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Life Imagined As One Big RPG 176

Scoop Snookems writes "Will there be a day where we earn achievement points simply by brushing our teeth or high-fiving a friend? There could be, according to Carnegie Mellon professor Jesse Schell. In this video from the annual DICE summit, Schell comments on recent evolutions in gaming before fixating on a concept where our futures evolve into one big RPG. Fascinating stuff, and I hope writing this post nets me 10 points."
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Life Imagined As One Big RPG

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  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:11PM (#31202376) Homepage Journal
    Ho hum. A non-article. Video games are close enough to reality*. Police Quest vs. being a real policeman, for example, where 80% of both is banal tedium like "show your badge" and "knock on door" and "fill paperwork". Or like working life vs. WoW - spend 90% of life performing mindless, repetitive acts to hoard enough money to buy stuff and have a little fun every now and then. Or Nightshade [wikipedia.org], possibly the first game to feature a "popularity meter" (karma?):

    Higher popularity meant greater recognition by everyday denizens of Metro City and allowed Nightshade access to more areas.

    And, of course it should work both ways. Eventually people cease to receive points for wiping their ass or washing their balls and begin to lose points for not doing either.

    * With the exception of extra lives and respawning, of course.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jhoegl ( 638955 )
      Less crying, more ball wiping.
    • I have begun to deduct points for everyone who leaves the restroom without washing their hands.

      • I actually caught myself thinking like I was in a game once. I was going hiking recently and thought, "Hey, if I climb that peak I'll be one away from satisfying the 'Climb the Highest Peaks' achievement." I was creeped out and amused at the same time.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I don't know... it'd kind of suck if life got too close [youtube.com] to being like a video game. ;)

    • This is why I love going to the gym so much, no joke. Well part of it is having better physique, but getting to go from 110lbs to 180lbs on the incline dumbbell press is a lot of fun. You can even use rare-candies in the form of protein shakes after working out.

      Facebook is a video game too, you try to get more posts on your wall by coming up with clever/funny/interesting status updates.

    • I do believe you meant to say "Shogun", a game published in 1988 whose sole objective was to become popular enough to hold the title "zen master". You could achieve it through the usual benevolent acts of kindness, or killing anyone who didn't agree to like you. Very enlightening game for a 7 year old, let me tell you what.

    • Life is already like an RPG to me... or rather, an Adventure/RPG hybrid. The main difference being that instead of the emphasis being on leveling up, a lot more is placed on collecting useful items that serve unique functions.

      For example I recently acquired the Spyglass item when I found a monocular small and rugged enough to keep in my cargo pants. This goes along with my Lantern (actually two items... LED flashlight for light and propane lighter for lighting things on fire).

      Whenever I buy something lik

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tibman ( 623933 )

        I do something similar to this but in periods of acquire and slim down. I don't hoard or have too many redundant items (like people who have eight different shotguns or whatever) but what i have is usually very nice. Camping pack is nice and probably done.. lots of titanium and everything is water-proofed (including zippers).. the best part is that it's so light. I still have a backup bag fully packed too, my old army ruck. Tritium Compass (radioactive self-illumination).

        My latest projects have been in

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:53PM (#31202938)

      I think the big draw for people who want more and more realistic games and RPGs in particular is actually to get a few things that I think everyone has wanted at one point or another in their real lives:

      * Knowing the rules by which you can succeed (quests, boss kills, catalogue of increasingly better equipment)
      * Getting data on your level of success in relation to others and against your own personal goals. (stats, levels, reputation meters)
      * A sense of having achieved something measurable, even if it is to simply get a new piece of gear that exists only on a hard drive.

      The more realistic the game is, the more that they can pretend that there is some relevance to real life in that game. The secret hope being that some day, there will be a simulator that allows you to get a score for how you would do in real life or at least some skills that cross over.

      You *could* get points for doing various things in real life, and I think in some ways it is not a laughable concept. People want data, they want to know that what they are doing is benefiting them in some way. They don't always know that, and that is a substantial barrier to happiness. Things would be so much easier if I had a reputation meter for various people, particularly of the opposite sex, and also knew what to grind to improve that reputation without the complexities of trying to balance earning cash while having a social life. You might say life might get a lot more boring if you always knew the rules, but it's quite clear that millions of people prefer a grind to the "excitement" of being surprised.

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:01PM (#31204040)

        ... Things would be so much easier if I had a reputation meter for various people, particularly of the opposite sex, and also knew what to grind to improve that reputation...

        Its called a clitoris.

      • You *could* get points for doing various things in real life, and I think in some ways it is not a laughable concept.

        Speaking of real-life application, the new Pokemon HeartGold and Soulsilver [wikipedia.org] has a pedometer that, when you tie a Pokemon to it and walk around, it gains experience and more happiness towards you (as... well, you're walking around with it in a way), including other benefits. Perhaps the future is now?..

      • Heck, most working people have wanted to be able to pull off a boss kill from time to time.

      • by RobDude ( 1123541 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:14PM (#31205720) Homepage

        I'm not sure I agree. I mean, maybe a little. Mostly, I think the rules are pretty clear. They only seem confusing because the things required aren't easily obtainable (if they are obtainable at all).

        I think the real reason for the popularity of MMORPGs and why they consume some people's entire lives, really come down to two things.

        1.) In a video game everyone is equal
        In WoW, if you are a paladin, you are have the same abilities as other paladins If you want to be a priest - you can be a priest. Whatever image of yourself you want; you can be, and you can be it as good as anyone else.

        In real life, that's not true. If you are 5'2" and want to play in the NBA - that's too bad. We aren't all equal. You can't decide to roll a character with the base stats that support what you want to do. You can't reroll to get more +INT to be a famous scientist. You are, you. And you can work to improve yourself, but you're very limited and what is worse - other people aren't.

        Most of us are just 'average' at most things. We don't like to think that, but it's true. If you have an average aptitude and work really hard, you might be 'really good'...but you won't be great. Most of us won't be great at anything. Do you think the popular guy who banged the hottest girls in high school was more deserving than the unpopular, ugly nerd? Or did he just happen to be more with symmetrical features that made him popular with the ladies?

        In life, you are stuck with your base levels and other people are blessed with higher base levels and can outperform you with minimal effort. In WoW, you roll whatever you want and know you are equal.

        2.) Effort
        In games there really isn't much effort at all. The trend has been to remove skill from the game play and replace it with 'time'. If you spend a lot of time playing, your character becomes better. The time spent isn't particularly hard. It's lazy. You click a mouse, hit a button. That's not tough.

        You can just sit back, spend a lot of time not doing much, and be rewarded! Your character grows and improves and you get cool stuff and respect from other players and you rock.

        In real life, things are *hard*. Like, really hard. A lot harder than people think they should be. In Wow, you hit '2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1' for a few hours and your Warrior levels up and now he's stronger and has more hit points. But to increase *your strength* you have to get up and go to the gym and train properly. And then, the rewards are an order of magnitude less.

        The difference between what a world-class power lifter can lift is 2-3x what an average high school lifter can lift. Countless hours and imaginable effort to obtain, let's just say a 5x gain in strength doesn't compare at all to the difference between a level 1 warrior and a level 80 warrior. The level 80 is easily 1000x stronger in terms of what it can do.

        Even nerdy stuff - like the rubiks cube. I had one in high school, learned the solution included and could solve it in under 120 seconds. The world's best solvers who train for hours and hours each week can consistently solve it in under 20 seconds. Years of work and dedication to get six times better than a loser high school kid.

        In terms of effort, the fictional rewards of a video game far, far out weigh the rewards of real life. And even in my examples; the fastest rubiks solvers and the best power lifters - not only did they work, they also had a higher aptitude than most. Something they can't change or control.

        We all joke that the hardcore WoW players are losers; but the more of a loser you are, the more appealing WoW becomes. The popular guy in high school - he's going to go to a party and mess around with a cheerleader....WoW seems lame. But to the below average looking kid with few friends - well, life isn't offering him much. He can work really, really hard for below average results in whatever he chooses - or he can go to WoW where he is on a level playing field with others and where he can see serious improvements, magnitudes better than real life offers.

        It's and easy sell.

    • * With the exception of extra lives and respawning, of course.

      What about those who believe in reincarnation?

      And if I respawn as a cow do I still get to keep my XP?

    • * With the exception of extra lives and respawning, of course.

      Why? You can certainly still gain the Hindu achievement! :)

  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:11PM (#31202378)

    So what's a relevant first post get me? 100 points?

  • troll (Score:4, Funny)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@jws[ ]he.com ['myt' in gap]> on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:12PM (#31202394) Homepage Journal

    -5 Karma Trolling.

        Sorry dude, but those are life points. Go help a little old lady across the street, or save a stuck kitten in a tree. :)

    • by rgviza ( 1303161 )

      To get to level 2 you need to help 40 old ladies across the street. n00b...

    • Do I get points for sticking the kittens IN trees, since I am helping other people to gain karma?
      •     I guess that would all depend on the state of the kitten.

            Live kittens are probably worth positive points.

            Dead kittens propped up in branches, or nailed to the tree, ummm, probably not positive points. :)

            Kitten in a noose? OOohh, definitely not positive points.

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:14PM (#31202418)

    I've read articles where kids with behavioral disorders, social anxiety, general nerdiness, etc were encouraged to use this as a means of driving more appropriate/better behaviors. Like if a shy kid talked to a classmate, he gave himself 10 points, etc. Then they worked with the therapist to track the whole thing - basically making life your RPG.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LS ( 57954 )

      A friend of mine was accused by his father of general nerdiness, and threw him on the street every day to hang out with the local thugs. He's still a nerd at heart, but he can handle himself in a fight and bench 300 lbs now, though he still obsesses over the latest linux distros. Probably worked out better than any RPG therapy could, but he's quite a riven guy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I've read articles where kids with behavioral disorders, social anxiety, general nerdiness, etc were encouraged to use this as a means of driving more appropriate/better behaviors. Like if a shy kid talked to a classmate, he gave himself 10 points, etc. Then they worked with the therapist to track the whole thing - basically making life your RPG.

      Agree. They do that for people with autism-spectrum disorders too. There's entire classes of neurological and psychological disorders that regular computer interaction can treat. If playing video games improves a person's quality of life, there's no reason to degrade it. Everybody has their own coping strategies that are unique to them and if it works then that is what is important, not some moralistic concept of "better" behaviors like going outside or excercising. In medicine, you choose the treatment wit

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DigiShaman ( 671371 )

      I can't wait till someone start shooting up people and numbers (HP) start floating above their head.

    • by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:42PM (#31202800)
      My wife and I did this with my ADHD son for a while when he was about five. Positive points for doing good things, negative points for doing bad things, all according to a list. When he saved up enough points he had a list of things he could cash them in for, like eating out at a restaurant of his choice, seeing a movie, or getting some Lego. It did seem to help.
    • I've read articles where kids with behavioral disorders, social anxiety, general nerdiness, etc were encouraged to use this as a means of driving more appropriate/better behaviors. Like if a shy kid talked to a classmate, he gave himself 10 points, etc. Then they worked with the therapist to track the whole thing - basically making life your RPG.

      Too much grinding, too many griefers and the loot drops have been nerfed. Nobody ever said live was fair? I'm sending a nastygram to the developers. *jolly's account gets permabanned*

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      But that's not really how RPGs work. You don't get experience points for doing stuff you don't like. You get experience points for playing the game, which should be fun, so you'd do it anyway. I've never been motivated in an RPG to do something simply for the sake of getting experience points. If I ever find myself doing something only to get experience points, that's a poorly designed game.

    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      wii fit. One of the things I like about wii fit is that you can use calories burned to track your score. Actual weight loss makes a good long term goal, but, in a single day, being able to say "I earned a piece of chicken" actually adds something to the routine.

  • by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:15PM (#31202432) Homepage

    "Achievement Unlocked"


    I think it's an excellent statement about the prevalent use of achievement systems for their own sake.

    • by pamar ( 538061 )

      See also www.stackoverflow.com and other similar sites: and I admit that the idea of "being good at something real and gaining experience points" has some appeal to me, too.

  • And a lot of what you do isn't worth any points at all.
  • We all play roles in life, we all gain "levels" and earn currency to barter for more stuff. We grind out content with to earn a reward. RPGs are designed to imitate life in a mathematical way that isn't so far-fetched that it destroys our suspension of disbelief. The current parallels between life and RPGs don't impress me. However, the one and only feature that I truly wish I could have from an RPG would be the ability to reload. Or in the case of an MMORPG, the ability to reroll/rez. When that happe
  • So when will we start to walk around with signs over our heads that say our name, and have a backpack that can hold an ungodly ammount of armor and wepons.
    • More importantly, when will I have an exclamation point over my head and be able to give people a reward "You earned a ration" for bringing me a gold statue worth a hell of a lot more then that ration :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rei ( 128717 )

        I just look forward to the day when I no longer keep having these strange dreams of prospecting, stealing, crusading, and combat. My friends kept asking me why I've engraved "Elbereth" all over my house. All I could usually manage is to shakingly point at the water fountain outside and say, "The ampersand... it came from there!"

        I figure that this pine wand that I'm whittling should give me about a 60% chance of getting out of this padded cell, depending on what type it turns out to be.

    • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:35PM (#31204488) Homepage

      So when will we start to walk around with signs over our heads that say our name

      It has already been done [datenform.de]. The backpack would be handy, though.

    • The one good feature in Second Life: If you're having a bad day, you can literally walk around with a thundercloud over your head. Just like the "missile balloons" (google it), this would be an awesome thing to have and use ever so rarely.

  • by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:19PM (#31202490)

    Why on earth would I *want* to imagine my life as a rocket-propelled grenade?

    • by Minwee ( 522556 )
      Because you spend your days crawling around on the outer shell of an unguided missile traveling at over a hundred thousand kilometers per hour?
    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      Why on earth would I *want* to imagine my life as a rocket-propelled grenade?

      In exchange for 72 virgins?

    • Because it's explosively fun?

    • by Lorkki ( 863577 )
      It's an awesome flight, but you only get one shot and in the end you still mess things up?
  • What if this physical reality is not as absolute as it mostly appears? What if the perception-warping effects of psychedelic drugs show that fundamentally this reality is subjective and flexible? What if it is really an adaptive stage, a credible illusion, in which we play out the role called "life"?

    If true, that would certainly explain why we are so easily addicted to and feel at home in RPGs as we would be born role players.

  • by CorporateSuit ( 1319461 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:21PM (#31202508)
    I do not need to knock on my neighbor's door. In fact, going inside, opening his cabinets, and taking whatever I want is expected.
    I get experience points for beating up stray dogs.
    I find treasure chests, unlocked and unopened, hidden away in all sorts of bushes and alleyways around my city. Some even contain armor!
    I don't work out, I level up!
    I only carry up to 255 pieces of any item.
    If I receive something that appears to be worthless (like a Rusty Sword) I must carry it with me wherever I go, in case I find someone who can restore it to its former glory.
    When I buy a shirt at the store, I attempt to sell them the one on my back in order to cut costs.
  • Good vs. Evil. Karma. Deviate from the path you have chosen, lose points. Stick to the path, accrue points and power.

    Michael Moorcock, whose Eternal Champion books were the inspiration for Gygax's Law/Chaos/Evil/Good/Neutral "alignment" system that has in turn been at the core -- subtly or not -- of every RPG produced should be getting residuals. Instead, he's probably just getting a good laugh.

  • Which RPG? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:22PM (#31202532) Homepage

    Second Life? I'd better get my penis helmet in order.

    Ultima 4? I'd better start trying to be a better person.

    Ultima Online? I'd better start trying to be a much, much worse person.

    WoW? I'd better start practicing being a hot elf chick.

    A Squaresoft RPG? Christ, I'd better start working on my hour long monologue skills.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jgtg32a ( 1173373 )

      Not everyone in a Square game has a long monologue, but you are only required to wear 3 belts at a minimum.

    • I'm from the Vincent/Chrono school of Squaresoft monologues.


      The nice thing is that it easily scales to whatever length monologue you need.

    • For the square RPG, don't forget flashbacks. The more emo the better.
      Also you're not allowed to carry a weapon that's smaller than a small cow, if it looks like you could feasibly lift it within the laws of Newtonian physics, then its too small.
      Remember to spike your hair.
      And finally, if you're male, remember to look androgenyous.

  • Jesse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kamineko ( 851857 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:26PM (#31202586)
    I've met Jesse Schell. The man is charismatic and completely insane.
  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:28PM (#31202614)

    ....its called money. And you don't get any for brushing your teeth or high fiving a friend.

    • ....its called money. And you don't get any for brushing your teeth or high fiving a friend.

      Not necessarily true. At low levels (say when your age 4) your mentor (aka parents) might give you your allowance (aka reward) for brushing your teeth.

      We reward people for the darndest things :) Also rewards aren't just monetary, they are experience, renown, titles, honors, etc. I would say the high five would be a renown reward.

    • ....its called money. And you don't get any for brushing your teeth or high fiving a friend.

      Not directly - but making a good impression, having the right friends, etc. can certainly help.

    • Not brushing your teeth can very well lead to additional expenses (if you don't think this way, you probably don't have kids), and building alliances surely is a very important part of how people accrue riches (it's not what you know, it's who you know; alternately, why does that hot babe like that ugly rich guy?)

      I do think our society is coming ever-closer to monetizing everything, because that leads to economic efficiency.

      However, I do not agree that money is ultimately the only driver, nor even that

    • isn't brushing your teeth simply an insurance policy against losing points (aka money) at a later date ?
  • by SlowDancing ( 687920 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:28PM (#31202616)
    Already been done. [worldofchorecraft.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HikingStick ( 878216 )
      Actually, that's the second site. The original was http://www.chorewars.com/ [chorewars.com]. The folks at ChoreWars created WorldOfChoreCraft so that people who had it set up at home could use it at work (and vice versa).
  • by rugatero ( 1292060 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:31PM (#31202644)
    xkcd.com/189 [xkcd.com]
    • by Mordac ( 1009 )

      That reminds me, I've got a quest today at the gym that should reward me with +3con. That and my natural 18 charisma will go a long way to finishing my Friday Night quest.

  • Say what you want... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:32PM (#31202670) Homepage Journal

    After donating 18 liters of blood, achieving the Ist Degree Honorable Blood Donor title, a document and a badge stating that, and a permanent free public communication ticket, I really felt like I just finished a major questline.

    • by rgviza ( 1303161 )

      Now you just have to do it 19 more times to get the tokens you need to flag for the raid.

  • "Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom" has something like this although is was closer to PageRank then points.

  • Lifetime Play Counter: 2,620,800 minutes
    "You have taken your first shower"
  • I'm pretty sure that I'm just an avatar in a simulation and the guy playing me is an adolescent, socially-maladjusted teen with A-D-D and some strange fetish tendencies... or maybe that's just me.
  • When I saw RPG in the headline, at first I thought it meant "rocket powered grenade." It had never occurred to me that life could be "imagined as one big rocket powered grenade." After clicking on the link, I soon discovered that RPG could also stand for "role playing games." So then I realized that he meant that life could be "imagined as one big role playing game," which made more sense.

    As someone who is not into playing computer games, that other meaning for RPG did not immediately occur to me.
    • As someone who isn't into playing explosives, that other meaning for RPG (Rocket-propelled grenade) did not immediately occur to me.
  • So I realize the article is sort of whatever (having not read it myself, I can only assume that's the case) but a friend of mine has been harping about a reputation based economy where the dollar is less meaningful and you earn favors and acquire goods more on how well known you are in a particular area or field. A Nobel winner would be given kingly treatment wherever he or she goes while a politician would remain hated or loved depending on where they are, as they do now.

    It was an interesting concept, hea

  • Procreation (Score:2, Funny)

    by zodar ( 141552 )

    So instead of having kids, it's considered rolling an alt?

  • There is a website that does just that actually (let you rack up points for your own life achievements). http://www.lifeachievements.org/ [lifeachievements.org]
  • Life is great and all, but there’s just too much tedium. Parts of it are just incredibly boring.
    It would have been so much cooler if I could have had a macro do my homework for me.

    • by rgviza ( 1303161 )

      using macros is a ban-able offense. I'm level 80 and you should have to suffer just like I did.

      Damned new players and their entitlement mentality.

  • Nobody remembers this guy [wikipedia.org]?

    This is some twenty-something guy suddenly noticing things that smacked me around the head when I was that twenty-something guy when I picked up Colin Fletcher "The Man who Walked through Time" and got rid of most of my camping gear 'cos going camping with a groundsheet and a sleeping bag and NO TENT was more REAL. Back in the Reagan years.

  • I like this article:
    http://www.pixelpoppers.com/2009/11/awesome-by-proxy-addicted-to-fake.html [pixelpoppers.com]

    That said, I think an automated pat-on-the-back system would do wonders for motivation in education... but more from the perspective of unlocking the tech tree / curriculum, and showing what new abilities a student might have after mastering second-order differential equations or the Level IV history of Mesopotamia analytical text.

    But it may just as well breed more precious coddled snowflakes that can't cope with a

  • It's called MONEY.

    "Business is a good game. You keep score with money." --Nolan Bushnell

  • Beware of contracting RPG Radiculopathy [g4tv.com].

  • You whippersnappers! An RPG is a Role Playing Game, of course it's a lot like life. Achievements? Alts? These are things found in MMORPGs which have nothing to do with Role Playing except a D&D style genre. They're just graphical MUDs.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"