Life: The First Person Video Game

Still from Kluwe's Youtube video

Still from Kluwe’s Youtube video

How will Google Glass transform professional football? Oakland Raiders punter Chris Kluwe is on the case. He is the NFL’s first Google Glass Explorer, a cadre of early adopters hand-picked by Google based on their response to the prompt “If I had Glass …”

Kluwe has had limited experience with Glass so far, mainly using Glass to record drills, but it’s been enough to give Kluwe a lot of ideas about how Glass could be deployed in the future. Alex Konrad of Forbes interviewed Kluwe and described part of what the punter has envisioned so far:

In Kluwe’s future NFL, players will wear clear visors that that can project to them the next play to run as they are getting back into position from the last one. Quarterbacks can get a flashing color when a receiver is very open or which area is about to become a good place to look. Running backs could be alerted that a new path to run has just opened up.

Here’s the striking thing about this entirely plausible development. For years, video games have been striving to capture the look and feel of the game as it’s played on the field. What Kluwe has described is a reversal of roles in which now the game as it is played on the field strives to capture the look and feel of playing a video game.

The closest analogy to the experience of the world through Google Glass may be the experience of playing a first-person video game.

This little insight carries wide-ranging implications that are not limited to the experience of professional athletes. A generation that has grown up playing first person shooters and role-playing video games is on the verge of receiving a tool that will make the experience of everyday life feel more like the experience of playing a game. This brings an entirely new meaning to gamification and it raises all sorts of intriguing, serious, and possibly disturbing possibilities.

As early as 1981, the philosopher Jean Baudrillard claimed that images and simulations, which had traditionally copied reality, were now beginning to precede and determine reality. Recalling a famous story by Jorge Louis Borges in which an empire commissions a map that is to be a faithful 1:1 representation of its territory, Baudrillard believed that now the map preceded the territory. Glass is poised create yet another realization of Baudrillard’s critique, except that now it is the game that will precede the real-world experience.

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UPDATE: Nick Carr adds the following observation in the comments below, “You might argue that this reversal is already well under way in warfare. Video war games originally sought to replicate the look and feel of actual warfare, but now, as more warfare becomes automated via drones, robots, etc., the military is borrowing its interface technologies from the gaming world. War is becoming more gamelike.”

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5 thoughts on “Life: The First Person Video Game

  1. Hmm, yes, perhaps Google glass could transform football, and maybe it will. But if it transforms the players experience and information available and interaction between the players, then it would be changing the game of football. Sports associations are pretty careful about allowing any performance enhancing elements to the game which take away from the spirit of the sport. Why are sports organizations so against performance enhancing drugs, for example? Probably its partly out of safety for the participants, but also something about this very association of augmentation with cheating. If we allow the augmentation to be an important part of the game, it changes the human element. I guess one could imagine competitions between teams that communicate with some smart technology versus those that don’t. Maybe it would be like the contest of man versus machine in the game of chess… except here its murkier since there’s a more complex interaction between the players and the technology.

    If it weren’t for the fact that these companies like Google are already too powerful, and tend to push these technologies in this massively centralized way, I’d be more excited about thinking about the positive, interesting aspects of a technology like Google Glass.

    • “Sports associations are pretty careful about allowing any performance enhancing elements to the game which take away from the spirit of the sport.”

      I think that is true, but I wonder in this case if the enhancements would be more palatable because they are not, strictly speaking, biological and could be implemented universally (all players would have the same equipment). In any case, though, you’re right to say that if something like this were implemented, the game would be not be the same.

  2. Mike,

    re: “For years, video games have been striving to capture the look and feel of the game as it’s played on the field. What Kluwe has described is a reversal of roles in which now the game as it is played on the field strives to capture the look and feel of playing a video game.”

    You might argue that this reversal is already well under way in warfare. Video war games originally sought to replicate the look and feel of actual warfare, but now, as more warfare becomes automated via drones, robots, etc., the military is borrowing its interface technologies from the gaming world. War is becoming more gamelike.

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