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Skyler Crossman

Both lost and gained.

On the dangerous side, games can create addictive cycles, feedback loops based on skinner boxes that keep us doing the same things over and over again. These kinds of things are usually spotted by experienced gamers and rightly ignored, but the inexperienced are easy prey to them. At their worst, these games are essentially virtual slot machines, with all the waste that entails. As time goes on, designers get better at disguising or empowering these sorts of games- to the extent that some game designers have been hired to consult for operations in Vegas.

But games create community and meaning, places of common ground between people. When people of my parent's age at work talk about that great Patriots game last night I nod and smile and fake my way through things, but I can get a chuckle and a groan out of nearly anyone my age by saying "I used to play sports, but then I took an arrow through the knee." The friendly rivalry that exists between Yankees and Red Sox fans also exists between Stormcloak and Imperial supporters. (Both of the above are Skyrim references.)

I've heard stories of kids a generation ago wandering out to a soccer field to run into pickup games. That doesn't happen anymore, not as often I don't think- the games are scheduled, organized by adults. I wandered into Minecraft servers, met people in Runescape guilds, and built friendships over a D&D game. My roommates at college were the Sorcerer and the Zenith, my significant other played the Druid. I think a lot of ways to feel like you 'matter' have gotten harder to access- as communities get larger, it's harder to feel exceptional. When I was feeling lonely after graduation, I reached out to people by offering to run games.

Some designers are working to bilk money from their players. Others are working to foster community and team spirit. As far as I know, the latter are the only people actively working on this problem.

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