Will video games save the world or are they a waste of time?

A general view of atmosphere in the Playstation tent during Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2011 held at the Empire Polo Club on April 17, 2011 in Indio, California.

Ian Bogost is a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology where his specialty is the development and meaning of video games. Be sure to check out his game Guru Meditation. His new book, "How To Do Things With Video Games," rejects a lot of the traditional ways of thinking about games.

"I think one of the biggest assumptions is that games are just for fun, entertainment, wasting time," he says. "But there's a flip side to that assumption which is that games have the potential to be used for very serious things like politics or education. If you put the two together, you get the idea that video games are either a waste of time or they can save the world. Instead, I want to suggest that video games, like every mature medium, do a whole lot of things -- everything between wasting time and saving the world."

Bogost sees the future of games as being more about not noticing that they're games at all. In the early days of movies, you had an awareness that you were watching a movie, but when that same basic platform is used for commercials or instructional videos, you wouldn't call it a movie. "The most exciting thing that could happen to games is that we could stop talking about them as a separate practice," says Bogost. "We might play a game in a way that we might not even notice. In the same way as you watch a video when you get on the airplane that's supposed to teach safety features, or you look at an image on a printed card. Imagine if you started doing that -- or in addition to doing that -- you experienced some sort of video game or simulation that led you through the experience of emergency. It may sound like a silly example, but it's the kind of thing that suggests the ordinary mundane ways that we constantly interact with information on a day-to-day basis."

He says the students whom he meets at Georgia Tech have a different relationship to games and technology than their parents do. "I think one of the big differences is they've grown up knowing that it's an aspect of creativity that they have access to," he says. "It's not just a strange medium that appears out of nowhere by some small group of young men toiling alone in dark rooms. They have the idea that they've experienced the medium of video games in their lives and they see potential in it. There's something new they see that they can do with it. That might be something familiar or it might be something totally different."

Also in this program, the popular blog PostSecret is now available as an app. Uncomfortable confessions now available on your phone!

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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