The Status Game
A new book says we live in a culture obsessed with status and competition, from school to work and sport. So is it time to opt out and view life another way? You are at a fork in the road. If you turn left, you start the story of your life. You love and learn. You grow wise with meaningful memories. Or you turn right and let the game begin! Life is a series of levels where you find clues and fight monsters.
In The Status Game, writer Will Storr says the goal of life is status. We want to be popular, successful and rich. Gamification is everywhere. On social media, we care about likes and shares. Apps count steps and track language learning. “Games are fun,” says writer David Brooks, “but gaming as a way of life is immature”. So is there another way?
Psychologist Dan McAdams thinks so. “We are all storytellers,” he argues, “and we are the stories we tell”. David Brooks says we must aim for “higher desires”: a quest for “the true, good and beautiful”. It is ludicrous to compare life to a game.
Storr is unconvinced. Doing good, he says, is just a “virtue game” to feel morally superior. The truth is “anything that can be measured will become a game”, says writer Lawrence Yeo. So as technology advances, reality and the virtual look the same.
Businessman Elon Musk says in 50 years, video games developed from Pong to the photo-realistic Unreal Engine. He thinks this means there is a 99.99% chance we exist in a virtual reality made by an alien civilisation.
A game or a story? Both sides accuse each other of a poor grasp of the truth. Philosopher Galen Strawson says some prefer to tell a “good story” rather than live a “good life”. Expert Jon Askonas sees similarities between reality games and the conspiracy theories of QAnon.
From St Augustine to Michelle Obama, autobiographies are bestsellers. Games teach us about life, from Go to The Sims. It is human to tell tales and play games. But the future of society depends on which matters most.