Take gaming seriously, for young people it’s more than a game

Anyone who thinks that video games are still just games hasn’t paid attention. For many young people, the game Fortnite has replaced the local square as a meeting place. After the school bell rang, they meet here to get to know each other and experience unforgettable moments.

Yet, many parents criticize video games as a useless pastime. This is understandable, because previous generations grew up in a time without internet. Their virtual experience is limited to the old-fashioned platforms of Facebook and Google. But if you want to understand the future, you have to look at video games. The newest virtual worlds are not a waste of time, because for more and more of our daily life is taking place there for young people.

Step by step, virtual worlds increasingly resemble our own world. On Twitch, young people watch live streams of well-known gamers; like watching tv to a video game. Thanks to Roblox, where children build their own virtual worlds, 10-year-old children have become millionaires by making virtual clothes, music and stories.

DJ Marshmello recently gave a live concert in Fortnite, where more than 10 million young people were jumping and dancing to the music

As video games such as Pokemon go penetrare our physical world, more and more physical practices are taking place in video games. A few weeks ago, DJ Marshmello gave a live concert in Fortnite, where more than 10 million young people were jumping and dancing to the music. In addition to television, creativity and live entertainment, virtual worlds are a source of e-commerce. More and more young people are paying real euros for virtual clothes and vehicles.

Are we prepared to live more and more in the virtual world? The movie ‘Ready Player One’ from Steven Spielberg embodies the way of thinking of our young people. There are a group of young people in the movie who discover love and friendship in Oasis, a virtual world that is ‘more real’ than the disastrous physical world.

Experts doubt this scenario. They point to the human body, which still remains in the physical world when playing a video game. But new technologies such as haptic gloves, which make virtual drops of water tangible, and treadmills for virtual reality also bring the body in the virtual world. The brain-computer interface will even connect our brains. Now we see and we hear each other in de virtual world, soon we will be able to feel each other. The difference between virtual and ‘real’ will no longer be clear.

Because of the new technological possibilities, a battle is starting for the construction of a virtual ‘metaverse’. This is a virtual world that links several worlds together – something like Oasis – in which we can even have a job or go to school.

Tech companies, like Facebook, are now trying to make this possible in virtual reality. The platforms of Microsoft (Xbox Live) and Sony (Playstation Network) are transforming into gateways for several virtual worlds. Game companies are also joining the battle: Apex Legens from Electronic Arts seems to be becoming even more popular than Fortnite. The ‘metaverse’ will become a radical alternative to the current platforms of Facebook and Google. It is therefore possible that the next wave of tech giants will rise here.

The budgets of video games such as Red Dead Redemption are bigger than those of Hollywood movies

Anyway, in the coming years, virtual worlds will develop at high speed. 75% of the dutch population are playing games occasionally. Faster and more powerful computer servers and greater network capacity are making virtual experiences richer and richer. It is now even possible to play against Playstation user with the iPhone.

The budgets of video games such as Red Dead Redemption are larger than those of Hollywood films, and artificial intelligence is making the design of virtual worlds even easier. According to some estimates, the video game industry is already larger than the film and the music industries combined. Esports athletes attract millions of viewers to their live stream channels, and some video game tournaments fill stadiums.

Concerts about the appeal of virtual worlds will also grow. What if young people don’t come out anymore? Research in the United States shows that unemployed Americans increasingly remain unemployed because they prefer to play video games. Addiction will become more common.

Virtual worlds are also become a battlefield for political conflicts. The alt-right movement was formed on mysterious internet forums. And how crazy it may sound, the temptation of virtual company can disrupt our social community: in LovePlus, hundreds of thousands people from Japan already have a virtual partner they can kiss on the screen.

Schools need to take virtual applications seriously. With Roblox, children learn coding, a valuable skill for the future

But we can also be optimistic. New forms of entertainment, education and even work are becoming possible in the virtual world. This will be an important part in the education of future generations. Parents should therefore encourage virtual worlds that teach young people useful skills and enable them to unleash their creativity. This is already happening to the newest generation of parents, who grew up with video games.

Schools will also have to take virtual applications seriously. With Roblox, children learn coding, a valuable skill for the future. The creators of the game develop programs for parents and schools.

Finally, politicians need to think about the arrival of the ‘metaverse’. If more and more of our daily lives take place in a virtual world, should we want these platforms to remain supervised by private foreign companies?

Alexander van Wijnen is a historian, philosopher and public administration expert. For FreedomLab Thinktank, he conducts research at the intersection of innovative technologies and the changing world order. Article taken from the Financieel Dagblad.