Gaming in real life

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.

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5 thoughts on “Gaming in real life

  1. Andy Ridge

    On a more serious note, I think it would be interesting to find out how it affects people in this way. The only time gaming’s effects on people seem to be mentioned is either in a very negative light (i.e. The Daily Mail), or in a more positive: it helps improve your reaction times, decision making, etc. sort of way in scientific things.

  2. ...

    You talk about people being affected by games, but your example is of young boys playing first-person shooters and football games. Firstly, young boys are very easy to manipulate as shown with the blood diamond trade in Sierra Leone, with the gangs kidnapping young boys and manipulating them to become soldiers for their mercenary armies. Secondly, first-person shooter games are not designed for young boys precisely for this reason and secondly for the fear it may provoke inside of them.
    All I am saying here is that the experiment that is supposed to show that games have an affect on us is strongly biased towards making the answer come out to be ‘yes and a big influence also’. I’m not saying that games, of any sort be it console based or sports, do not influence any part of our lives, just that most games only influence subconsciously and most of time you or anyone else cannot tell that it has influenced you.

    1. chrysalisloall

      I agree with both comments. A study would be very interested, but it is hard to think of how to conduct one fairly. The example given is not one that gives any definitive answer, but the results I think do say something. I would be very keen to see a study into the immediate effect of just having finished playing a video game. However, your point about their age is very true, and yes the result was probably filtered to ensure that the TV program got that specific answer.

      I wonder if in the future we’ll find that people’s concepts of what to do in sport are determined by the Kinect and Playstation Move. I doubt the wii will have an impact; nobody is going to play tennis by moving only their wrist.

    2. Dear …

      I’m going to go off topic here – the child soldiers accross Africa are not easy to manipulate, unless you include abduction, extreme bullying, beatings, threats, and probably much much worse. Also, it is not just children who are liable to be forcibly transformed into soldiers. Many conflicts have shown how “ordinary” people can very swiftly become brutal, often by a single gateway act (e.g. forcing someone to do something outside their moral code, then the group celebrates the outsider becoming an insider, then further acts are much easier to commit). See Rwanda, the Balkans, and so on. See also a number of psychology experiments where people voluntarily break their proclaimed code because of peer pressure, authority pressure, or boundaries changing around them.

      So, back to the topic. We all have fluid value systems, we all have our realities shifted by the environment we are in. Gaming, as well as sport, films, novels, conversations, family, work, and so on, changes us – but probably not in the way the Daily Wail thinks. Games that encourage us to think about responsibility are rare. Games that have heavy consequences are rare. Games that show us our world by creating a new world are rare. Lets celebrate the ones that do.

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