- Humanity arose somewhere in Africa and spread across the planet.
- The Fertile Crescent afforded early hunter gatherers the right kind of domesticable crops and environment to become farmers.
- Eurasia was home to a larger amount of domesticable animals than the New World. These animals could be raised and selectively bred as a natural resource, and as muscle power for heavy work, like plowing large crop fields and transporting food.
- The abundance of food and stationary nature of farming led to a larger, denser population than hunting and gathering societies.
- A large, dense population with means of efficient food storage and manufacturing meant that not everyone had to be responsible for obtaining food to live--people started to use their extra time to specialize their skills.
- Among other things, people would tinker, make stuff; they would invent (incidentally, Diamond argues that invention is typically the mother of necessity, not the other way around).
- Aside from rampant disease (and subsequent immunity of survivors), large populations also led to a larger pool of minds from which innovation can arise.
- Innovations typically originate in one society and diffuse into others. (Geography played a major role in how well technology diffused.)
- Additionally, though they have distinct differences, I'm relating innovation and creativity closely here, so bear that in mind.
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Today's game industry through the lens of human history
The rise and fall of human societies just might inform us on how the future of video games is going to shake out, says Gamasutra editor-in-chief Kris Graft.
The rise and fall of human societies just might inform us on how the future of video games is going to shake out. In the anthropological history book, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond thoroughly explains how the geographical availability of domesticable crops and animals essentially determined which societies would conquer, and which would be conquered. The book is about 500 pages long, but basically the parts I'd like to focus on for the purposes of this article go like this:
A National Geographic video of Guns, Germs and Steel, featuring Diamond. The book is better.
Actually, China was home to a lot of innovations, including huge seafaring fleets, with ships up to 400 feet long and total crews of up to 28,000, that were used in trading across the Indian Ocean. This was all happening decades before Columbus' adorable fleet of three ships crossed the Atlantic. China was the technological leader of the world in the early 15th century.
So what happened to China, which seemed to have an upper hand on Europe, and poised for domination of distant lands? Well, a few things, but one of the main points relevant to this discussion is that a small group of China's leaders completely screwed it all up (that is, if "screwing up" means not being first to the New World, killing the majority of its inhabitants). A power struggle ensued in the early 15th century between two factions of the Chinese courts, Diamond explains. One side was closely associated with those large fleets of ships and innovations in seafaring. The other side was not. So when that other side ousted the sailing faction and took control of China, it stopped sending those fleets, forbade shipping over the sea, and even dismantled shipyards, isolating China and killing off a formidable innovation in one fell swoop.
China likely had its opportunity to be the dominant society, but a small group of leaders lacking foresight ruined that opportunity for an entire civilization, for generations to come.
In video games, the platform's owners, that small group of leaders, need to make the correct decisions -- i.e. the decisions that will facilitate and encourage competition, innovation and creativity.
Some of these "correct" decisions that would pertain to large populations of game developers would involve implementation of great discovery systems and effective curation of the best content. As the population of game developer societies explodes, we've all seen what a mess some digital storefronts have become, as gems are lost among the garbage.