extensive notes, and Kotaku has a video of the demo the attendees saw.

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Why is the article titled "changing the world?" (3, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348051)

Why is the article titled "Changing The World With Videogames"? It sounds more like "Tuning Videogames to Provide People with a Better Way of Ignoring the World"

Re:Why is the article titled "changing the world?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18348241)

It is "Video game legend hopes to change mankind" on the Register...

At least that one makes more sence.

Re:Why is the article titled "changing the world?" (1)

CaseM (746707) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348559)

Before you're modded into oblivion, I want you to know that I love videogames and am a very productive member of society when I'm not playing World of Warcraft.

Re:Why is the article titled "changing the world?" (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18351813)

"Changing the world" does not necessarily mean the "Changing the real world".

Hey, wait a minute... (4, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348205)

For example, Wright wants his upcoming simulation game, Spore, to help kids think more about how their actions today can have a long-term effect on the world. With the evolution game, kids can learn about global warming, he said, by pumping carbon dioxide into the virtual atmosphere and then watching the planet burn up in minutes.
Wasn't SimEarth supposed to accomplish this back in 1990?

In other news, Will Wright is anticipating a flourishing of urban planning with the release of SimCity 5, a solution to the problem of childhood obesity with SimFat's release, and a growth of grandiose sales pitches with SimSoftwareDesigner.

Re:Hey, wait a minute... (2)

DarkJC (810888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348417)

I read somewhere that Spore is apparently what Will wanted SimEarth to be.

Confusing kids (1, Informative)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348225)

His hope is that offerings like Spore might force kids to rethink their understandings of nature.

Confusing kids more like. Animals don't evolve faster as they eat more... I can imaging playing this with my son and having to explain to him afterwards "evolution isn't really like that at all".

If you want to improve kids understanding of nature, get them outside and actually looking at the real thing. And/or buy some of the David Attenborough series, which many kids enjoy watching and are actually educationally very sound.

Be practical (4, Interesting)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348683)

The game isn't meant to say, "This is exactly how evolution works." Not having played it, this is a guess, but it's supposed to illustrate some of the basic principles and let kids have some fun while learning it.

Animals also don't evolve as you go outside and look at the real thing; it's a process that typically takes millions of years. And I'm sorry, but David Attenborough is boring.

If you want your kids playing outside instead of playing video games, that's fine, I encourage it too, and more power to you. But I find it a little snooty to look down on something that is trying to be a little more intelligent than your typical Grand Theft Auto or Doom game that so many other kids are playing these days.

Maybe it won't change the world, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

yeah right... (3, Interesting)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348277)

So the kids who torture real small animals for fun will suddenly gain a conscience when faced with simulated ones?

Re:yeah right... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348519)

No. But there will be fewer real animals being tortured. For example, I still like blasting the zombies in Quake since tracking down real zombies at the mall is a pain in the butt.

Re:yeah right... (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348647)

No it isn't they're all over the place. Every time I go to the mall I get the urge to pick up a chainsaw or lawnmower and just start owning.

Re:yeah right... (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18351451)

Thank you!

Every Time some one makes me laugh out loud, I like to let them know. You just did it! I don't know if I am laughing cause your funny, or at the fact that I have had the same thought, except w/ a flamethrower built from a supersoaker like rsoakerhaveapilotlight%3F2 [] this guy did.

Re:yeah right... (1)

silvermorph (943906) | more than 7 years ago | (#18350669)

Maybe one will magically appear if torturing simulated animals causes a giant simulated dinosaur to wander by and start torturing simulated-you.

A World Changer Indeed (1)

antialias02 (997199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348643)

Wright is right. Spore *is* going to change everything in the world as we know it. ...if it ever releases.

Shades of Orson Scott Card... (0)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18348743)

"'I think if we can teach the computer to listen to the story that players are telling,' Wright said, a game could detect patterns of what the player wants, and adjust music, lighting, and other immersive elements to reflect the story that a player wants to play."

Does this remind anyone else of "Ender's Game"???

Now the government can actively train young killers at an early age!!!!


Re:Shades of Orson Scott Card... (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18349095)

No, the virtual world in Ender's Game (which actually had nothing to do with the title, just to make that clear) was a system designed to lead the children on a path of self-exploration. It had very, very little to do with what the child wanted and had everything to do with what the child needed.

Wright's comment deals only with wants, and not at all with needs.

His comment is interesting, though. He's suggesting that a TheSims-type player would be playing a game with marriage, kids, and happy music while a Halo-type player would end up with lightning and dark music, and an alien invasion. A game that could adapt this much would pretty much be the ultimate game and would therefore destroy the games industry. Thank heavens it isn't possible yet, or in the near future.

Re:Shades of Orson Scott Card... (1)

Kannaida (1069502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18358519)

It's pretty shallow to think that "the game" in Ender's Game was about "actively training young killers at an early age". It was about developing the "students" to a higher level. They didn't want killers, they wanted people who could think on a higher level than the "average joe". The point of the book, or book series if you like, I always thought, was to bring people out to think where things COULD be going, now where they *were* going (that's a bit presumptuous) but where they could go. That being said, it's quite the boast to say "our game is so cool it will guide the world to the view we're striving for". It almost seems to go beyond the point of video games. There are so many discussions regarding the "appropriateness" of video games. Remember, the rating system is by the "ENTERTAINMENT Software Review Board". People focus on this like it's the "EDUCATION Software Review Board". If kids are learning from video games, it's because they're filling a gap in their education that they're not getting somewhere else. It's only education if someone hasn't learned better. I have nothing against creationism, but I was raised to believe in evolution. I was taught, by my parents, to have faith in science vs... well, it's a bad analogy, but... faith. Science was the focus of my education and understanding, not the church. While I've been playing video games since the Atari 2600 (to age myself), I never developed beliefs based on what I "played". The problem isn't in what we read, or what we play. The problem is in what we're taught. And too many people don't seem to realize that, while we go to school, the education at school is only as applicable as our parents tell us it is (particularly at a young age). Spore sounds cool to me... but I don't think it would had I been raised in a strictly church-driven environment. And maybe it shouldn't be considered that a video game has no more influence than a parent. If you want your kid to be raised with beliefs you have, than raise them with those beliefs. Having been a fan of Orson Scott Card for some years now, and having loved his message but not having always agreed with him, I think there's a bigger role to be played by the families that are now thinking "the TV" or "the X-Cube-Station-2007" than the family that is willing to sit a child down and say "this is how we think". I'm thinking about my future children now, and as-such thinking of how to raise them, and *I* realize how much of a role my thoughts could play in their development. I don't think anyone can say "this is going to make our children " without thinking about how much of a role a parent has in a child's beliefs. Beliefs that will most likely hold longer than reading a text book.

He's so smart! (2, Informative)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18349319)

Will Wright is probably so smart because he's been working out [] . Did you see how buff he is in that article [] ?

All kidding aside, yeah, video games do have the potential to change the world, both for the better, and the worse. In instances like WoW or Evercrack, people have let it ruin their lives through loss of jobs, divorces, etc. That's not the games' faults though. I play WoW for maybe 4-5 hours a week, sometimes less. It can still be fun, and it doesn't dominate my life.

But then there's the "Serious Games" [] that can be used to train people on doing many real world tasks while helping to keep them from making deadly mistakes.

Re:He's so smart! (0, Offtopic)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 7 years ago | (#18351099)

If you look carefully [] , you'll notice that's a cast on his left arm. He broke it skiing. Fortunately he didn't break his design arm.


This is NOT GOOD (4, Interesting)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18349537)

"I think if we can teach the computer to listen to the story that players are telling," Wright said, a game could detect patterns of what the player wants, and adjust music, lighting, and other immersive elements to reflect the story that a player wants to play. He thinks this modeling would best be accomplished by networks that constantly mine and refine player information.

A few of the problems they will have is that people don't know what they want, and they play games to escape real life problems which stay resident in their mind like AOL on a PC.

You'll have games that won't satisfy people unless the theme goes completely dark, and has the person lost frantically searching for a ray of hope that leads to nothing (Like WoW for instance.)

Seriously though, I don't think I want the same thing from every game. I (used to) play WoW to have some feeling of accomplishment in my lame life. I play Need for Speed so that I don't hit 160mph on the freeway on a daily basis (I try and keep that to a yearly event these days...)

I play games sometimes to take risks that I could not take in real life. Sometimes I play a game to get away from stress knowing the game rules will not change. Yes kids, the rules of real life can change on a daily basis. DST anyone? Physics however (so far in my experience) has stayed the same.

Wouldn't it be awesome to teach kids that if you drive too fast and wreck your car that you loose & can't play the game for 3 weeks, because you don't have money to pay for the damage to other persons property & fix your car? Sure would have made me think twice that one time when I was 18...

It's a neat Idea, but I think it won't work for any game type other than MMOG. I don't think there is a gamer out there who wouldn't want to take his Ultima work, and apply it to EQ, then take his EQ avatar, and put him in DAOC, then take that DAOC extension of themselves, and move him to WoW.

That Idea rocks. It's solid because people get very attached to their Avatars. I know because I am going through separation anxiety right now as I tell Blizzard to eF off when they failed to reimburse my char for a scam. In real life, you don't get reimbursed for a scam. The bank says "sucks to be you, move along." In videogames, There is a trail of that money, and they know EXACTLY where it goes. They usually are supposed to be unevenly fair towards the player. It's really to bad I can't take that guy and stick him in a different game.

"Computers function as an amplifier of our imagination," Wright said. He spoke of the world's previous paradigm shifts, through technology or culture, or both. Now, he said, we're experiencing them "more and more often."

I think what he is saying here is just that games will drive the vision of technological growth in the future just as Sci-Fi & comic books did in years past. While that statement is true, It's also -1 obvious. There is no doubt that the future will be shaped, has been shaped by VG's. Just ask Block-Buster & Hollywood video, or the Movie industry in general.

Responses encouraged!

Not branching, not groundhog's day (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18350045)

While he used both of those as examples, he went on to say that the movie whose structure he wanted to emulate the most in an interactive game fashion was The Truman Show, not Groundhog's Day, and that branching paths were the most primitive method of dynamic storytelling, not the way of the future. What he saw as an interesting way of telling a dynamic story was creating a dual-layered system:

1 - Story Parsing. Like Natural Language Parsing, this would be a system of metrics that would allow the game to figure out what kind of story the player was trying to play. E.g. if the player was trying to play a horror story, the game would dim the lights, thunder would crash, etc. However, these superficial effects would be coupled with:

2 - Story Building Blocks. These small bits and pieces of story would have various compatible inputs and outputs. For example, lets say you have the story bit "boy leaves home", and another story bit "girl gets hurt". These would not have any compatible connection - the first bits outputs might be compatible with other story building blocks that are about maybe an adventure, or something happening to the boy. Likewise, the second story building block would have compatible inputs to other story devices about girls or injuries. So when you add the story block "boy meets girl" then you can have a smooth, dynamic story - "boy leaves home", "boy meets girl", "girl gets hurt". But of course you would be drawing from a massive pool of dramatic elements.

Obviously that is a very high-level look at the system, but Mr. Wright seemed to think that there was some considerable promise in that powerful, combined approach. He also went on to say some very insightful things about who to tweak this system to create a believable and organic climax at the end of the story, so that there is still an end state and a sense of satisfaction for players. He called this tweaking "dramatic amplification", and it was a method of creating larger and larger world state changes with smaller and smaller events until you reach some apex; e.g. in Star Wars, when Luke is shooting his torpedoes into the exhaust vent, there are only two possible outcomes: either he misses, and alderan (or whatever planet they were trying to explode at the time) is destroyed utterly, OR the death star itself explodes. Minor event, massive world state changes; dramatic amplification!

It was a fascinating speech delivered at his apparently usual whirlwind speed, inspiring stuff!

Re:Not branching, not groundhog's day (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18353913)

So in other words, Wright used a bunch of overheated rhetoric to say that he thinks Spore will be the first game ever to include side-quests and multiple endings. Huh, the guy's an even bigger dingbat than I thought.

Active Life Revives the Lavos Bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18350129)

...but the Future refused to change...

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18350507)

His hope is that offerings like Spore might force kids to rethink their understandings of nature.

If that was his goal, he'd be better off encouraging parents to take the kids outside somewhere they can experience actual nature, instead of having them sit in front of a resource-gobbling computer fiddling around with fake nature.

Groundhog Day (2, Funny)

Have Blue (616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18350761)

Groundhog Day: The Game was made about 8 years ago. It was called Majora's Mask.

Re:Groundhog Day (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18355591)

I think there's also some Groundhog Day similarities with Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter [] .

SXSW? (1)

gryphoness (841454) | more than 7 years ago | (#18351265)

Very interesting that Will was at SXSW and not at the GDC...

Wright's educational concepts are outdated... (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18352295)

Will Wright embodies an outdated, traditionalist view of social and cultural growth. He's cut from the same cloth as the parents protesting that there's too much art in schools, and "god damnit, kids should be learning more history!" That's how he appears to me, anyway. Instead of litterary or artistic frameworks, he insists that games have scientific, historical, ecconomic, or political meaning. There's no question that he's a very creative person, indeed, but his games reward developement rather than creative design.

It's like claiming that history textbooks are going to change the world. Maybe to a point, but don't we want to inspire people to think and create for themselves, rather than simply having them memorize procedures?

Spore might, at first glance, appear to be a creative canvas, of sorts. But at first glance, so did SimCity, which was most deffinitely not. It wasn't a creative tool so much as a procedural one, and I have no doubt, from what I've heard, that Spore will be no different.

Re:Wright's educational concepts are outdated... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18352431)

ugh, can a post be modded ignorant?

If you were either at or even read the transcript for Will Wright's speech (or many of his previous tv or conference appearances), you would know that he spent five years in Montessori school - that's right, the progressive learn-through-experimentation program. You might say, learning intuitively through simulation. His exact example was if you give kids the right toys, they don't have to memorize the pythagorean theorem, they learn it intuitively from experience. So, exactly what you said, only precisely the opposite.

Re:Wright's educational concepts are outdated... (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368439)

Kid's should be learning more history, but no matter how much you cram down, it wont work because no one (not no one, but most...)really WANTS to learn history. They want to expierience the present, expierience LIFE.

However, if history is not learned...

Instead of litterary or artistic frameworks, he insists that games have scientific, historical, ecconomic, or political meaning. There's no question that he's a very creative person, indeed, but his games reward developement rather than creative design.

Creative design Vs. Development?
Why shouldn't they have both? Why can't they have both?

As for historical and political meaning, directors and story tellers have been integrating their own politics for thousands of years. It's common knowledge that the history books are written from the "winners" perspective. We all know that the Native Americans were slaughtered for reasons not much differant than the those of World War II.

As for History & Lit, I already played Age of Mythology / Empires. It was great, and I learned a lot of info that was well researched.

Get outside! (1)

kmalone (1075931) | more than 7 years ago | (#18356867)

I'm imagining millions of people staring at screens trying to think of ways to better understand and to save the world. Something doesn't click right with me. People marching, holding talks and debates, planting trees, reducing waste? Going outside?

Be Careful What You Wish For... (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18358095)

'I think if we can teach the computer to listen to the story that players are telling,' Wright said, a game could detect patterns of what the player wants, and adjust music, lighting, and other immersive elements to reflect the story that a player wants to play.

Ten minutes later, Jack Thompson goes before a court, "Look what happens when I play this game determined to get my rocks off over baby mutilation! It was certified T for Teen but a learning AI and my talent for deviency means it's now hardcore porn. These game makers need to be sued!"

We're already seeing lawsuits and potential new laws over the fact that games are so complex the ESRB can't possibly see everything (though the potential new laws would require that anyway). Add in an AI that modifies the game to suit you and you're in for a whole world of hurt when it modifies in ways no one ever expected.

Spore will be an interesting one. It'll be one thing when horny teenagers figure out how to create a creature that looks like a naked woman but and edge case in the procedural animation system causes to move by pelvic thrusting it's way around the world. Now imagine what it'll be like when Spore's other great feature - sharing content between players - gets pulled in and eight year old little Johnny sees it and his mother decides to go to the media with the apparent porn her child was exposed to.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of emergent behaviors, advanced AI, true neural networks, adaptive gameplay and automatic content sharing. I just sadly see those same great features giving ammunition to those who'd love to hurt the industry for their own political gain.

Interestingly, if you pick up the O'Reilly book on Game AI [] , they discuss the notion that game developers are already shying away from what's possible for fear of what it might decide to do once they're no longer watching. We're already at the point where it's no longer about what we know how to do but what our lawyers will let us do.

This is all well and good... (1)

Starayo (989319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364011)

But seriously, when the hell is Spore actually coming out. I've heard all manner of news and seen all manner of videos, but all in a single burst. I haven't heard anything else recently.

Granted, I haven't been looking per se... Is it so wrong to want to unleash my monstrous, sadistic, and brutally destructive spawn on an unsuspecting world?
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