In The Game

Why does Tim think of games as places? I never did answer that. (It’s because he’s cracked.) My half-written, unpublished and over-complicated attempt to talk about it is two pronged, one prong dealing with metaphor (how we can’t help referring to games as places) and the other to do with cognitive scaffolding and ‘extension of self’, the kind of thing you experience when you’re driving a car or, well, playing a videogame. Throwing the ‘I’ out into the world. (Leaky cognition and way brains use their environment to complete patterns being what I want to talk about but just can’t be bothered to research the relevant materials.)

Now some US psychologists have put proper research time into it and come up with a some interesting observations. Quite what can be extrapolated from their peculiarly abstract experiment, conducted on just handful of people, is debatable, but the researchers aren’t backward about making suggestions.

“This finding suggests that “when people are playing with computer games on a screen, that they temporarily locate their self at their location on the screen rather than within their physical body.”

It suggests that video-game players’ perceptions and actions are affected by having this external representation of self; they might be more likely to perceive and act as if both their body and self are in the game.”

Psychology is an indistinct science at the best of times (“might be more likely” being the key qualifier), but these findings do at least begin to cover the terrain that explains what it is we’re actually doing when we find ourselves absorbed in a game. What does give me the fear though, is the potential for their observations be misused by press and lawyers alike. “So the killer believed he was actually in the game?”

So it goes.


6 Responses to “In The Game”

  • Stu Says:

    Are we still in the game?

  • Rossignol Says:

    Is that a reference to (*choke*) Existenz?

  • Tom Camfield Says:

    “My half-written, unpublished and over-complicated attempt…”

    If you don’t intend to finish it, would you mind putting your work in progress online? I would be interested in your thoughts.

  • Craig Says:

    eXistenZ is ace. You have no soul. Or Jude Law obsession.

    Anyway, have you played Brothers in Arms yet Jim? I think it takes something from Call of Duty and amplifies it tenfold – that being the immersive, heartbreaking nature of war and fighting with your friends. CoD managed this in a few areas, most notably the Russian chapters which – despite not realling pallying you up with anyone in particular – still made you feel heartbroken when you charged at the enemy with fifty other soldiers, some of which (the flag carriers) you just knew were going to die.

    I think that in itself helps players become a part of the world they’re playing in. With Brothers in Arms, despite the fact that there are sub-menu’s and commands, it still manages to grab you and put you right there because you have the whole control thing. But that alone wouldn’t add much substance so you have to consider how solemn and pathos-filled it is, and how authentic Gearbox chose to make it. I’m finding myself playing it and rather than having fun, I feel sad most of the time because of how realistic it is and imagining what it must be like for those individuals.

    But that’s just War shooters. There’s naturally a veritable orgy of other game types, and the one I’m finding most immersive at the moment is what Ion Storm coined the immersive sim. Deus Ex, IW, Vampire. Part of why I love returning to these worlds isn’t because of how good the stories may be, or whether or not the graphics or music is any cop – but because of its little pieces of life. Reading emails, breaking into somebodies apartment, helping someone lying on a hospital bed who is in dire need of help. I love dropping by nightclubs or pubs and seeing people interact, eavesdrop on conversations or beat somebody up and nick his money.

    Anyway, sorry but I’m rambling quite a bit. I blame Brothers In Arms.

  • Rossignol Says:

    Craig: Yes, I enjoyed it.

    Tom: Maybe, but I don’t really want to publish anything half-finished.

  • Guillermo Says:

    Where do you find good life ,of course in the games .beause in the real life ,we have many distresses and pain, only in the games if we have enough gold to buy the good arms,and we can play the games well :)