Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will the future be an MMO?

Pangoria Fallstar sent me an interesting link to a video from DICE 2010, where Jesse Schell extrapolates from Facebook games to a future where every one of you actions comes with experience points: Brush your teeth in the morning, +10 points. Brush them for longer than 3 minutes for extra points, and of course further extra points if you brushed them all week. The action would be measured by a motion sensor in your toothbrush, transmitted via WiFi, financed by the company selling the toothbrush and toothpaste, and you could use the points for a rebate on toothpaste, or even on your dental plan.

I think this vision of the future as one big MMO with points everywhere is utopic. Just look how people complained here yesterday about having to be online to play Ubisoft single-player games; how would those people react to having to be online to brush your teeth? Jesse Schell mentions that because every one of our action in his utopia would be recorded, it would make us strive to become better people. But I'm afraid the whole thing smells too much like Orwell's Big Brother to most people.

Where I think he went wrong is in extrapolating too far, a common mistake in predictions. Because I think where he might have the right idea is that reward systems could be used more in real life. But I would guess that would be mostly limited to education and work. In the video there is an example of a game design professor already handing out xp instead of grades for homework. That is something which could work. And bonus systems at work tied to some point system could work too. But your shoes telling your health insurance how many miles you walked that day? Most people would find that too intrusive.

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