Illusion of Accomplishment
Infinite Summer (which I mentioned earlier) is sort of an online book club which is reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest this summer. I don’t want to spoil the book if you haven’t read it, but a lot of it is about addiction and whether having choices is empowering or enslaving.
Matthew Baldwin wrote a post recently about this aspect of the book that I thought was pretty good. Be sure to click through to this post on the Wolfire gaming blog about how to make video games addictive.
Some people (for example Clay Shirky) have predicted that the addictive, passive nature of television will be swept away by a following wave of interactive media that demand more out of the user. I don’t think that DFW believed this. It is certainly possible to see how interactive media can be used to demand worthless effort from the user in return for worthless rewards, while addicting the user even more thoroughly than television can. It’s also pretty easy to see why companies would have a financial incentive to use media in that way. That combination gets depressingly close to what DFW was envisioning when he wrote the novel 13 years ago.
And on a lighter note, this mention of Infinite Jest is a good time to link to our favorite article on how to increase your writing output.