In this article featured in the Winter 2011/2012 edition of The Hacker Quarterly, Snugglepuff argues that young people should abandon gaming in fantasy worlds and instead et their minds to something more useful like hacking to make the world a better place. Source link.
snugglepuff (at) operamail (dot) com
I am fortunate to personally know many talented thinkers, many of whom are avid gamers. Some are also particularly brilliant and have solved programmatic problems I can barely understand. Some spend countless hours shut off from the realities of a world they admit is broken to play in a world that mostly isn't. For so many people I associate with, the understanding of a problem and the talent to tackle it with software coexist but remain separated from any effort to do so. Some won't care until a problem reaches them personally, others just don' t give much thought to the idea that problems like corruption, censorship, and the digital divide can be tackled with code.
Far outside the scope of most of the intelligent programmers I know are the growing number of people I know because of my involvement with writing software for privacy activists. Despite having few technical skills, they are passionate about doing anything in their very limited power to make the only world they live in a better one. Armed with nothing but hope and drive, they read and comment on news articles and write letters to their elected officials (and when was the last time you did that?). They spend countless hours blogging and podcasting their ideas into the ether hoping that someone will listen and do something -- anything.
The world is run by machines. They aren't using us as batteries because there's no reason to, with us being so willing to bum coal for them. Decisions are made with data which is or should be transformed into meaningful information and whether that information is accessible or not is less a matter of policy and more a matter of engineering. Elections in democratic countries are won by a fickle "swing vote" of voters with no ideology to predict their vote with. Their decision is composed slowly by a trickle of information about their choices until literal bits of information pull them harder in one direction than others. The control of information by censorship, misinformation, media bias, and lack of basic access to and understanding of technology resources are by and large engineering problems with engineering solutions. In a post-Wikileaks world, to believe that one can't make a serious impact in a world increasingly governed by software as a software developer is completely ridiculous and illustrates a disconnect from reality that seems to grow the longer one escapes from it.
Serious coding takes time. So does serious gaming. Both can be enjoying and frustrating, but ultimately the act of creating something leaves behind it a measurable value of utility that can be shared with the world as infinitely as people can access it. When someone has the ability to do one or the other, that person should realize, with whatever part of their conscience isn't governed by virtual currencies, that they are choosing to neglect the potential use of their skills for more than a few meaningful purposes. If you're already spending your weekends or weeknights helping people help each other, whether by programming or traditional volunteering, good for you. Welcome to the choir! For everyone else, hear ye:
People desperate to see change happen in their lifetimes across the world don't give a shit about your level 60 night e l f. Time is life. If you value your life outside of gameplay, it might be time to start looking for ways to prove that value in the greater context of history. Start hacking.