How games will change humanity as we know it


The advent of games, especially computer games, marks a fundamental breakthrough in human affairs. Games profoundly transform two central aspects of the modern world: culture and regulation. There will be no going back.

When it comes to cultures, the West has been in dialogue with itself for centuries, even millennia, stretching at least as far as the Bible and the ancient Greeks. Literature, music, film, and the visual arts provide the common knowledge that intellectual elites are expected to be familiar with. Knowing one part of that canon usually helps you master the other parts; Verdi relied on Shakespeare, who influenced Orson Welles, and so on. In culture, they were never about worlds themselves. On the contrary.

Games break that continuity. Usually, the game is a closed system that requires a lot of time and attention in order to achieve mastery, which encourages specialized spending. It is easy to become a top performer in a game without knowledge of the wider culture. In the same way, most of today’s cultural experts know very little about games and get along great. The worlds of culture and games are largely separate.

This is not a critique of a game that has enriched millions of lives. It simply needs to be noted that the mix of digitization and immersion — combined with the closed, proprietary structure of the game-building company that built the world — has created something new. Games very often use interesting music and visual effects, so in that sense they are cultural objects. But the fundamental appeal of games has more to do with performance and focus. Games are more like attending an event than watching an event.

And make no mistake about it: games are just a win. The gaming sector generates about $ 179 billion in global revenue, night than for global movies and North American sports together. Games increased during the pandemic and emerged robust.

Other cultural products seem to be declining, so to speak. Are there many books they get today attention and discussion that this, say, Harry Potter series was at the turn of the century? Even when the pandemic passes, will the exhibitions have the same impact they once had?

The independent nature of the games also means they will violate government regulations. A lot trading it already takes place in games – including currencies, markets, prices and contracts. Game creators and players set and enforce rules, and government regulators find it harder to play a central role.

The lesson is clear: if you want to create a new economic institution, put it into play. Or what do you say to that app gamifies stock trading? Do you want to experiment with a new type of stock exchange or securities outside the jurisdiction of traditional government regulations? Try the world of games, perhaps in combination with cryptocurrencies, and eventually your “game” could influence real-world events.

Regulators have been trying to be so far strict. It is currently difficult to build fully realized new worlds without creating what is legally defined as unregistered insurance. These regulations do not attract much attention from the leading media, but they quickly become some of the most important and restrictive rules in books.

At the same time, regulators are already lagging behind. Just as games have surpassed the world of culture, games will surpass U.S. regulatory capabilities for a variety of reasons: encryption, cryptocurrency use, difficulties in controlling virtual reality, different rules in foreign jurisdictions, and, by the way, a lack of expertise among U.S. regulators. (At least the Chinese government’s attempt to limit youth games to three hours a week, although insane, reflects perceptual cultural conservatism.)

The characteristics of games that weaken culture and regulations weaken follow from one of their basic characteristics: These are self-denying worlds. Until now, human institutions and structures have depended on relatively open networks of overlapping ideas. The games tweak and privatize those spaces. This shift is a big trend that rarely anyone – except games and cryptocurrencies – notices.

If so much has been announced “metaverse“Whenever it arrives, the games will come swallow many other institutions or create their counterweight versions. Whether you belong to the game world or not, it comes for your worlds. I hope you are ready.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tyler Cowen is a columnist for Bloomberg’s opinion. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the Marginal Revolution blog. His books include “The Great Job: A Love Letter to an American Antihero.”


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