All the world is play


By Tom Chatfield

Orinal article taken from the December 16th issue of Prospect Magazine (issue 166)

Videogames are no longer the preserve of adolescent males in dark bedrooms. Their emergence as a social medium is changing the way we work, learn and fight wars

Stronger than ever: World of Warcraft keeps people playing with constant updates and fresh rewards, like this flying mount

Kristian Segerstråle is telling me what makes his videogames company unusual. “Most of the $50bn [£30.4bn] or more spent on videogames each year goes on that emotional, solitary, caveman-like journey of you versus the monsters,” he says. “But our games are different. They’re not about what is going on between you and the screen; they’re about what goes on between you and your friends when you play. They’re much more of a medium and a catalyst, for expression, competition, co-operation.” They are also a stupendously good way of making money.

Segerstråle, a boyish 32, is founder and CEO of Playfish, one of the world’s leading “social gaming” companies: makers of a new kind of videogame that is rapidly becoming as essential to online life as sharing images or reading a blog. It’s mid-November and he is “super excited”—not surprisingly, given that Playfish has just been bought by one of the world’s largest and most revered videogames publishers, Electronic Arts (EA), in a deal worth up to $400m (£250m). Playfish didn’t exist two years ago. Today, its games have over 60m unique monthly players and it’s not even the largest in its sector (market leader Zynga boasts over 100m after just two-and-a-half years in existence). So what, exactly, has been going so right?

Read the rest at:
Prospect Magazine