Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Confession of a Nord

It began previous summer. During a long episode of die-hard studying and personal development I promised myself to have a gaming spree. I'd get a heavy duty pc that would play games on ultra-high graphic settings and I stacked up on games during steam summersale. So it came to be.

My steam account is full of wonderful games that allow for a high level of immersion and my graduation present has an i5, 16GB ddr3 ram and 2GB ddr5 graphic card. It takes 20 seconds to boot fully, heck I can't even sit down properly before it's finished booting. Around 6 weeks dedicated to gaming went by in a breeze. I didn't even care for that for a feeling of accomplishment, I was just gone for a while.

The game I played most (by far) was Skyrim. It was a sense of true freedom I felt, and some stories truly thrilling. Till now I haven't played a game with a story as AWESOME as Chrono Trigger, but still it came close. By now I've put in over 600 hours of gameplay in total, about 15 weeks of 40 hour work. Yesterday I even did some real research concerning the lore of the game, and discovered that there were many layers of depth still to be discovered.

Last week I went to Spil Games for a job interview, it ended up not being my cup of tea. But still I was asked a question I hadn't asked myself in a while, "why are you so fascinated by games?" . After my thesis on motivation in games and this gaming spree it's time for a recap. Talking and writing about games and the interplay of game and psychology always lights a spark in me. No other medium been able to capture me so deeply while allowing me so much freedom, even if the freedom is only imagined. And that link created by the interplay of the self and a thing is truly mesmerizing to me.

Games do not simply provide a few things like emotional stimulation, no it's far more elegant. Games trick players in seeking out what they want and need. It's easier for a game so to say to entertain a media user than a movie for example. The director has to try and match the movie to what he/she things the needs of the audience are. There's no going back after the movie is shot. Some games trick players to create their own movie.

How does this interplay arise?
First of all the identification processes, each character you play, you play in your own way. The actions are not only related to the character but also to yourself. This creates a bond that is potentially far stronger than any other medium. Open world rpg's like Skyrim and probably GTA take this even farther, allowing you to fully customize your character. Stories allow for further identification and can give more depth to the character.

A second part that's very true is the challenge you feel during certain parts of the game. Games that have an unbalanced difficulty curve are not nice to play and break your personal movie. The challenge is preferrably created by different elements but mainly with cognitive challenges and puzzles (could have been better though in Skyrim) and skill challenges (like fighting) that generally requiere a certain level of mastery of the game mechanics. Skyrim allowed me to pursue the skills that I felt were challenging

A third part is arousal, from adrenaline rushes to pure joy after surviving an ordeal. I can not even count the times I was suddenly startled by a hidden enemy, or sometimes the thrill of chasing and facing something. This arousal can be experienced as a refreshing shake up from mundane life. Luckily probably, I wouldn't want that many "Ooooh shit" moments as in games.

Still something that precedes this all is the gratification of interest. People select to a certain degree their media on their interest. Though interest is a pretty vague concept in my opinion, we still follow it. Things that stimulate my fantasy are always on the top of my list.

What game did you spend a significant part of your lifetime on?

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