The bit generation

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
16 August, 2016
Editorial: 21
Fecha de publicación original: 28 mayo, 1996

Date of publication: 28/05/1996. Editorial 021.

He that speaks the thing he should not, will hear the thing he would not

The bit generation includes all age groups and cuts across all generations but it is nevertheless getting younger day by day. This is not because young people are legion in cyberspace, but because more and more their way of thinking adapts itself better to the atmosphere of that intangible planet, Internet. Or, should I say, it is they who are creating – and recreating – that environment. I would prefer not to use the corny, predictable phrase “they are the bearers of the seeds of a new world” but viewed from the perspective of the digital world there is a grain of truth in this, as many educators all around the world have already learned at their expense. In many classrooms, above all those in the developed world, this beardless digital proletariat, fight daily bloodless battles against the most dignified representatives of the “ancient regime”. The combat is noiseless, apparently insignificant and sometimes the battle is over objectives which at first sight seem to have very little to do with cyberspace. But within them one can make out visions of the future which are intimately related to that horizon which oscillates between the atom and the bit.

At the E3 multi-media fair which came to an end last week in Los Angeles there was a talk called “What games do we expect from the industry?”. Sitting round the table on stage were four young kids, none of them older than 16, the youngest 12 years old. Below, sat representatives of the industry – not one of them 16 and the majority over 60. With the natural self-confidence one would expect of the speakers they described what kind of tools, and for what purpose, they wanted to put their hands on “right now” (or in other words yesterday).

The list was very simple:

1) Online games in which multitudes of players all over the world could participate;

2) all possible technical resources: chatting through keyboard and voice, audio and video, encryption of messages, virtual reality, sub-programmes integrated in the navigator, etc.;

3) solutions to problems as basic as speed of transmission, immediate response (reduction or elimination of time spent waiting) and other similar things; and

4) an intuitive environment. The four participants enlarged on the last of these points at great length , and judging by their passionate discussion, it was obviously the most fundamental for them. It didn’t matter to them what the virtual setting of the game was but one thing they knew was they didn’t want to take on the characters that the game itself determined. They wanted to choose, to be able to shape their own individual characteristics and, along with the roles other players took on, fashion the society in which the action took place. They rejected out of hand being constricted by roles drawn up beforehand by the predetermined rules of the industry. “We want to invent the rules of the game ourselves each time we play”, they said.

And they went right on asking: the places where the games were set and developed, whether in the era of the Hittites, the ancient Egyptians, the Middle Ages, in industrial societies or some science fiction setting, “must be real”. They wanted to have all possible economic, political, social and cultural resources at their disposition. They wanted to be able to produce (or have the possibility of producing) the goods and services that they were going to use (from food to arms), to conduct the affairs of the society in which they played, to be able to modulate their responses according to the needs of the population competing within it at any given moment, and to have the technical facilities available for forming and dynamiting alliances. One of them actually told me after the conference, “There are going to be lots of us and we will need a co-operative environment in which to make decisions.” Of course, they also asked for exciting images, stories to keep the adrenalin flowing, worlds full of weird and wonderful unpredictable creatures, and appropriate sound to accompany each situation. To sum up, they all had the same objective in mind: the game should be one that the participants themselves could decide on; the role of industry should be to provide the necessary means for this. A well-known melody but one normally sung by more mature exponents.

Listening to these kids I couldn’t help wondering what their teachers make of them or their parents? How do they teach them demography, history, literature, mathematics, or – without meaning to be ironic – philosophy? At their age I didn’t know who Plato was either. But, neither was I able to take on the responsibilities of the magnitude that they were envisaging, even though it was within the world of fiction. In my fantasy world at that age there were a couple of pirates and that was that.

We will return to the subject of games and education – only one of the fascinating aspects that make up the multi-dimensional digital world – in other numbers of And, of course, any educators who happen to read these lines are welcome to use this space to express their ideas on the subject. Parents too. Above all parents, many of whom have started to train themselves to say in a voice that doesn’t waiver, “Son, all these bits that you see before you, and even more, are already yours.”

Translation: Bridget King.