Why We Love Gaming
I could begin with psychological references to problem solving, neuro-stimulus, and drive reduction, but what I know is much more obvious than any of these perspectives. What I know is that yesterday I returned a few phone calls, mailed off a utility payment, and did some research. Today I am scaling a mountain with my guild of powerful allies to hunt down some primal foes. I have, in my travels been all over the world, and across many fantasy worlds. The places I encounter are never ordinary; the folks are never lacking character. I have lived a thousand lives, and saved even more. I can attempt the impossible as many times as necessary to achieve fluidity. We can fail without consequence, and die without permanence.
Every game style has something. Something the creators purport to challenge us, humor us, and hook us. Even classic arcade-style games give us a spinal tap, a sort of damping effect to our nervous systems. We develop this “zone” from which we can subside, mediate, or dominate. Speed, oh the speed! To a spectator they wonder how you can possible follow the mayhem. Paddle games, and side scrollers that move with such ferocity that you are forced to adapt or be defeated. Consciously it is impossible to achieve mastery, in as much as an instrumentalist has to develop muscle memory; you have to allow it to happen. It is still you, just not proactively, only reactively. I’ve said to my 11 year old many times, “it wasn’t me, it was my subconscious!”
The platform games that test our retention “jump, shoot, jump, don’t jump!’ reeling us back to the beginning if our lives are depleted, are direct challenges between developer and gamer. Beating them is a test of perseverance and determination. If you start you must finish. If you finish you must do it again! The original Super Mario Bros occupied about 480 or so screens. It has been completed in as little as 4:57 using level hoping “warp zones”, and about 19 minutes covering all levels. I don’t like those chaps very much. But yet another point to embrace – we can share times, cheats, and spoilers with each other, or just hermit up and compete with ourselves; challenging our personal best.
The evolution to 3D 3rd person adventure games gave developers of platform, or maze games more options for mechanical challenges. The games looked so good, and gave us the illusion that our character was somewhere inside the screen. No longer just a sprite, but somehow an entity with a colorful world wrapped around. The new perspectives made us think a little more, and the harder the better! When 3D newly defined space flight games as simulators, we all became test pilots, but we still miss Phoenix and Galaga.
Gamers come from all walks of life, yet there is a connection between us. Not only do we share respect for having the skills, but we also share the contingent. What has yet to be in our world is just as important as what has been. If you meet a gamer you will likely find that they are sharp witted, and functional in social situations, even if they are not comfortable. I’m guessing we didn’t all start out that way. Anything that speeds your response time, will carry on when you walk away from your console. Daphne Bavelier, a researcher in cognitive sciences has made this claim on many fronts, such as spatial awareness, pattern recognition, and data filtering (the bull).
Whether it is something deeply psychological, or we are looking for a challenge, or to feed our imaginative spirits, we live it and we love it!