Friday, 7 March 2014

Why being social and games is a match

This post will be an extender of my previous post on the Ted talk of Kelly McGonigal on different impact stress can have, depending one the way you view stress. If you see it as harmful, it becomes harmful. If you see the effects of stress (higher heart rate and higher oxygen intake) as helpful to rise to a challenge it's not harmful at all.

Right now I want to explore a second fact she highlighted in her talk. Another hormone that's produced during stress is oxytocine. It's kind of the new super hormone that neuroscientists pride around with, but still let's have a look. This hormone makes you more likely to engage in social behaviour. So stress makes you more likely to be social. Social contact during stress can give you all kinds of benefits like help, support and banding together to have a revolution. Social contact in turn releases more oxytocine, and oxytocine helps shield your body against possible negative effects of stress. It also stimulates the regeneration of heart cells, repairing damage.

One factor that is mentioned a lot as a motivator to play games is social contact. This factor totally mystified me and probably will in more or lesser degree for a long while (I'm a solo player mostly). Before the age of computer generated adversaries games were table top games and the like, demanding a human counterpart. Humans can of course be challenging to play against and with. Still humans in those times were necessary, maybe you just liked the game and other players were a prerequisite to actually play.

However a uses-and-gratifications approach to games teaches us that games can also be used making a plea for social contact as a motivator to game. We can't deny that (with a few exceptions of course) we are social animals that reap many benefits and joy from social contact. Looking a players as a whole this means that one group of players simply plays because they like playing with other players, known or unknown to them. Games always seem to lower the boundaries for reaching out to others, like a kid meeting other kids by picking up a ball. (This makes me wonder how prevalent other factors of motivation are in people that are highly motivated to play a game because of social factors.)

Still I think that social contact is not always a motivator but can just as well be a result of video games. To become good at certain games like shooters you need peers to rise against, practice against and learn from. This the players that really like shooters more likely to meet other people.

Extending on the talk by Kelly, there's another group. Games certainly can be stressful and it's impact and outcome can vary to great extremes as demonstrated by the video. Certain players will have negative effects because of stress in games and even those who don't experience them can lower their stress level even more by engaging in social contact. Games can even make you more social, who would have guessed? Certainly not conservative digi haters.

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