Five gaming-related TED talks you should check out

Video games have been influencing mankind since their arrival in the 1970s. Everything from the way we play to the way we think and behave has been impacted by gaming. TED, an organization that produces and publishes free talks surrounding “ideas worth spreading,” has explored this topic many times in a variety of ways. Here are a few of our favorite hand-picked TED Talks on the effects and benefits of gaming.

7 ways games reward the brain - Tom Chatfield (2010)

According to Tom Chatfield, games can help us learn about learning. Mainly how they motivate and fixate us. We spend $8 billion per year buying virtual items that only exist within a video game, which explores the power of games, in terms of reward. From Farmville to World of Warcraft, games have a built-in reward system.

Everquest even introduced virtual dragon kill points currency, all organized by the players themselves. Also, what you can measure in virtual reality is everything. Billions of points of data, far more than any website. Games make progress compelling. Probability and data help ensure things are neither too easy nor too difficult, which in turn helps keep people engaged.

The game layer on top of the world - Seth Priebatsch (2010)

Seth Preibatsch takes a look inside the game framework and motivations we use to influence behavior. The modern world can be quite cluttered and filled with things that aren’t that fun. Credit cards and loyalty card schemes included game design, but the strategies used weren’t that good. Game dynamics make things more fun. A few game layers he explores are:

  1. Appointment dynamic - Happy Hour, to win all you have to do is show up at the right place at the right time. This tactic is used by product companies that help you take your medicine on time. Leverage the game.
  2. Influence and status - Wanting a specific credit card, a Black card, for example, is like obtaining a Modern Warfare Level 10 “cool red badge thing” that shows you are more important than everyone else. School is a game, just terribly designed, but there are levels. Becoming a valedictorian, if given a name like White Knight Paladin Level 20, people would make students work a lot harder.
  3. Progression dynamic - LinkedIn’s 85% complete profile bar. It’s deep-seated in our psyche, but when presented with a progress bar and easy measurable steps, we will do what needs to be done.
  4. Communal discovery - Everyone has to work together to achieve something. Society works together to solve problems. Think of leaderboards and points. The previous decade was a decade of social, and the last was a decade of games.

The transformative power of video games - Herman Narula (2019)

Herman Narula considers that one of the most impactful changes to how we live our lives will come from video games. The average age of the American gamer is 34 years old, which indicates that gaming has become an ingrained part of our lives, not just a childhood pastime. He points out the industry and jobs being created around gaming, and how games have advanced the visual experience of other fields.

The technology is in place to go well beyond the previous limits we felt existed within games. He explores the possibilities that running multiple simultaneous simulations could provide, as in the world within World of Warcraft as well as teases of some upcoming games from international developers. He speaks on how games can have an impact on our personalities, ability to empathize and change the way we look at things.

How video games turn players into storytellers - David Cage (2018)

David Cage takes the stage to explore the evolution of how we tell stories. Video games take storytelling to the next level with choices, which define who are as individuals and make stories dynamic and ever-evolving. Games have interactivity at the heart, which is stimulating and experimental in nature, making life and its storytellers more dynamic.

This particular TEDx Talk is interesting as the speaker turns it into an interactive experience, based on an upcoming game that presents the player with a series of time-based choices, demonstrating how each choice develops the story for both the storyteller and the viewer.

Spore: The Birth of a Game - Will Wright (2007)

In March 2007, Will Wright who for many is the Steve Jobs of simulation games, took the stage for a TED Talk to present his new game Spore. He approaches game design like toys, which would explain the lego-like nature of Sim City and the dollhouse structure of The Sims. You start the game with a drop of water, on a microscopic scale to a more developed world that includes advanced creatures and elements such as tribes.

At every level, Wright explores evolution at its core and how decisions of the player impact the development of the species and environment. “With a small set of clicks, players can design something they didn’t think was possible.” - Will Wright. It brought us back to the ambition of connecting the core game to a global server that connects your world with other worlds. Spore, in all of its complexity, did not do very well on the market but this TED Talk does a great job of highlighting its achievements.