Escape to another world

Excerpt from this article:

As video games get better and job prospects worse, more young men are dropping out of the job market to spend their time in an alternate reality. Ryan Avent suspects this is the beginning of something big

…Over the last 15 years there has been a steady and disconcerting leak of young people away from the labour force in America. Between 2000 and 2015, the employment rate for men in their 20s without a college education dropped ten percentage points, from 82% to 72%. In 2015, remarkably, 22% of men in this group – a cohort of people in the most consequential years of their working lives – reported to surveyors that they had not worked at all in the prior 12 months. That was in 2015: when the unemployment rate nationwide fell to 5%, and the American economy added 2.7m new jobs. Back in 2000, less than 10% of such men were in similar circumstances.

What these individuals are not doing is clear enough, says Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, who has been studying the phenomenon. They are not leaving home; in 2015 more than 50% lived with a parent or close relative. Neither are they getting married. What they are doing, Hurst reckons, is playing video games. As the hours young men spent in work dropped in the 2000s, hours spent in leisure activities rose nearly one-for-one. Of the rise in leisure time, 75% was accounted for by video games. It looks as though some small but meaningful share of the young-adult population is delaying employment or cutting back hours in order to spend more time with their video game of choice.

This is Fine

Check out This is Fine, “a game… made in reaction to the 2016 election results”; it takes 5 minutes to play, and is quite beautiful.

How Video Games Are Changing the Way Soccer Is Played

Excerpt from this article:

As Iwobi suggests, however, they increasingly do more than that: They are not merely representations of the game, but influencers of it. Iwobi is not the only player who believes that what he does on the field has been influenced by what he has seen rendered on a screen.

Ibrahimovic said that he would “often spot solutions in the games that I then parlayed into real life” as a young player. Mats Hummels, the Bayern Munich and Germany defender, has suggested that “maybe some people use what they learn in FIFA when they find themselves on a pitch.”

Wenger’s assertion several years ago that Messi was a “PlayStation footballer” was meant more as an explanation than an insult: Messi does things that seem to belong on a pixelated screen because that is, in part, how he has learned to see the game. Just like Iwobi, his conception of what is possible and what is not was forged by fantasy.

Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America

Excerpt from this article:

Izquierdo represents a group of video-game-loving Americans who, according to new research, may help explain one of the most alarming aspects of the nation’s economic recovery: Even as the unemployment rate has fallen to low levels, an unusually large percentage of able-bodied men, particularly the young and less-educated, are either not working or not working full-time.

Most of the blame for the struggle of male, less-educated workers has been attributed to lingering weakness in the economy, particularly in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing. Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men — who don’t have college degrees — are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games. The decision may not even be completely conscious, but surveys suggest that young men are happier for it.

“Happiness has gone up for this group, despite employment percentages having fallen, and the percentage living with parents going up. And that’s different than for any other group,” says the University of Chicago’s Erik Hurst, an economist at the Booth School of Business who helped lead the research.

While young men might temporarily enjoy a life of leisure, the implications could be troubling for them as well as the economy. The young men aren’t gaining job experience that will better equip them to work in their 30s and 40s. That, in turn, could lead to a lifetime of decreased wages, limited opportunities and challenges such as depression and drug use — problems that the United States is already seeing in areas hit with heavy job losses.

Pokémon Go: Tons of Good Articles

Since its recent launch, Pokémon Go has become a total phenomenon. Here’s a collection of articles on the app, everything from the basic “what is it” to the ways in which it it already having an interesting influence on behaviours (is it accessing your entire Google account?) [update – with tons of links coming in from our colleagues around the worldwide network, I’ve reordered the list so that things are a bit more orderly –  -keep ’em coming!]

What is it?

  • Pokémon Go Brings Augmented Reality to a Mass Audience: New York Times on how “there are video games that go viral overnight, causing people to coop themselves up in their homes for days to play. But the opposite has happened with Pokémon Go, a free smartphone game that has soared to the top of the download charts: It has sent people into streets and parks, onto beaches and even out to sea in a kayak in the week since it was released. The game — in which players try to capture exotic monsters from Pokémon, the Japanese cartoon franchise — uses a combination of ordinary technologies built into smartphones, including location tracking and cameras, to encourage people to visit public landmarks, seeking virtual loot and collectible characters that they try to nab.” [link]
  • Has Pokemon GO won the battle between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
    Tom Sharman from Ogilvy Labs in London has written this POV, great read! [link]
  • Website Tells You If It’s Available in Your Country [link]
  • Pokémon Go isn’t a fad. It’s a beginning:Pokémon Go isn’t really a game. It’s a new technology. Venture capitalist Chris Dixon has a line I like. “The next big thing will start out looking like a toy,” he says. Welp, Pokémon Go looks like a toy. Hell, it is a toy. But it’s also the first widespread, massive use case for augmented reality — even though it’s operating on smartphones that aren’t designed for AR. So what’s going to happen as the hardware improves, the software improves, and the architects learn to use these more immersive environments to addict us more fully?” [link]

Related Consumer Behaviours

  • If Pokémon Go feels like a religion, that’s because it kind of is: “Over the past week, tens of thousands of people have taken to roaming the streets, interacting with invisible beings that now inhabit our cities. These fanatics speak in a special language, undertake hours of devotional activity, and together experience moments of great joy and great sorrow. It is an obsession, many say, that has taken over their lives, and for which they will sacrifice their bodies. They understand the world in a way the uninitiated cannot. What sounds like a sudden global religious conversion, is, of course, the launch of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality smartphone game that has restarted the popular culture phenomenon of Pokémon. In many ways, however, Pokémon and religion are not so far apart.” [link]
  • It’s already more popular than porn: Article from O&M London’s Marie Maurer [link]
  • The top game in China right now is a Pokémon Go clone: “Everyone seems to be going nuts for Pokémon Go right now – but the game hasn’t rolled out to a number of countries, including China. That might explain why the top free game in China today on the Chinese iOS App Store is a Pokémon Go clone. The knock-off game, City Spirit Go, features a creature in the app icon that looks like Pikachu crossed with a racoon.” [link] thanks Daan van Rossum!
  • Pokémon Go still isn’t out in Japan – and it’s driving people crazy: “Although the Japanese have been hunting pokemon over two years longer than other countries, the creatures have yet to appear in their native habitat. The stress on servers has kept the game from being rolled out and Niantic’s general marketing manager of Asia politely asked everyone to wait. People are not happy.” [link] thanks again Daan van Rossum!
  • How Pokémon Go is Changing Transport: “Authorities around the world are warning players not to drive around whilst combing the neighbourhood for a hard-to-find Pikachu… And they should, because people are already getting into car accidents… And yet, metro systems are encouraging it… People are hiring Pokémon Go chauffeurs. Why risk crashing your car, when you can pay someone to drive you around as you nab the best Pokémon the streets have to offer? … Small businesses are seeing skyrocketing pedestrian patrons… It’s encouraging sprawling road trips. … It’s getting people out and about.” [link]

Applications & Creative Ways in Which It’s Being Used

  • Sponsored Locations for Ads: “In other words, retailers and companies will be granted the paid opportunity to be featured prominently on the game’s virtual map, in the hope to drive customers inside their facilities.” [link]
  • Pokémon Go Is Essentially A Fitness App And People Aren’t Even Mad: “Brb, becoming a runner so I can catch ‘em all FASTER.” [link] (Update – people are even kayaking as a result of the game [link])
  • Pokémon Go is doing wonders for people with social anxiety and depression: “Real talk – as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal.” [link] thanks Nicola Strange!
  • Restaurants Are Cashing In on Pokémon Go Madness: Monetizing it! For example, a bakery “eagerly awaiting today’s lunch rush, when a gaggle of workers from the 13th floor of the bank across the street will drop by, catch some Pokémon at the cafe, and probably leave with a few extra coffees and pastries.” [link] thanks Dan Liu!
  • You Can Hire Someone to Do Your Pokémon Go Walking (?) [link]
  • Brainstorming Ways to Link It to Business Rewards [link]

  • Pokémon Go is Secretly Teaching Americans the Metric System  [link]
  • The Westboro Baptist Church Is Getting Owned In Pokémon Go: “One of the game’s ‘gyms’—real-world spots where players can gather to pit their Pokémon against each other—is at 3701 SW 12th Street in Topeka, Kansas. When it’s not serving as a digital monster colosseum, this is the home of the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group infamous for picketing soldier’s funerals with virulent anti-gay signs. This past weekend, a user named Pinknose took over the in-game gym and set it up with an appropriate guard: a pink Clefairy named Loveislove, USA Today reports.” [link]

Concerns (Privacy, Craziness, Using it in the Wrong Place)

  • Pokémon Go Etiquette: Users asked not to play at Holocaust museum, Arlington National Cemetery [link]
  • You Should Probably Check Your Pokémon Go Privacy Settings: “According to the Pokémon Go privacy policy, Niantic may collect — among other things — your email address, IP address, the web page you were using before logging into Pokémon Go, your username, and your location. And if you use your Google account for sign-in and use an iOS device, unless you specifically revoke it, Niantic has access to your entire Google account. That means Niantic has read and write access to your email, Google Drive docs, and more.” [link]
  • More on Privacy Concerns and Google Account Access: “Niantic’s statement on the issue continued: ‘Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google account information, in line with the data we actually access. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon Go or Niantic. The California-based company said Google ‘will soon reduce’ the permissions to the ‘basic profile data’ the game needs and users don’t need to do anything.” [link]
  • The ‘Pokémon Go’ Injuries Are Already Piling Up: “Do any other apps in the game category of the App Store soft-suggest an insurance policy? (No, seriously, please tell us if they do!)” [link]
  • Armed robbers use mobile game to lure players into trap: “Missouri suspects used app’s geolocation feature to target ‘unwitting victims’, says police after another incident saw game lead player to dead body” [link]
  • The Definitive List Of Every Crazy Thing Pokémon Go Has Already Caused: Bodies to breakups to robberies. [link]





The Minecraft Generation

Excerpt from this article:

Since its release seven years ago, Minecraft has become a global sensation, captivating a generation of children. There are over 100 million registered players, and it’s now the third-best-­selling video game in history, after Tetris and Wii Sports. In 2014, Microsoft bought Minecraft — and Mojang, the Swedish game studio behind it — for $2.5 billion.

There have been blockbuster games before, of course. But as Jordan’s experience suggests — and as parents peering over their children’s shoulders sense — Minecraft is a different sort of phenomenon.

For one thing, it doesn’t really feel like a game. It’s more like a destination, a technical tool, a cultural scene, or all three put together: a place where kids engineer complex machines, shoot videos of their escapades that they post on YouTube, make art and set up servers, online versions of the game where they can hang out with friends. It’s a world of trial and error and constant discovery, stuffed with byzantine secrets, obscure text commands and hidden recipes. And it runs completely counter to most modern computing trends. Where companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google want our computers to be easy to manipulate — designing point-and-click interfaces under the assumption that it’s best to conceal from the average user how the computer works — Minecraft encourages kids to get under the hood, break things, fix them and turn mooshrooms into random-­number generators. It invites them to tinker.

At a time when even the president is urging kids to learn to code, Minecraft has become a stealth gateway to the fundamentals, and the pleasures, of computer science. Those kids of the ’70s and ’80s grew up to become the architects of our modern digital world, with all its allures and perils. What will the Minecraft generation become?

“Children,” the social critic Walter Benjamin wrote in 1924, “are particularly fond of haunting any site where things are being visibly worked on. They are irresistibly drawn by the detritus generated by building, gardening, housework, tailoring or carpentry.”

… In Minecraft, as he notes, wood is one of the first resources new players gather upon entering the game: chopping trees with their avatar’s hand produces blocks of wood, and from those they begin to build a civilization. Children are turned loose with tools to transform a hostile environment into something they can live in.



Four Hours of Screen Time? No Problem

Excerpt from this article:

This past summer, I came home from work to find my son and his friend M. playing Roblox, a massively multiplayer online game that lets you construct virtual worlds and customize an avatar to explore it.

“How long have they been playing?” I asked his baby sitter.

“Four hours,” she said.

Stunned, I looked at them. “Four?”

At 8 ½, my son had a 15-minute daily limit for iPod games or the Wii and 30 minutes on weekends. By all rights, I should want to kill my baby sitter, who knew that. But I looked at my son, happy, hands flying over the keyboard, talking and laughing with his new friend, and realized, I didn’t care.

It was his first play date in months. There were extenuating circumstances. Over the course of second grade, his behavior deteriorated so badly that he lost every single friend. I looked at his baby sitter and shrugged. “They’re happy,” she confirmed.

The possibility of a new friendship emerging, for me, outweighed all the warnings about screen time.

Video Games Are Key Elements in Friendships for Many Boys

Gaming Boys Play Games in Person or Online With Friends More Frequently Than Gaming Girls

Excerpt from this article:

In our focus groups, the responses to questions about who teens play with ran the gamut. One high schooler told us, “I play with everyone,” while another explained, “I play with friends and then I meet new people through those friends.”

…Other teens told us they liked playing games because they could be a different person. A high school boy explained how “you use an alter ego” when playing. And still others benefit from the opportunity to take out their frustrations on people they would never interact with again. As a high school boy told us, “If you, like, have a bad game, instead of throwing your controller, you can just take it out on them.”

…One middle school boy in our focus groups explained that he and a gaming friend talked about a mix of things pertaining to the game and their lives: “Like, we were talking about the game and then I’d be like, so, what do you like to do? And we would just share thoughts. Stuff.” Other teens told us that this type of interaction was “very rare.” And that usually it’s, “No hi’s. No bye’s. No hellos.”

Focus group data suggests that trash talking is pervasive in online gaming and that it can create a challenging conversational climate. As one high school boy told us, “If you’ve ever been on any form of group chat for a game, yeah. It’s harsh. … It’s funny, though. Unless you take it seriously. Cause some people take certain things personally.”



I’m a 12-year-old girl. Why don’t the characters in my apps look like me?

Excerpt from this article:

For a 12-year-old girl, playing games on an iPhone is pretty regular behavior. Almost all of my friends have game apps on their phones, and we’ll spend sleepovers playing side by side. One day I noticed that my friend was playing a game as a boy character and asked why she wasn’t a girl. She said you couldn’t be a girl; a boy character was the only option. After that, I started to pay attention to other apps my friends and I were playing. I saw that a lot of them featured boy characters, and if girl characters did exist, you were actually required to pay for them.

…I looked at the gender breakdown of the characters in the top 50 apps. I found that 18 percent had characters whose gender was not identifiable (i.e., potatoes, cats or monkeys). Of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98 percent offered boy characters. What shocked me was that only 46 percent offered girl characters. Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free. Considering that the players of Temple Run, which has been downloaded more than one billion times, are 60 percent female, this system seems ridiculous.

These biases affect young girls like me. The lack of girl characters implies that girls are not equal to boys and they don’t deserve characters that look like them. I am a girl; I prefer being a girl in these games. I do not want to pay to be a girl.