Why digital games and networks can help us to change reality and generate concrete changes in social environments

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Starting by questioning why digital games and networks can help us to change reality and generate concrete changes in social environments we will research the application of playful techniques and spaces to address the challenges of our present world. We will state that these strategies can be useful to scrutinize specific and real questions. Using social game examples such as Investigate your MP’s Expenses (2009), World Without Oil (2007), Superstruck, Invent the Future (2008), Evoke (2010) and Playing with Poetry (2010), the aim of the paper/presentation is to promote and expand the field of experimental alternate reality games (ARGs) in a broader context. We will analyze some social games such as Farmville or Mafia Wars, derivatives of Facebook networking social programs, and the aim of the work is to research questions like why can players become addicted to this kind of simulation even if these playable environments are monotonous, boring and obvious? Why every day millions of people plant vegetables and flowers in a predictable platform on the web? Each day the mechanics of these games rewards players in terms of scores and that particular function can be responsible for the fact that we return them over and over again. Unlike reality Facebook games give us something controllable and organized. Our Mafia friends keep on coming back and send us gifts and energy packs and in Farmville our ducks are properly fed and our land is fertilized with enriched manure by our community of neighbors. Focusing on recent research from Jane McGonigal (2011), Sherry Turkle (2011), Jesper Juul (2010), Mary Flanagan (2009) and Edward Castronova (2005), as well as classical authors such as Henri Bergson, Marshall McLuhan, Susan Sontag, Hal Foster, among others, the paper/presentation will debate why as we become addict on accumulating experience points and several digital objects on the web it seems that reality is uncomfortable for most people. At present times jobs of most individuals are boring and don’t give them high expectations, they not contribute to their social progression or pose any intellectual challenge. However, in the world of Facebook representations life is controlled, organized and work efforts are rewarded with points, status bonus and experience. Alone we live the illusion of connectivity, exchange, sharing and the lost community (Turkle, 2011).

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Eric Dean Rasmussen