A quick response to Zimmerman & Clark’s presentation

Wow, I’m starting to really hate missing the actual talks…notes and slides are great but I’m afraid I am probably missing nuance.

Zimmerman is typically on-target, but I’m wondering about this (paraphrased?) passage from his presentation with Naomi Clark, taken from notes from an attendee (thank you, Tiny Subversion):

“Why is there a rise in games of labor? It is linked to contemporary culture. In industrialized 21st century cultures there are new lifestyles that are mirrored in these games of labor. We are taught to want and to work for the fantasy of labor. You don’t really have a desire to make a virtual farm until the game explains to you that that is what you want.”

This seems like a red herring to me, frankly.  The schema of “farm” is a labor-related mental schema, to be certain, but does the actual gameplay represent labor any more than level grinding does, or the constant babysitting necessary in The Sims?  I’m not sure at all that “labor” represents the compelling aspects of these games for players, any more than they are expecting to really run a pet shop in a pet-shop-running game.  Further, sitting a different schema on the same game – which has happened, repeatedly – would theoretically disrupt this argument, despite changing little more than visual cues.

More, it seems like a reflection of what I was talking about before – that real life is already structured in a gamelike fashion (a fact not missed by those who titled the “game theory” area of study well before video games) (or, vice versa?) – and games have always reflected fundamental human requirements, desires, and cultural gambits.  All action is work, in a way; the difference is which actions we enjoy and to what degree.