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How does one earn the title of “Chief Gaming Officer” at an enterprise computing company like Sun Microsystems? For Chris Melissinos—himself a gamer who claims 42 consoles in his home, and a programmer who published his first game at the age of 12, it started 7 years ago when he realized that gaming could be a great way to use Sun’s technology to start connecting individuals across separate systems, and give developers the ability to address a much broader market.
“Do you understand who’s going to be driving tech adoption?” He asked the CEOs, at a time when the company’s stock was only $2.70 a share. Making the case in favor of leveraging games for the greater good, the CEO acquiesced.
Watching the impact games have had on his children, Melissinos is convinced they can change the world. “We have the opportunity to use games have a more open global conversation than at any point in history,” he said.
One advantage for the activist community seeking to foster a climate of change is the certain level of anonymity that gaming provides. “Because of these masks that we can put up, you’re free to say what’s really on your mind. Everyone’s equal in the World of Warcraft; everyone has the ability to have an equal voice. What you get is a very raw communication.”
The idea that a 13-year-old child can broadcast a “message to the planet” from home in the first time in human history affords an opportunity for greater expression, communication, and understanding. “Now we’re at the point where it’s this unfettered broadcast, and finding the right messages is incredibly exciting,” Melissinos said.
On the topic of content control, Melissinos posited that one of the things that makes an environment like Second Life so powerful is the “feeling of ownership. If you give people the ability to own something, they will police it harder than you ever can.” At the same time, the natural settling of social structure in a virtual world as in the real world, means that inevitably, there will be groups doing work for the greater good.
Open-source in particular has revolutionary potential—but, as Melissinos warned, “to say that as a startup game developer doing a complex game you’ll suddenly build open source is a bit over-reaching. You’ve got to do a bit of homework in that space.” To that end, Sun has created a game server platform called Project Darkstar to be released to GPL.