Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review: Got Game by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade

“Whether you find games interesting or not, you’ll know why all business leaders should be able to say they’ve got game.” --Got Game, by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade

In a stunning display of originality and creativity, I'm following up my review of a game-centric book with the review of another game-centric book. But I'll try to keep this one short.

The basic premise behind John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade's 2004 Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever is that there is a great gap between the baby boomer generation and the gamer generation, and that the boomers need to understand how the gamers function--and why that functioning isn't a bad thing--if they are to get along in the new global market. I'll start off by admitting that I am not the target audience for this book. It's written as a guide for the business-oriented baby boomers, not someone from the so-called gamer group. At the same time, there is a lot here that I support, at least in theory. I certainly agree with their attempt to attack th prejudices against gamers, including gender biases, violence-orientation, and isolation. And I agree with the basic idea that gaming and the technology it uses re-orients the human mind in new directions. So that's good.

But there's a lot more here that I can't agree with. The book is amusing if not taken seriously, and vaguely annoying if taken at face value. My biggest problem, I suppose, is how Beck and Wade go about making their argument. Essentially, they surveyed a thousand or so people, divided them into age and gaming capacity, and made such claims from the results as "gamers prefer to take risks" and "gamers are less likely to feel content at their current station in life than nongamers--thus, they are achievers." First, as xkcd tells us, correlation doesn't imply causation. Second, it's hugely overgeneralizing and more than a little insulting to make these sweeping judgments of an entire generation based on such findings. It leads to wild speculation--such as the authors wondering if the dotcom crash is a result of its investors treating it as a videogame they could just reset if things went wrong (and even they admit that they may be reaching there.) The whole thing comes off as pop psychology, and while these authors may be very good economists and businessmen, but I don't see any business degrees. In the end, I'm not sure they've convinced me of anything regarding the "gaming generation," but they've certainly convinced me that they know how to sell books to gullible baby boomers.

Later Days.

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