The importance of video games

From the archives: Posted on 19th July, 1997

A poster wrote:

I think a difference between the piano and the video is that ultimately, with lots of practice, the piano player produces music that other people like, and this creates a rapport between the player and other people, which is deeply satisfying to both. This does not occur with proficiency at video games. It is not an inconsiderable difference.

You are looking at this altogether too superficially. Video games are not about any obvious direct product. They are about interacting with a complex autonomous entity. What one is learning is not so much object theories as meta theories – inexplicit knowledge of how to solve problems. These deep theories are the theories that underlie everything one does. Forget the overt content and lack of obvious product. Their value lies in how they affect one’s deepest, inexplicit ways of thinking, solving problems and interacting with the world. What video-game players are rendering in their mind is not just knowledge of the overt subject-matter of the game, but inexplicit knowledge that applies in all creativity in the world. In a way, they are (mainly inexplicitly) learning how the universe works.

If one could plot a three-dimensional graph of knowledge across the multiverse, one would see a large structure relating to the meta knowledge created in video-game-playing. Talking of which, you should read The Fabric of Reality. It might help you understand this. BTW, The Fabric of Reality is one of the bestselling popular science books of all time and is absolutely mind-blowing.

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 1997, ‘The importance of video games’,