There's a very good piece in the new London Review of Books (online here) by John Lanchester about video games. It mostly focuses on their development as an emerging art form, their capacities for fostering creativity and agency, and other mildly optimistic stuff along Steven Johnsonian lines. But he also allows himself this passing dystopian comment:
Most games … are work-like. They have a tightly designed structure in which the player has to earn points to win specific rewards, on the way to completing levels which earn him the right to play on other levels, earn more points to win other rewards, and so on, all of it repetitive, quantified and structured. The trouble with these games … isn't that they're maladapted to the real world, it's that they're all too well adapted. The people who play them move from an education, much of it spent in front of a computer screen, full of competitive, repetitive, quantifiable, measured progress towards goals determined by others, to a work life, much of it spent in front of a computer screen, full of competitive, repetitive, quantifiable, measured progress towards goals determined by others, and for recreation sit in front of a computer screen and play games full of competitive, repetitive, quantifiable, measured progress towards goals determined by others. Most video games aren't nearly irresponsible enough.
Lanchester's adapting this argument from Steven Poole, who makes it in a somewhat more inflated, Adornian/Debordian way; and the whole thing deserves (and doubtless will receive) a more detailed sociological analysis. But still, point taken. I've had similar thoughts about the internet, in its interactive web 2.0 phase: on the one hand it involves us and lets us exercise our creativity (and, even better, reasserts creativity's social basis), but hasn't it made a lot of us a lot more addicted to doing supposedly fun things that look, from the outside, a lot like office work? And that can feel a lot like it too?
Also, did you know that "Nintendo began life in the late 19th century as a maker of card games"?