Authored by Justin Bastian
Recently, a tweet by author and visionary game designer, Dr. Jane McGonigal caught my eye, "Why don't more people in the game industry stand up to defend our work?", supported by a link to Daniel Greenberg's article, "The Video Game Industry Needs to Defend Herself Now."
After conversing with colleagues on this topic I learned that for most, their absence from the spotlight is not due to lack of compassion or moxie, but because they are concerned with meeting existing deadlines and sustaining employment. Publishers tend to frown on employees engaging in controversial issues, especially of recent magnitude. Through this process, I also learned that the issues are largely unexplored.
The negative lens we find ourselves under today is not a problem, rather an opportunity to educate a nation on the overwhelmingly positive potential of video games. The current criticism of our industry has created for us an international platform. An opportunity to shine our light onto the world.
My colleagues and I share a relatively simple position. The focus should be on the way people play video games, not a particular games classification. Individuals can play any video game, violent or nonviolent, in a way that is prosocial or antisocial. Video game design and community influence how individuals play games. Within this truth is our response to the national criticism.
Video games can reflect and foster shared values. Shared values are the focus of our societal ills, especially the problem of tragic violence. This connection is reflected by the powerful testimony of Mark Mattioli, father of slain 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim, before a gun violence task force in Newton Connecticut.
“Our school is not a building–it’s the teachers, parents, and students”, and our games are not just pixels, they are the creatives who produce them, the communities that support them, and the users who play them. Successful video games bring people together, yielding a community of family, friends, clans, guilds, teammates, and competitors.
Centered on relationships, bonds, and interpersonal influence, playing video games is about adapting to circumstances and overcoming challenges, both as an individual and with others. This is especially true for tactical shooter games, the primary point of attack on our industry. Ironically, the game type receiving the most scrutiny is also the game type suited to introduce a transformative solution, a solution that we believe can be adopted industry wide and across many genres.
Mr. Mattioli emphasized core values, cultivating character, and civility. The "Three C’s" necessary for creating an environment of accountability, personal growth, and leadership. Integrating the Three C’s into the world of gaming through game design and prosocial technology is precisely what my colleagues and I are working to do.
Based on the experiences and evidence gained from "outcomes-based training and education" and adaptive leadership in the U.S. military and the interpersonal influence and social development potential of gaming community, our assertion is quantifiable.
Our experience integrating the Three C’s into gameplay comes by way of The Division IGR, the online gaming community I co-lead. We have developed and organized prosocial behavior through gameplay for more than a decade. Our evidence of affect includes testimonials of gamers whose lives outside of our community, have been transformed through behavior and social experiences within it. Engineering our collective body of experience and evidence into social enterprise is our next frontier.
Today, the video game industry utilizes five standard type classes to categorize gamers. These are:
This type class is unfortunately limited to recognizing only two dimensions of a gamer–his or her investment of time/money and mastery of gameplay mechanics. Current metrics fail to identify the third and most important dimension of every gamer–their character or “persona."
Emphasizing the Three C’s, we have leveraged our experience and evidence to integrate, among other things, an interactive type class that recognizes, encourages, and fosters this third dimension through gameplay. Behold the “persona virtuoso.”
This is our response to the very important question Dr. McGonigal posed in her TED Talk, Games Can Make a Better World, “what exactly are gamers getting good at?”
My colleagues and I hold high our obligation to those our efforts touch, and are dedicated to creating powerful art integrated with the tools necessary to transform the human development potential of online video games.
Transform the heart and mind of an individual, and you can transform a home. Transform a home, and you can transform a community. Transform a community, and you can achieve almost anything.
This is our message to the video game industry and those who seek to better understand it.
Spectacular. In ten years, you will be able to say that you were in the vanguard of the greatest challenge we've faced as an industry: how to make gaming into a positive social force.
This is a new conversation about gaming. It is about individuals, not stereotypes. It is about the experience economy, not compartmentalized supply and demand. It is about open innovation in which gamers are both empowered and accountable for development of the games they choose to play. It is about the pride of self, extended to a community of impact, not just levels of personal performance. It is about bringing games to life and bringing life to games. We hope you will join us on this journey.