The Intrigue of Social Gaming
Katie Salen is a game designer, interactive designer, animator, and design educator. In 2009 she founded the first ever digital school for grades 6-12, Quest 2 Learn (Q2L) in New York. She is the co-author of "Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals," a textbook on game design, as well as the "Game Design Reader." She writes extensively on game design, design education, and game culture.
Katie Salen: I’m mostly excited, I think these days about\r\n kinds of technologies coming out called mixed reality technologies, \r\nsometimes they’re called hybrid technologies. Mobile phones are part of\r\n this. We have a motion-capture lab at the school that allows kids to \r\nwork with wireless controllers, like on the Wii. So games that bleed \r\nbetween sort of physical activity, physical real world spaces and \r\ndigital spaces, I’m really interested in this notion of getting the game\r\n off the screen and thinking about game play as a kind of lamination \r\nover top of real world kinds of physical spaces. And I think technology\r\n is getting to a place where that blendedness is something that’s really\r\n possible today. It used to be a very science fiction-y idea a couple \r\nof years ago. People talked about alternative reality all the time, and\r\n you were wearing these giant headsets, VR headsets, and it just felt \r\nimpossible that that could be fun.
But technology has evolved \r\nto a point where you can now really think about game play being blended \r\nwith physical kind of real world spaces. And that to me is really \r\nexciting. There’s also been a lot of work around artificial \r\nintelligence and sort of digital characters recognizing conversations \r\nwith people and so again it gets into that blended notion about how do \r\nwe allow digital characters to feel slightly more real than they do in \r\nthis sort of purely fictional space and to me that’s a really \r\ninteresting area to look at. I tend to be more interested in this \r\nnotion as playing games as part of the real world and that’s why the \r\nphysical space ideas are really of interest to me. And mobile phones \r\nare increasingly of interest as game platforms.
The iPhone has \r\nchanged everything I think in terms of thinking about digital games and \r\ngame play and where games fit, who plays them, what those games might be\r\n like. And that’s really exciting I think.
\r\nQuestion: What interests you most about games?
The thing that interests me really about games is the social \r\nfabric component of it. The fact that I am in this game with other \r\npeople and my interactions with them can become increasingly interesting\r\n over time depending on whether they are a friend or foe in this space. \r\n And so I’m very interested in games that catalyze many, many people to \r\nbe playing together. But maybe doing that... and alternate reality \r\ngames sort of fit into this genre where I’m doing things in the real \r\nworld, but also may begin to have effects in a kind of digital virtual \r\nworld.
So, I’m very interested in how, beyond the social, how \r\ndata can flow between actions and the real world and actions in a game. \r\nThere’s this whole new genre of games that have just popped up called \r\nexer-games that connect exercise to gaming. And there are these ideas \r\nwhere you’re tracking how many steps people take and if powering up your\r\n Pokemon, there’s a little device called the Pokewalker that you can \r\nattach to your shoe, or carry with you and it’s like constantly powering\r\n up your video game characters. And I’m really interested in that... \r\nthe data flow between something, an activity I might be doing in the \r\nreal world and some implication in a virtual environment, and also \r\npotentially vice versa.
And so that’s more about notions of \r\nconsequence and impact and how that might change social relations \r\nbetween who's in that game and what they’re doing together.
\r\nQuestion: How do you explain the value of games to other people?
Well, generally I put someone in a game. I play with them. I \r\nthink one of the reasons that there’s been a lot of criticism around \r\ngames is there’s a lot of over the shoulder journalism going on when it \r\ncomes to games. So, it’s people that are standing over the shoulder of a\r\n player watching something that happening on the screen. And when you \r\njust look at a game, you get a very different sense of what it’s really \r\nabout than if you’re playing it.
And so the first thing I \r\nalways do is I take people out of that over-the-shoulder position and I \r\nactually put the controller in their hands. So we might play together, \r\nplay something together. At the school, we have visitors all the time \r\nthat come in that say, "Well, can you explain the school to me, can you \r\nexplain the school to me?" And I always take them to this motion \r\ncapture lab that we have that we’ve designed games with teachers for the\r\n kids. And I actually give them a controller and we play a game \r\ntogether.
And once they’ve had that experience, they understand\r\n the model of the school and they understand what we’re trying to get at\r\n in terms of how the structure of the game can really lead to engaging \r\nand deep learning for kids. So, that’s one thing. You can’t just read \r\nabout it. Games are experiential things and it’s really important to \r\nplay.
\r\nRecorded May 7, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by David Hirschman
The game designer is most interested in the "social fabric component" of games, and how interactions with other people can become increasingly interesting over time.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
Radical thinker Rutger Bregman paints a new, more beautiful portrait of humanity.
Optimism is what runs the world, and cynicism only serves as an excuse for the lazy.
The heart of the religious ritual is mysticism, argues Brian Muraresku in "The Immortality Key."
- The concept of "dying before you die" lies at the heart of religious tradition, argues Brian Muraresku.
- This secret ritual connects the Eleusinian Mysteries with the origins of Christianity.
- In "The Immortality Key," Muraresku speculates that psychedelic wine could have been the original Christian Eucharist.
Brian Muraresku explains the potential role of psychedelics in Christianity<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9d12252d13cebc4f3ca73f98e47ba60b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jkL2DLBM1j0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Muraresku has been getting a lot of press since the book's publication, in part boosted by his appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast. The classicist speculates that the Christian Eucharist is rooted in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which may have involved the ceremonial ingestion of wine spiked with psychedelic ingredients. The idea of a psychedelic Christianity is not new, but Muraresku brings a detailed level of scholarship and compassion to the topic.</p><p>As he told me in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aogj-08AMo&t=222s" target="_blank">recent interview</a>, the "immortality key" is not psychedelics, but the concept of dying before dying. He opens his book with a Greek inscription: "If you die before you die / You won't die when you die." Muraresku, a devout Catholic raised in the Jesuit tradition, kicks off the discussion with an atheist from the Johns Hopkins trial. Despite her lack of faith, she felt an "overwhelming, all-encompassing love" that helped her deal with the inevitable consequences of mixed-cell ovarian cancer—really, the inevitable consequences of being an animal bound to die. </p><p>The Hopkins study went mainstream when Michael Pollan <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/trip-treatment" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote about it</a> in the New Yorker. The results were stunning: 70 percent of participants felt a single dose of psilocybin produced the most meaningful (or among the top five) experience of their lives. Interestingly, the same result occurred after the famous Marsh Chapel experiment, when Timothy Leary and friends dosed Harvard Divinity School grad students with psilocybin; a quarter-century later, all but one rated the event in their top five. </p><p>Not only do you die before you die while under the influence of psychedelics, but you also gain a new perspective on life. The ego death that occurs during the ritual changes their orientation about existence. And what good is a religious experience if it can't be applied to living? </p><p>As Muraresku told me, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"[Psychedelics] is one tool in the Spiritual Toolkit. What I mean by 'the key' is in Greek, which is preserved at St. Paul's monastery: <em>if you die before you die, you won't die when you die</em>. <em>That's</em> the actual key. It's not psychedelics, it's not drugs; it's this concept of navigating the liminal space between what you and I are doing right now, and dreaming and death. In that state, the mystics and sages tell us, is the potential to grasp a very different view of reality."</p>Muraresku taps into a growing consensus that humans are "wired" for mystical experiences. He points to lead Johns Hopkins researcher, Roland Griffiths, who <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81-v8ePXPd4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">believes</a> that mysticism is included in our operating system at birth. You just have to turn it on. While the effects of psychedelics can be replicated through the more arduous path of meditation, in the right set and setting anyone can tap into mystical states of consciousness. Psychedelics provide a shortcut to these states.
Credit: Galyna Andrushko / Adobe Stock<p>Western religious leaders, especially those in Christianity and Islam, treat their prophets as standalone figures. The best you can hope for is being granted access to some special place after you die. Gnostics and Sufis—sects within those faiths that attempt to replicate their prophet's mysticism—are considered outcasts by mainstream religious figures. In some circumstances, they're outlawed, threatened, or even killed for their supposed heresy. </p><p>Sufis might spin for hours in ecstatic rapture to reach this mystical state, but as Muraresku's extensive research shows, psychedelics also tap into this "secret" knowledge that he believes to be at the heart of Christian—and if we extrapolate, <em>religious</em>—tradition. And to him, this is the essence of the religion, not a byproduct of the real faith. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I didn't write this book to be anti-organized religion. In some cases, it's the exact opposite. In the intro, I mentioned Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who is a hero of mine. He talks about the tension between mystics and the dogma and doctrine of organized faith. I don't think you can have one without the other. The balance, as Brother David says, is to rediscover that original visionary power and <em>live in it as a lived experience</em>. This is what Joseph Campbell says of religion being a <em>lived experience</em>. We're talking about emotional potential. That's how the great anthropologist Clifford Geertz defines religion: these powerful, pervasive, long-lasting moods and motivations. That only happens when you're talking about something that gets inside of people's bones. That's what the mystical experience is; it's how these religions are born. Brother David says it's virtually impossible to start a religion without mystical experience, like Moses in the burning bush, Paul on the road to Damascus, or Peter, in Acts, caught up in a trance."</p><p>Campbell's conversation with Bill Moyers in "The Power of Myth" nicely ties together this idea:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."</p><p>The mythologist also advocated for a reformation of religion every generation so that the faith speaks to the times. This is effectively what Muraresku advocates for in "The Immortality Key": an honest conversation regarding the historical circumstances that birthed the world's most-followed religion in the hopes of applying the foundational lessons to our current reality. If that means a psychedelic ritual that shows you how to die before you die so that you may better know how to live, then it's time to rethink the role of the sacrament. </p><p>Mysticism is a universal phenomenon. The "eternal return" Mircea Eliade wrote about has been experienced throughout history in disparate regions of the world. As Strassman's and Griffiths's work shows, we retain the capability of dying before dying. In fact, current research on psilocybin, LSD, iboga, DMT, and ayahuasca show that these substances are helping people gain a perspective of their lives, be it in depression treatment, addiction recovery, or easing the pain of hospice care. A little mysticism goes a long way. </p><p>Let's move beyond this notion that mysticism only applies to a chosen few. In fact, let's reconsider the role of consciousness in general. Every religion has its own take on what happens after we die. Yet we have tools at our disposal to show us how to exist now: a living religion that speaks to the entire planet. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Princeton scientists find a new way to control nuclear fusion reactions.
- A new study from Princeton physicists successfully uses boron powder to control nuclear reactions in plasma.
- Creating plasma can lead to an unlimited supply of energy.
- The new method is cheaper and less dangerous than previous approaches.
Michio Kaku: Energies of the Future<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="BeOzZrrE" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f6bb4de494da08f079580afca1848370"> <div id="botr_BeOzZrrE_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BeOzZrrE-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/BeOzZrrE-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BeOzZrrE-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> By 2030 the physicist expects that we will have hot fusion reactors.
PPPL physicist Robert Lunsford.
CREDIT: Elle Starkman / PPPL Office of Communications
We have the money to change the world. What's standing in the way?
- What does it actually take to drive large-scale change? Co-Impact founder and CEO Olivia Leland argues that it takes more than money, voting in elections, and supporting your favorite nonprofit. Solving complex global issues takes philanthropy in concert with community advocacy, support from businesses, innovation, an organized vision, and a plan to execute it.
- Leland has identified three areas that need to be addressed before real and meaningful change can happen. To effectively provide support, we must listen to the people who are already doing the work, rather than trying to start from scratch; make it easier for groups, government, and others to collaborate; and change our mindsets to think more long-term so that we can scale impact in ways that matter.
- Through supporting educational programs like Pratham and its Teaching at the Right Level model, Co-Impact has seen how these collaborative strategies can be employed to successfully tackle a complex problem like child literacy.