Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Game

I can imagine a not-so-distant future when somebody will release a piece of software, probably in the form of a game, that simulates an extremely realistic milieu, not just with accurate physics and realistic environments, but also with convincing yet modifiable character behavior. There won't really be a point to this game, or any sort of pre-defined game play. It'll simply be an imitation of life, with the ability to remove certain strictures of reality.

It'll be possible to be whatever you want in this artificial reality. You can be Superman, or Albert Einstein, or Angelina Jolie, or Michael Jordan. But you can also be an assassin, a drug dealer, a rapist or a pedophile. It'll be entirely your choice, entirely your universe, and (unless there's an on-line mode) entirely private. The game would quite literally be limited only by your imagination.

What interests me about this scenario is that the game could have any or all of the supposedly negative aspects of games like GTA, but there would not be a "publisher" to demonize for supplying the content. Those who feel that violence in video games causes violence in the real world would have to modify their argument if the game had no intrinsic violence but only what the player chose to include. Yet you know for certain that the same people who want to regulate the sale of violent video games and movies would oppose the game.

Don't get me wrong: i think most of the stuff in GTA and similar games is awful and i wouldn't let my kids anywhere near it. I also admit i'm on the fence about who should and shouldn't be allowed to purchase this stuff (in principle, i think prohibiting the sale of M-rated games to minors is reasonable and not necessarily a violation of First Amendment rights). But i'm concerned about the tactics that will be used when the "content" of the game is invented by the player. This will happen some day, and i fear that certain political factions will discover the need to monitor people's behavior in private environments.

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