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Future Video Games

I just watched an interesting TED.com talk about video games [1]. The talk focussed to a large degree on emotional involvement in games, so it seems likely that there will be many more virtual girlfriend services [2] (I’m not sure that “game” is the correct term for such things) in the future. The only reference I could find to a virtual boyfriend was a deleted Wikipedia page for V-Boy, but I expect that they will be developed soon enough. I wonder if such a service could be used by astronauts on long missions. An advantage of a virtual SO would be that there is no need to have a partner who is qualified, and if a human couple got divorced on the way to Mars then it could be a really long journey for everyone on the mission.

VR training has been used for a long time in the airline industry (if you have never visited an airline company and sat in a VR trainer for a heavy passenger jet then I strongly recommend that you do it). It seems that there are many other possible uses for this. The current prison system is widely regarded as a training ground for criminals, people who are sent to prison for minor crimes come out as hardened criminals. I wonder if a virtual environment for prisoners could do some good. Instead of prisoners having to deal with other prisoners they could deal with virtual characters who encourage normal social relationships, prisoners who didn’t want to meet other prisoners could be given the option of spending their entire sentence in “solitary confinement” with virtual characters, multi-player games, and Internet access if they behave well. Game systems such as the Nintendo Wii [3] would result in prisoners getting adequate exercise, so after being released from a VR prison it seems likely that the ex-con would be fitter, healthier, and better able to fit into normal society than most parolees. Finally it seems likely that someone who gets used to spending most all their spare time playing computer games will be less likely to commit crimes.

It seems to me that the potential for the use of virtual environments in schools is very similar to that of prisons, for similar reasons.

Update: Currently Google Adsense is showing picture adverts on this page for the “Shaiya” game, the pictures are of a female character wearing a bikini with the caption “your goddess awaits”. This might be evidence to support my point about virtual girlfriends.

4 comments to Future Video Games

  • That thought regarding prisoner rehabilitation is pretty interesting and never crossed my mind. By the way, I suspect the terrible prison environment gives many an incentive not to commit crime, but with the knowledge that you won’t get raped by being isolated in a supposedly pleasant VR system, you may pretty well go ahead and commit that crime. This should not imply that I celebrate the unpleasant prison conditions of course…

  • etbe

    I am not aware of any evidence showing that prisons are particularly effective at deterring crime.

    The death rate of drug dealers in urban areas in the US is about 7% a year, if that doesn’t deter someone from dealing drugs then it seems very unlikely that a prison sentence will.

    It seems unlikely that crimes of passion will be deterred by anything you might do.

    There is evidence that a large portion of the result of prisons supposedly rehabilitating people is due to mental changes that occur with age. It’s a natural development that people become less impulsive and aggressive as they get older than 25-30 – for evidence of this consider the insurance premiums for various age groups (people who are less than 25 years old have the best technical driving skills and also the highest premiums due to the number of crashes).

    So if we are going to consider prisons as holding pens for people who are not yet old enough to be released in public, then making them comfortable seems like a good idea.

  • h01ger

    how/why do you think virtual bullshit is supposed to make the world a better place?

    it’s true, that technology can shape society. But it’s also true, the other way round. and I dont see (much evidence of) societies trying to treat prisoners better (death punishment is on the rise, as is the general prison _population_) or to treat women/girlfriends as fellow human beings and not objects.

    I think the chances that this technology will make things worse, as in women are even more seen as objects and prisoners are locked away and out even more, are very high.

    technology is just a means.

  • etbe

    h01ger: I have never claimed that VR will be good overall. I have merely claimed that it can do some good in some areas, whether that outweighs the possible harm in others is yet to be seen.

    Currently career criminals often spend most of their lives in jail. “Chopper” (a famous Australian ex-con) once said that the ratio of time spent in jail to time spent outside was the same as the ratio of time spent working to time spent on holidays for a typical employee.

    As for treating women as objects, I don’t think that VR will make things any worse in that regard. Probably the best way to alleviate that problem would be greater acceptance of homosexuality, guys who fundamentally don’t like women could then not feel obliged to get a GF or wife.