Games and Our Behaviour

Games and Our Behaviour
 
 

People are said to be the sum of their experiences, and their reactions to those experiences. Games are a kind of playground where we can find out more about ourselves and how we react – but how do their experiences influence us? Time spent in games is time spent nonetheless, and considering the amount of it spent by those who count it amongst their hobbies, the final tally couldn’t help but leave some kind of mark. Hence I’m not asking if games influence our behaviour, but how.

I’m not approaching this academically, because A) I don’t want to, and B) most if not all the research done regards that dead-dog of a topic I’m too bored to mention. I’d rather approach this personally, because while I can see some of the effects games have made on me, I have only questions to pose. I’d rather encourage others to partake in their own reflection for their own answers. So how do our choices on what kind of games we play impress our behaviour in the rest of our lives?

Save for my netcafe stint, I’ve very much been a man of the singleplayer, chiefly because I prize narrative and challenge. Soldiering on, sometimes literally, for thousands of hours inevitably cultivates certain thinking when you’re the only one who has any impact on the outcome. It says, “nothing will get done, nothing will change unless I do it – and no one else can help.”

A lot of single-player games, particularly action ones, work off hero fantasy. You’re supposed to be the only one who can save the world – everything is up to you. I’ve redeemed hundreds of worlds just from my abilities, and probably adopted some sort of hero complex. Every time I play one of these games I’m inadvertently telling myself “everything is up to me.” Eventually that message becomes second-nature, then behaviour, then personality. So games have made me independent – fiercely independent. I’m self-reliant and confident in my abilities, but I’m also stubborn, I overestimate myself, and I don’t ask for help when I should.

Even NPCs don’t much alleviate your burden. Playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, my teammates are consistently helpful, if for nothing else than causing distractions. But I don’t rely on them. They don’t drive the progress. They won’t save the Heleus Cluster for me if I do nothing.

Nowhere was this more evident than Resident Evil 7 – a game which gave me a bad case of the willies. With an atmosphere made of trepidation, no one was going to help me complete the game. No one was going to remedy my apprehension if I kept playing. No one but the imaginary girlfriend would sit with me for the full course, and no one could play it for me.

Of course you can always ask for help where the rest of your life is concerned, but that certainly isn't my immediate response, because through practice and repetition I've learnt to respond with the single-player answer. So are we then living more empowered, or are we needlessly sequestering ourselves from help and cooperation?

Obviously there are more factors involved in a person's independence, but in retrospect, games have probably been the most significant for me – almost like behavioural prep to adapt for rest of life. We all have different play habits, and we all react to different circumstances in different ways, so I wonder what somebody else would be like who's subsisted on MOBAs and team-based games. I imagine they'd have a greater sense of their role as part of a collective body – what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Though I'd also wonder how they fare as an individual. Do they struggle to complete tasks on their own? Would they still be trying to rely on other people even when other people aren't around to help?

Playing Overwatch has been somewhat of a truth-bomb, being so antithetical to the games I'm use to. I'm no longer a lone maverick – instead I'm part of a fully-functional team with a specific role to play. When I'm feeling particularly altruistic and I'm playing as Reinhardt or Mercy, other players are depending on me to shield or heal them, and I'm depending on them to take out the opponents I'm trying to resist attacking – the ones I'm so accustomed to killing by my lonesome in single-player.

Games are subtle teachers. For better or worse we adopt the lessons they put forward. We learn new behaviours and new ways of thinking, often incognito, from the kind of games we choose to play. Whether a game has any message or not, we’re often learning something regardless. I didn't even recognise what had happened until years later, after looking through the games I own. And while my independence has become a double-edged sword, which I can't really blame on games, that I can also counteract my behaviour using the same medium is truly unique.




 

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Comments Comments (7)

 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Friday 12 May 2017 1:41 PM
3
Classic Ben and his hero complex.

Games absolutely affect our behaviors, just like any art, and with it being a medium that requires a lot of engagement, I wouldn't be shocked if we take in more from games.

My actions are definitely impacted by games, as I wouldn't have killed those Ravagers in cold coolant if it wasn't for Horizon Zero Dawn teaching me how.
 
 
 
Posted by Blackfox
On Friday 12 May 2017 2:13 PM
2
great article, its definitely a interesting medium, interactivity and immersion makes our time with games a lot more personal. guess this is why its so hard to adapt games to film.
 
 
 
Posted by 163Battery
On Friday 12 May 2017 3:05 PM
3
Whoa, way too deep for me. I like to think I play games for fun. Regarding whether it affects my personality, how I interact with people etc. probably but I don't feel the need to delve into it.

Gun go bang, sword go ching, car go vroom, spaceship go whoosh.
 
 
 
Posted by Bank
On Friday 12 May 2017 3:54 PM
2
12 May 2017, 03:05 PM Reply to 163Battery
Whoa, way too deep for me. I like to think I play games for fun. Regarding whether it affects my personality, how I interact with people etc. probably but I don't feel the need to delve into it.

Gun go bang, sword go ching, car go vroom, spaceship go whoosh.
Well that's the beauty of game design. Some things are meant to be primitive and basic, bang bang. While other things are meant to look basic but can also mean much more, bang -> vroom -> ca-ching.

We don't actually have to do any deep dwelling. Just 2 mins of reflection and we can learn a lot. Isn't it beautiful that one of our favourite hobbies can showcase SOOO much?

Look at fighting games. Most basic sh**. You hit a person enough, they die, they lose. They hit you enough, you die, they lose. But the way the game works for us, and the way we work for the game, has brought decades of insane development, thinking, learning.

You don't ever want to think about the chemistry?
 
 
 
Posted by 163Battery
On Friday 12 May 2017 10:39 PM
1
12 May 2017, 03:54 PM Reply to Bank
Well that's the beauty of game design. Some things are meant to be primitive and basic, bang bang. While other things are meant to look basic but can also mean much more, bang -> vroom -> ca-ching.

We don't actually have to do any deep dwelling. Just 2 mins of reflection and we can learn a lot. Isn't it beautiful that one of our favourite hobbies can showcase SOOO much?

Look at fighting games. Most basic sh**. You hit a person enough, they die, they lose. They hit you enough, you die, they lose. But the way the game works for us, and the way we work for the game, has brought decades of insane development, thinking, learning.

You don't ever want to think about the chemistry?
Not really. I like to think about what life would be like in the game if the story is really immersive. But not about how it affects me in real life. Life is serious enough already without me trying to over analyse why I play games.

Gun go bang, car go vroom, sword go ching, spaceship go whoosh and that's enough for me.
 
 
 
Posted by polarbear
On Sunday 14 May 2017 10:35 AM
1
Great post. 100% affects your behaviour. There's probably a little bit of something in our personality that makes us more likely to veer towards a certain game type. I love MOBA's and squad based FPS, like Six Siege or Overwatch. In real life I'm definitely a team player and that's where my enjoyment in my work comes from.
 
 
 
Posted by Zolen
On Tuesday 16 May 2017 9:03 AM
1
Nice work Ben ! Actually something that I have thought about myself after thinking about my mood after playing certain types of games. I wonder if these "game influences" spread into wider society...