Ludo, Ergo Sum

Ludo, Ergo Sum
Secret Agent Candy Man

Dave Thomas | 14 Mar 2006 11:00
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"What it's about is that we're in the era of social computing, which was preceded by videogaming as a major dimension of computing and preceded by desktop computing and personal computing and mainframe computing. We're now in the era of social computing. In which, for the first time, what's happening with computers, and it started on the internet, is mainstream everyday consumers are using a computing platform on a network, purely for social benefit, not because it is helping them with their work. And not because they are trying to kill time with entertainment. They're using it purely for social contact.

"You saw that with instant messaging and some of the social communities on the internet. And see it with, say, soccer moms doing free Yahoo! email. And again, none of that stuff was going on 10 years ago. So, you saw the first inklings of it on the internet. But the internet with the PC is not truly mass market. Guys like us have them. But there are 6 billion people in the world. And the number of people that use a PC, its in the 100s of millions. It's not even in the billions. And we've already got 2 billion people with mobile phones."

What's happening, he thinks, is people are desperately trying to use technology to reweave the fabric of social life that was ripped apart as people moved from tight knit tribal communities to the sprawling disconnected life of modern dystopia. Call it Mayberry versus the The Sprawl. Ever the businessman, Trip just wants to put a little Floyd back in the barbershop, Barney in the sheriff's office and Gomer at the pump. Trip wants to put people and personality back into gaming.

"We have all these advancements from the industrial revolutions, the transportation revolution, the media revolution. And, in fact, what has happened is that people have traded that built in intimacy for a car, a television, maybe a prescription to Prozac. So, the mobile phone has just turned into this lifeline.

"You see this, for example, with guys and their buddies. Guys that have been in a fantasy league on the internet for a while will admit, 'Yeah, if wasn't for that league, we'd never talk to each other. And they'll even say, 'Wow, we've gotten to be good friends because we are in this league together.' But it's kind of like they to have this excuse because it's not as likely that a guy is just going to call up another guy and say, 'Hey, I'm feeling really lonely, can we have an intimate chat?'"

When Trip talks about social computing, you get that itchy feeling that he's just spieling the same well-worn speech he used to win venture capital.

But if you take a minute to look at, say, the personals on Yahoo!, you start to see that in fine Trip fashion, his precision of perception is so focused, it just comes off like marketing copy. Hundreds and thousands of men and women in your area can't get dates. And they've resorted to posting pictures of themselves and databasing their vitals for convenient searching.

In a way, it's sad to view the parade of lonely people who just want to reach out and touch someone. Then again, it's heartening to see the people who file internet personals are not shut-ins with bad teeth and unfortunate taste in '80s hair styles. Nope. They're people just like you. And they just want someone to have dinner with them, take them skiing, check out London theater or maybe spend some time playing a game.

If things work out the way Trip wants, all those lonely people will play a game produced by Digital Chocolate. And in the hyperbole of a company named after a legally addictive substance, it looks like DC might have unlocked the formula for the Everlasting Gobstopper.

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