19 January 2010

Playing games

I am intrigued that playing games is a regular theme across the range of podcasts that I listen to, such as the TED talk Stuart Brown says play is more than fun, the RSA talk on Why games are the 21st century’s most serious business and IBM Developerworks on Serious games.

What unites these talks is the way that game playing helps in real world situations but what differs is the way that it does this which includes, for example, by building leadership skills or enabling simulations of events like the outbreak of a serious virus.

Games have also been a significant factor in the growth of Facebook where almost everybody I know plays some sort of game be it something "serious" like chess or scrabble or something more frivolous like Mafia Wars or Farmville.

I have a foot in both camps as I play both chess and Farmville!

What I like about Farmville is that it is a very open game which, rather like a large box of mixed Lego bricks, lets you do anything you like within the confines of some very lose rules around the planting and harvesting of crops, flowers and trees.

It's also a social game (as opposed to a competitive one) in that you are encouraged to make friends and to help them by working on their farms and sending them gifts.

But I mostly use it to make coloured patterns out of lavender, red wheat, sunflowers, coffee, etc.

In many ways it's not unlike Kings of Chaos that I played for a few years in that most of the game's objectives were personal, it has to be played regularly to work and there is some interaction with friends. So, bizarrely, being a gentle farmer is not unlike being a violent elf.

I don't know how all this makes me a more effective or nicer person but I'll accept all the testimony from the learned speakers mentioned above and believe that it does!

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