Possibilities for converting useless fun into utility in Online Gaming

by Aleksei_Riikonen 2 min read27th Apr 201019 comments


Online gaming in immersive MMOs such as World of Warcraft or EVE Online is a common way of having fun. As technology progresses, MMO gaming will likely become ever more popular, until MMOs are fully immersive virtual realities, leading many to consider them as the primary venue of their lives, instead of "the old(/real) world" (without such thinking being pathological anymore).

Currently, however, many people such as myself mostly find MMO gaming a threat to their productivity. MMOs can be very fun, druglike even, without providing any utility to valued real-world pursuits such as reducing existential risk and having money to buy food.

The default recommendation regarding MMOs for most rationalists should probably be "stay away from them -- or at least don't get into active gaming". This is also my current attitude.

Despite this, it may actually be worth considering whether some utility could be extracted from MMO gaming, specifically from the point of view of SIAI supporters such as myself. (From here on, I'll use the term "SIAIfolk" to refer to people interested in furthering SIAI's and allied organizations' mission.)

It seems that the amount of SIAIfolk is undergoing strong growth, and that this may continue. At some point, which we may currently have passed or not, there may therefore (despite all recommendations) be a substantial number of SIAIfolk engaging in somewhat active MMO gaming.

In such a circumstance, it may be beneficial to form a "Singularitarian Gaming Group", which along with functioning as a gaming clan in the various MMOs participated in, would include an internal reward and ranking system that would motivate people *away* from spending too much time on gaming, and encourage more productive activities. Some amount of MMO gaming would be done, with the company of other SIAIfolk making it more fun, but incentives and social support would be in place to keep gaming down to a rational level.

It would be critical to build the incentive system well. A poorly built system would lead SIAIfolk to spend more resources on gaming and less effort on productive stuff than would have happened if "Singularitarian Gaming Group" didn't exist in the first place. I however believe that "SGG" can be set up in a meaningful way, at least if we already have SIAIfolk who are spending more time on MMO gaming than they find optimal.

With this article, my main intention is to gauge whether such SIAIfolk already exist. If so, make a comment or email me. Let's then set up a mailing list for discussion of what kind of a "SGG" could be useful. (Opinions on what service to use to set up the mailing list are also welcome.)

In addition to what's mentioned above, a Singularitarian Gaming Group might also provide utility by serving as an outreach tool towards the MMO gaming community. It could market Singularitarian activism and existential risk reduction as working towards the ultimate gaming world.

It is also worth considering whether we should actually have a Less Wrong Gaming Group rather than SGG. And since I'm posting this here, an intention of course is to invite commentary on the rationality of all of the above thinking.

(My intention is not to discuss the specifics of an incentive system too much here on Less Wrong, though I'll mention one non-obvious feature which is teaching MMO addicts to play profitable online poker and giving points for progress and achievements in that. I'm currently spending a lot of time on poker, and the thought of a Less Wrong Poker Group as a separate thing from this "SGG" has crossed my mind, but that's a topic for some other time.)