An article in the Washington Post about the popularity of online games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, Sorority Life and updated versions of classic board and word games like Scrabble has a provocative assertion:
“Whereas the 19th century will be remembered for the creation of the modern novel, and the 20th century was dominated by movies and images on screens, I think we can now see that games will be the dominant form of entertainment in this century,” said Jon Radoff, an early Internet entrepreneur, game developer and armchair gaming historian.
If that sounds like blasphemy, consider that online games just passed e-mail as the second-most popular activity online, behind social networking, according to Nielsen. Last week, Disney paid $563.2 million to buy social game developer Playdom. Google is reportedly in talks with game companies to start a site called Google Games, having noticed that on Facebook, the fastest-growing Web site in the world, 40 percent of the company’s 500 million users regularly play social games.
Radoff predicts that these games, which are free but which charge nominal amounts for accessories and add-ons, will be a more viable business model for social networks than advertising. But what interests me more is his notion that this is the form of creative expression that fits our time better than books and movies. Is it because of the interactivity, with the player affecting the direction of the game and engaging with other players? After sororities, farms, the Mob, and fish, what will be the next venues for these games? Sports? Safari? Outer space?