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Game Engines (GE): We Bring Good Things to Life.*

Why games are as energizing - and essential - as electricity.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

When Richard Costello of the advertising firm came up with the phrase: "GE: We Bring Good Things to Life,"* he literally caught lightning in a bottle. Imagine the challenge Costello faced when trying to describe what GE was doing. GE was more than a company, it was an institution, and Costello's ability to capture the scope of its contribution to American life helped earn him he position as head of advertising for the company. The phrase was officially in use from 1979 to 2003, but its influence continues to this day.

I have been struggling to think about, and express what computer games are for many years, but not as long as I have been trying to understand what GE is. You see, my grandfather worked for GE. I loved my grandfather, so I loved GE. Being the studious kid I was I tried to read about the place he worked so I could better understand him. If you think connecting with an introverted, old-school grandfather is hard, try getting your head around GE. Wikipedia calls them a "multinational conglomerate." That two-word phrase somehow manages to add no clarity whatsoever, yet perfectly capture my understanding of GE.

When we try to think about computer games it is good to look for models. We need reference points from other industries that flew past our ability to fully comprehend them. Electricity, and the science and engineering-driven approach GE took to harnessing it, provides a reference point for the scale and scope of computer games. Games are too big to understand, but we need to think about them so what do we do?

The game industry is bigger than film, television, and music combined, and it is growing rapidly. Before we can begin to wrap our heads around that idea, we have to consider that is only part of the equation. That massive description fails to encompass the rapid growth in the use of games engines as the driving force behind manufacturing, education, research and primary human creativity. Games are like GE, they're just too damn big to understand.

Just think of Richard Costello, of GE, and all that electricity begin generated, stored, moved and managed. What Costello managed to capture in that phrase was the dynamism and energy (literal and figurative) behind the company, but also the ubiquity of its contributions. Models like that can help us think about games.

P.S. If you find yourself still wondering what a "multinational conglomerate" is, consider GE's new motto: "Imagination at work." I still don't know what they are, but whatever they are they sure know how to hire good marketing people. Come to think of it "imagination at work," perfectly describes my grandfather...

*Read more about GE's signature phrase in Wikipedia's entry.

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