Kelgray and Beyond

int game_engine(void) {

Video Game Influenced Psychology

Well it’s been a while I know, but I am indeed alive, just busy with SAIT, design, spinning, and learning XNA Games Studio Express to use with Crowded Games, but I’ve been hit with inspiration and I needed a place to voice my opinions so I’m back with the bloging. What I’ve been thinking about is the reasons that my behaviour follows certain patterns, and how those behaviours came to be. More specifically, I noticed that I’d been doing a lot of work for school which either wasn’t for marks or which wasn’t due for a long time, even though I did have projects with more pressing deadlines. I first noticed it when I wrote a fairly lengthly response in the Business Relations forums to a post which was optional, but had not yet responded to the one which I was supposed to have done earlier but hadn’t been able to do since I didn’t have access to the forums until just recently.

The two tasks weren’t all that different. They probably took about the same amount of brain power and effort,
and yet I did the less important one before the important one. Once I started thinking about it I began to see all sorts of similar activities. Working on my programming assignment which hasn’t even been assigned yet before the small activity that we were asked to do for next class. In each case I did meet my deadline, but in each case I procrastinated on the more pressing material and focused on the optional things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this all the time (I’m not that much of a procrastinator), it only seems to happen in cases where I have plenty of time available before my deadline comes, but in those cases it seems to happen often.

As I explored the question further, I began to see similar behaviour in a lot of my friends and colleagues, though it seemed to be somewhat generational. The baby boomers, for the most part, not only seemed to do things differently, they didn’t even seem to understand why someone would do that. I pondered how this behaviour might have been learned by searching for similar patterns in activities which I partook in during my more formative years, especially ones which people like my parents probably partook in less if at all, and I thought of video games.

Now I’m not talking about all video games. I’m sure my parents visited the arcade more than once in their younger years. What I’m referring to are trends which began to pop up in video games more and more as systems got more advanced and it became easier to make more complex games (and then, unfortunately, less as games become more focused on graphics and less on length and content). More specifically, I’m talking about things such as side quests. Taking RPGs as an example, there are often quests you can complete or items you can find which will improve your character, but which are not essential to the plot. I thought about how these tasks are prioritized by the player. Often in games you cannot go back and complete one or more sidequests after passing a certain point in the main plot (or at least you can’t for a certain length of time, or it becomes a tedious task to travel back to where the quest is, or any other number of barriers which make completing that task inconvenient). So as we go through the games we learn that if we complete the less important tasks first then we will be better equipped to complete the important ones.

And it’s not just limited to RPGs. There are similar traits in many other genres as well. There are secret areas and bonus levels in all sorts of games which apply the same concept: Put off your primary task temporarily in order to make yourself stronger. So we have the same situation for your character in the game as I did with my homework above, but with a slight difference. When you complete a primary task in a game, the task is completed, you do not need to return to it. In academia, for example, if we finish an assignment early then we can still edit it and improve on it until the due date arrives. Regardless of that fact, however, I think that the principles that the games taught our psyches as children are fairly sound. It’s the idea of doing something right the first time, so that less editing needs to be done afterwards, which helps to keep things as clean as possible. By completing smaller and less important tasks before my major ones I’m increasing my knowledge of the subject matter and how to apply what I’ve learned to what I’m doing. Of course editing and polishing still need to be done, but by doing a better job on the first draft it should improve the flow of the structure of the assignment and reduce the amount of assignments which need to be done a second time from scratch.

Just an idea I was playing with today. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

January 19, 2008 Posted by | Games, Logic, Philosophy, Psychology, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Videogames | 1 Comment