What new technological innovation tells us about our disposition.

Further complicating the old notion that ‘everything has been invented’, bestselling author Nicholas Carr proclaims, “If the current state of progress disappoints you, don’t blame innovation. Blame yourself.” Outlining a pattern of technology that parallels Maslow’s hierarchy, Carr argues that people today devote their attention to technologies of self-expression and self-actualization—vanity mirrors like Facebook and Twitter—rather than improvements in society and the physical world.

Of all our modern preoccupations, though, games may have to answer most to this outlook. A multibillion-dollar industry has been created by drawing people from the physical world into the virtual, supplanting real gardens with Farmville and turning potential city planners into disciples of Will Wright and Sid Meier. It’s hard not to see the gaming world as more than a simple distraction, but a sort of purgatory in which our generation awaits the next great innovating prophet to draw us back into the real world. Or perhaps the stagnation of visible progress is part of an ongoing reaction to progress itself—the video game industry was born into a bomb-shelter culture wrought with apocalyptic and Orwellian phobias. Games, then and today, give players a sense of control and dominance over a world that is often outside their control.

On the other hand, games and game developers may be the next source of social innovation. By creating playful worlds in which people have the ability to work out problems experimentally and connect freely with one another, games offer us an alternative path to social change. Already mainstream developers are turning their backs on traditional tropes and developing games with more meaning

[via Rough Type]