I’ve just read this (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/01/19/anders-gustafsson-on-the-dream-machine/) article, which I strongly recommend you do too. It’s an interview with a games designer who really knows what he’s talking about.
One of the interesting points is that of voyeurism in games. The interviewee, Anders Gustafsson, says that it is an inherent part of computer games. The vast majority of games are about manipulating the game world to “win”, whether that means beating a boss as instructed or constructing a Death Star out of blocks. Either way, you have a vast amount of control and very little responsibility. Some might argue that keeping characters alive is a responsibility, but with the tendency for games to allow an infinite number of restarts, this does not always hold. The term respawn as well suggests something altogether more sinister. The consequences of your actions are usually fairly minor and have very little impact on you as a person, giving you almost complete freedom. Your avatar may lose some health from time to time but I’ve never yet got into an argument with an NPC that has affected me emotionally. The experience is becoming less and less human, with the player being granted God like powers from the start of the game.
I’ve noticed a lot of people say that they try to play games, in particular RPGs, in a manner that they would act themselves in real life. However, as I have found myself when trying this approach, your actions are tempered by the quest in question. For example, if you have to kill Goblins to save the princess in the tower, you will, but I doubt many people will actually go to these measures in real life. And if you would, why are you sat there simulating it when you would do it for real? I’m guilty of this too, but I find it interesting to note.
I also wonder how it affects us in the real world. An experiment was run to show how desensitized to actual violence young boys became after playing a first person shooter as opposed to those playing football and the results have been debated here. You cannot however dispute the immediate impact; that it takes them a moment to adjust to being back in the real world. You have to expect some kind of reaction to these games, and to see yourself as immune is idiotic. Everything affects us in some small way, the question then is one of whether the effect is significant or not. I’m not going to claim an answer to this, but just raise the question, so you can think about it.
These are just some of my thoughts on video games, and some interesting ideas that I thought worthy of sharing. Let me know your thoughts too.