Sunday, March 05, 2006

You Are What You See

You Are What You See
Take a gander at this thought-provoking post on the way that playing massively-multiplayer online games affects your view of the real world:

Cultivation theory has been around for about four decades now. What is it?
The idea is that if you consume some kind of media consistently, you'll start
thinking that the real world is more like the media one.

I had people playing an MMO (Asheron's Call 2, we hardly knew ya) for one
month. At the same time I had a group not playing an MMO. I asked both groups
about the likelihood of violence in the real world along four dimensions:
assault with a weapon, murder, rape, robbery. As it turns out, only one of those
occurs in AC2, and that's assault with a weapon. I think it's no stretch to
claim that weapons are a central focus in that and many MMOs. So what's wild is
that after the study ended, the people who played AC2 thought that getting
assaulted with a weapon in real life was much more likely than those who didn't
play.

Perhaps virtual cultivation could improve human relations. Lai (2003)
hasshown how American MMRPGs stress racial diversity. Could spending time
indiverse worlds improve real-world perceptions of other racial groups or lead
toethnic tolerance? Or could it foster stereotypes (Nakamura, 2001)? Can time
spentin a prosocial environment featuring sharing, altruism, and generosity
improve ourperceptions of others offline?


In other words, the media that people consume affects their mindset, and the ability of online worlds to deliver a massive amount of consistent media makes them one of the most powerful tools we have for changing attitudes.

If this is true, I really do think that an area that NGOs should pursue is the creation of compelling games that will improve the way people think.

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