Friday, August 7, 2015

Better at everything

Humans are getting better at everything.  See 538's article about Katie Ledecky, an astounding swimmer, who right now is better at any swimming distance than anyone who ever existed prior to 1961, male or female.  She is only 18, and will almost certainly improve all of her records and be even better than she is now.

People recognize this stuff about sports.  They often underestimate it, I think, in sports where people are competing against each other rather than against clocks.  You don't really understand just how amazing players are these days when you see them up against others of their calibre but by every measure we have available all top end athletes are doing things that could never have been done before.  Records just keep on falling, with no end in sight.

I find when I discuss games with people that others don't understand that this same sort of thing is happening in game design.  It isn't just that modern games are different than Monopoly and its ilk, it is that game design as a knowledge base and a discipline is far ahead of where it was in years past.  Modern games are just better.

Which doesn't mean that every modern game is better than every old game, but also we aren't saying that I am a better swimmer than world champion swimmers in the 1940s either.  Just that the best of the best, the general sense of how good the field of real competitors is, is definitely on an unmistakable upward track.

Many things make this happen.  The internet exposes people to better ideas, scientific advances make things possible that weren't before, people are more dedicated to achieving personal perfection, and the ability of recruiters and trainers to find the people with the most natural talent is much greater.  General wealth of society is a big one I am sure; it is far easier to devote yourself to a particular endeavour when getting enough food and a place to live is relatively speaking easier.  Subsistence farmers have little time to practice swimming or game design.

We are getting better at everything.  Our outliers are outlying like never before, and much as my instinct rebels at the idea, the trend is that it is simply not going to stop.

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