The advent of games, especially computer games, marks a fundamental break in human affairs. Gambling is profoundly transforming two central aspects of the modern world: culture and regulation. There will be no going back.
When it comes to culture, the West has been in dialogue with itself for centuries, even millennia, dating back at least to the Bible and the ancient Greeks. Literature, music, film, and the visual arts provide a common body of knowledge with which intellectual elites are expected to be familiar. Knowing one part of that canon generally helps you master the other parts; Verdi was based on Shakespeare, who influenced Orson Welles, etc. Culture has never been about autonomous worlds. Quite the opposite.
Games break that continuity. Normally, a game is a closed system that requires a lot of time and attention to achieve mastery, thus encouraging specialized consumption. It’s easy to become a world-class actor in a game without knowing much about the culture in general. Similarly, most of today’s cultural experts know very little about games and get along. The worlds of culture and games are largely separate.
This is not a criticism of the game, which has enriched millions of lives. It’s simply to point out that the combination of digitization and immersion, combined with the games company’s globally built, proprietary and closed structure, has created something new. Games often use interesting music and visuals and are cultural objects in this sense. But the fundamental appeal of games has more to do with performance and focus. Playing is more like participating in an event than watching an event.
And make no mistake about it: As a hobby, games are winning. The gaming sector produces about $ 179 billion in worldwide revenue, larger than that of global movies and North American sports combined. Gambling increased during the pandemic and has become robust.
Other cultural products, so to speak, seem to be in decline. Are there many books today that attract attention and discussion that, for example, did the Harry Potter series at the turn of the century? Even when the pandemic passes, will art exhibits have the same influence they once did?
The autonomous nature of the games also means that they will break government regulation. Many operations are already done in games, involving currencies, markets, prices, and contracts. Game creators and players set and enforce the rules, and it is more difficult for government regulators to play a central role.
The lesson is clear: if you want to create a new economic institution, put it in a game. Or how about an app that gamifies stock trading? Do you want to experiment with a new type of stock exchange or security outside the realm of traditional government regulation? Get a taste of the gaming world, perhaps combined with crypto, and eventually your “game” could influence real-world events.
To date, regulators have tried to be strict. It is currently difficult to build new fully realized worlds without creating something that is legally defined as an unregistered value. Those regulations don’t get much attention from the mainstream media, but they are fast becoming some of the most important and restrictive rules on the books.
At the same time, regulators are already lagging behind. Just as games have overtaken the world of culture, so too will games exceed US regulatory capabilities, for a variety of reasons: encryption, the use of cryptocurrencies, the difficulties of policing virtual realities, the different rules in foreign jurisdictions and, not by chance, a fault. of experience among US regulators. (At least the Chinese government’s attempt to restrict youth games to three hours a week, while reckless, reflects shrewd cultural conservatism.)