When people think of a ‘video game’, they tend to imagine one of two things. The first and probably most prolific image is that of an older, 8-bit arcade game with little more than bleeps and bloops for music and sound effects. The second, more modern perception is the hyper-violent shooter, packed with wanton violence and destruction. Both of these conceptualizations are incomplete, and fall short of the emerging notion of games as a form of Computer-Aided Life.
In every sense the technology and the thought driving modern video game development has made tremendous strides in the early years of the 21st century. Interactive media has evolved into a set of tools for education, incredibly powerful graphics engines and socially-conscious pieces that have years of research backing them. These resources and experiences aren’t just for kids any more
In 2007 the first Portal game was released to critical acclaim and financial success. A physics-based puzzle game, Portal has superb presentation, brilliant writing and an incredibly memorable score. Created by a small team of just seven people, the core of the game was built around the manipulation of physics to solve increasingly complex and open-ended puzzles.
A far cry from the tawdry arcade games of the 1980s.
Other works, like Crysis have been pushing the boundaries of what computers and people can do. We are on the verge of having simulated worlds that are indistinguishable from reality. This past year the game Watch Dogs was announced as a modern take on the traditional cyberpunk, near-future aesthetic. In it, the entire traffic system of Chicago is accurately recreated to allow players to hack traffic lights and signs to cause mayhem. In one of our interviews with the developers, we were told that there was a series of catastrophic car crashes within their world. When they tried to figure out the cause they searched the code and found no mistakes- the streets of Chicago just don’t make any sense.
On a more somber note, there are plenty of real social problems that modern society faces. We are haunted by everything from poverty to AIDS. Millions have been allocated to trying to tackle these two problems alone- and not always with any kind of real progress.
Recently however, people have begun to rethink how to approach these challenges, and thanks to an incredible amount of research and dedication. SPENT and Fold-it were designed to address two of the greatest problems facing humanity in the coming century. SPENT teaches others just how hard it can be for America’s working poor to make it while Fold-it got players to solve one of the biggest problems in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
These kinds of constructions, these fusions of humanity and technology can yield some incredible results. We can use these new tools to understand how people and systems will behave in new scenarios. These are some of the most advanced pieces of software people have ever developed. They represent the cutting edge of the world of Computer Aided Life.
This is the first of a series of articles about Computer Aided Life.
At Y Worlds, we believe Computer Aided Life is the way complexity can be best understood, communicated and transformed into something rich and beneficial. We are designing and building an engine that assembles the essence of what we know as a cooperative into an accessible world structured for Nurture, Equality, Truth and Systemic Transformation.
We are building an interactive generative visual language to characterize the knowledge of the world through semiotic representation and pattern. We are literally building a Computer Aided World – one we all will want to live in. Worlds are built one person at a time. Person up.