The Rise of the Developer-Poet

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

One of the most fundamental aspects of humanity is our propensity for play, and a yearning to be engaged in ways that evoke our deepest emotions. The mediums by which we've been so affected have changed throughout history, from the art of verbal storytelling to the printed word, from music and art to radio, television and motion pictures. Our ongoing desire for an immersive, interactive experience has brought about yet another artistic medium, that of video games. This new medium opens even greater potential for not only drawing out our emotions but empowering us in ways that engage our natural tendency towards play.

Game developers (a term used here in the broadest sense, all inclusive of writers, programmers, artists, designers, and so on) are individuals engaged in the collaborative process of creating interactive, digital art. In many ways, their creative role in today's world is much like the multi-talented craftspeople of the Renaissance, possessing a myriad of skills that are required to create entirely new milieus and/or reimagine our world in new provoking ways. In a way, they are the "developer-poets" of our age, leveraging the best of technological tools as well as global connectivity coupled with age-old creative processes and techniques.

As evidenced by many academic studies, the games medium is an incredibly powerful mechanism for learning, training and enabling us to view life through a different context; historically, culturally and politically. While other mediums have allowed for this, the interactive nature that games provide is a major shift in appealing to a greater range of our senses, and being able to directly test our assumptions through immediate and direct feedback. One wonders if the furor over the role of video games in some societies is fed more by a simple fear of a new medium so potentially transformative to how we have fun and how we learn. Game developers continue to struggle to justify their livelihood in many countries, where they, their games and gamers are often ascribed the ills of society. Despite these difficulties, they continue to evolve and improve their craft, taking it in new directions and engaging people across a wide demographic range.

But this kind of pushback is nothing new; it's occurred for centuries with the introduction of aforementioned creative mediums, and an associated fear of the new and an unwillingness to let go of old ways. Developer-poets making games face the same arguments to their creative freedom as the artisans who preceded them, and in all of those cases the new medium prevailed through a ubiquity supported by a widespread desire for new ways to experience, reflect, enjoy and be intellectually challenged. The generational change will come, and games will secure their place as yet another part of the human experience.

Gameplay has never been about escapism from reality, but rather a way to better engage the real world by learning a wide range of skills through hypothetical experiences. -- Kate Edwards

When aggregated into a community, such as the International Game Developers Association, these developer-poets are capable of truly changing the world, and are doing so regardless of the challenges to their recognition as a viable art form. They will continue to share with one another the strengths of their craft, helping one another to perpetually improve the way their games can help us to imagine, create and engage for ourselves.

Gameplay has never been about escapism from reality, but rather a way to better engage the real world by learning a wide range of skills through hypothetical experiences. The developer-poet thus fulfills the role of a modern muse who enriches our lives by providing us with pure enjoyment, challenging us to rethink our assumptions and inspiring us to do things we never thought possible.

The International Game Developers Association has partnered with The Huffington Post and TED on this edition of TEDWeekends. IGDA is the largest nonprofit in the world serving individuals who create games. You can read more about their work here.

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