Friday, February 26, 2010

Designing Dystopia

The preceding video is a speech given at the DICE 2010 design conference.  It is a talk about game design, social interaction, psychology and advertising.  It shows the far-reach design can have in society.  And as I watched it, to be honest, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a good thing…  I love game design, and design in general.  Photography, video editing, level editing, web design, etc…  All forms of design I’ve had fun with.  Design is the very career I pursue.  That being said, after watching the video above, this is an email on the subject which I sent to my cousin, the one who showed it to me.

Dale Furutani - February 26 at 12:34am

I watched that speech on Kotaku. It touched on a few things I've actually debated with Reid before. I told him about how Achievements were such a success because they turned your gaming as a whole into an augmented reality. Your gaming life was one giant MMO and playing GAME X was just a specific quest. It taps into the same things.

That being said, that speech REALLY depressed me. I hope it never gets to that point. He starts off by talking about how we're getting more and more disconnected from reality, and that hopefully we can eventually use technology to reach back to it. But then he talks about a global points system and technology that monitors our every move. The future he described terrifies and disgusts me. It's the point when we as a species become consumers.

The conclusion of his speech offset me the most though. He says with a record of everything we do, with our grandchildren able to see every book we read, and where we spent our days, we'll be motivated to be better people. How is that any different than saying the government has placed cameras in every house and the only people who have anything to worry about are the ones breaking the law?

The future he described was the furthest thing from authenticity I can imagine. I do like the concept of games breaking through to reality. I like comparing my scores to my real friends and I'm clearly an achievement whore. But I also recognize that as a bit of a psychological flaw on my part, and I recognize it's being exploited. Kinda like the way a WoW player may tell you he loves it, even though he's pale, malnourished and has no real friends.

The very definition of an illusion is to distort your senses into thinking something unreal is reality. I really hope that future never comes, but designers and advertisers everywhere are getting wise to the back-doors to our brains that leave us completely vulnerable to such exploitation.

I don't want to see our society become a culture of OCD, counting every brush of our teeth, every gallon of gas saved, every Dr. Pepper drank and every advertisement read. The idea, to me, is the complete opposite of authenticity, and reflects the dark side of design.

My cousin replied in agreement.  His response makes me want to elaborate a bit further.  I suppose the future is coming one way or another, and as someone who hopes to get into the design field I guess I better get used to the idea of exploiting the psychology of our current society with the drip-feed, carrot on a stick approach.

I still can’t help but feel a sense of sadness.  The psychological markers left within us from our times surviving in nature now have us comfortably consuming our shrink-wrapped unreality.

I suppose I can only hope for, and maybe help design the backswing of the pendulum, to return to something more authentic.  Humanity tends to work that way, find something new, and love it until we hate it.  I must assume someday the consumer will get tired of having their OCD appeased and long for something more lasting than the next drip.

Either way, this trend in design and advertising is something to watch and be aware of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the more people understand the psychology that is used in marketing, and psychology in general, the more likely we can be prepared to counter such tactics. I mean, one can enjoy fun and rewards now, but being aware allows you the option to back out of a consumption rut with less of a personal guilt trip.

Maybe it's relevant, but after turning off TV and discovering what goes into production behind the scenes, it's no longer interesting for me to watch fictional stories regurgitated under the guise of new shows. Same could be said for games, books...or even news that is no longer news. My preference is to discover real life on my own terms.

Just my thoughts for the moment. Hope they make sense! - MERN