Discussion #6 – Computer Games, People and Prophylactics

[Today’s discussion sponsored by Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards]

You may have noticed that along with the computer science, psychology and complexity theory, we Gentlemen Scientists often indulge a bit of nostalgia. In today’s discussion, we welcome our first guest Gentlemen Scientist Simon Hutchison to chat about computer games. Simon is a software developer and entrepreneur who is also an avid gamer. Like us, he has fond memories of his misspent youth playing computer games, such as the classic Leisure Suit Larry.

LLLHey Larry – don’t forget your prophylactic

But do computer games really make us happy, or are they a waste of time? Do they have a connection with real life, or do they distract us from what is really important? Why are they so addictive (remember South Korean Lee Seung Seop, who died while playing Starcraft 2 for fifty consecutive hours?). And why have computer games even become a spectator sport?

We ponder the multi-billion dollar success of Candy Crush, the classic elbow move in Double Dragon and the allure of slot machines. We also admire game developers for being the most adept at understanding the psychology of the user and hitting the pleasure centres of our brain. Why can’t we bring some of that positive, rewarding experiences into the world of ‘serious’ software that we use at work?


1Leisure Suit Larry was a classic game from our teenage years. Watch the trailer for ‘Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqXpWJhsuaI.

2‘Candy Crush maker King Digital valued at more than $7 billion in IPO’ – http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/us-kingdigital-ipo-idUSBREA2O1ZQ20140325

3One definition of a prophylactic from Merriam Webster – a device and especially a condom for preventing venereal infection or conception

4Dota 2 is a very popular multiplayer online game.

5Gaming Passions is an innovative online dating network for gaming lovers.

6A Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) is a multiplayer real-time virtual world, usually a text-only game without graphics.

7Remember Tamagotchis?

8A great article about the elbow move in Double Dragon – http://www.robohara.com/?p=1971

9‘Pokie’ machines is an Australianism for casino poker machines, also known as slot machines.

10Skinner’s experiments with animals are described on this page.

11South Korean Lee Seung Seop died while playing Starcraft 2 for fifty consecutive hours.

12Yacht Race around the World – you can see a video of this game at http://www.symmetri.com/symmetri/yacht.html (needs Windows Media Player plugin)

13Check out this article about Game Mechanics At Work

14Principle Skinner: Oh, licking envelopes can be fun! All you have to do is make a game of it.
Bart: What kind of game?
Principle Skinner: Well, for example, you could see how many you could lick in an hour, then try to break that record.
Bart: Sounds like a pretty crappy game to me.
Principle Skinner: Yes, well… Get started.

From http://www.tvfanatic.com/quotes/oh-licking-envelopes-can-be-fun-all-you-have-to-do-is-make-a-g/#ixzz30Rfj9Dq7

15Nicholas Nassim Taleb talks about the ludic fallacy – thinking that real life is like a game. Actually, in real life the rules can change and people overturn the chess board if they are angry.

16Twitch.TV allows you to watch other people play games.

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