Hunger for Reality

“Every single one of these [successful games] has succeeded off a clever psychological angle. But there’s more than that. There’s something else these things have in common, not just these psychological tricks. What these all have in common is they are all busting through to reality. We’re used to, in the old days of gaming, it being all about fantasy. It’s all about fantasy and Ben Gordon used to say, ‘We don’t care about realism in games because people come to our games to escape from reality.’ And so we have this strong belief that fantasy is the thing. But every single one of these is breaking through into reality in some interesting way. And we don’t feel good about reality as game designers. We’re a little uncomfortable about reality…

…But it’s not just us that were kind of snuck up on by this reality thing. And it’s not just just happening to us. Go look at TV. The people in TV, their heads are spinning. Everything’s turned into reality TV. Go to the grocery store. It’s not just groceries anymore. It’s organic groceries. The more genuine, the more real groceries. You go to McDonald’s and to get a Big Mac and – you could get a Big Mac or you could get the real burger, the angus burger made with real this and that or whatever. Everything is suddenly about reality.

Now what’s going on? Is this just how it’s always been? Well, I found this really interesting book. It’s called Authenticity. It’s by the guys who wrote The Experience EconomyGilbert and Pine put forth this most interesting concept: the most valuable thing in products is are the real, are they authentic. Which is a bold hypothesis. And then they go further and they say, Why is it? Why now? It didn’t always used to be this way. Certainly that’s not what sold stuff in the eighties…They’re arguing that all this virtual stuff that’s been creeping up on us over the last twenty years has really cut us off from nature. We’re cut off from self-sufficiency. We couldn’t be self-sufficient if we wanted to. We don’t know how to do it. We live in a bubble of fake bullshit and we have this hunger for to get to anything that’s real. Even if the best we can do is a Starbucks mocha with real Swiss chocolate — we’ll take it. Oh, look how real that seems to me relative to what I’m used to. And so there’s this idea that maybe there’s this hunger for reality. ”

~ Jesse Schell, from his talk at DICE Summit 2010