Monday, 24 March 2014

Gaming Effects Your Perception of People

The psychological effects of playing FPS games like GTA:SA didn't become evident to me until recently.  Recently I played some FPS after a long period (many years) of not playing them.  After I started playing them again I noticed that I was sweating profusely during my sleep, and was having dreams about groups of people chasing after me; groups of people that wanted to do me wrong. 

These dreams are reminiscent of a particularly noteworthy dream that I had several years ago in which I was being chased around the set of GTA:SA by a group of six Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalikes; who were intent on ripping my arms and legs off.  I managed to evade them by hiding on the top of a bridge in Los Santos down by the stadium.  Not a pleasant dream I think you'll agree.  It's noteworthy because the gist of it is similar to the gist of many FPS games: the player is attacked by a number of hostile enemies who are intent on doing the player wrong.

This got me thinking: what if the games that you play end up effecting the way that you perceive the outside world, and the people that inhabit it - the typical John and Jane Doe's walking down the street.  After all, if you're playing a game in which the world is basically one big hostile arena full of humans that want to kill you (in most games the AI characters are rarely friendly or benign), then might that cause you to perceive the world as fundamentally hostile to you (ignoring the question of whether or not the world is indeed hostile to you).  Hostile even on trivial matters: like riding a push-bike along the road wonder which one of the pedestrians walking along the pavement is going to push you; or standing at the supermarket checkout wondering if you're going to be mugged by the guy standing behind you.

All of this could lead one to the conclusion that the various doom-sayers in the media are correct, that computer games are violent things that screw up the minds of the people who play them.  But this is wrong.  It's wrong because it's based on the assumption that the the world can only be lived one way and all people who go against this way are wrong.  This is the belief of various people whose belief systems have a strong dualistic strain in them (like monotheists) who divide the world into 'right and wrong', or 'us and them', 'my way or the highway'.  An alternative to this particular world view is to perceive the world as more 'cause and effect' or 'swings and roundabouts', in as much as there are many different choices that one can make and they each have effects that could be good or bad depending on your perspective.  Not everyone wants to live on a hydroponics farm growing potatoes and wearing matching jumpsuits, but some people do.  That's fine.  'Each to their own' as they say.  As men have pointed out throughout history in various ways, the tree of life is a big tree that can accommodate many different birds.  The more birds that tree can accommodate, the more like the tree of life it is.  So it follows that more variety is better than less variety.  Variety means that there is more than one way of living your life.  Variety it means options, it means choice, and because there is not really a right or wrong, it means consequences (the results of the choice you made).

Computer games have many effects that have been logged by the media over the years.  While most of them have been negative, which is unsurprising because the MSM is for various reasons hostile to computer games and technology in general (read any newspaper and the majority of articles will be not be about technology of any kind, even though the modern world is contingent on technology for it's very existence), some articles do highlight the positive effects of computer games.  Below are a few links from Psychology Today gleaned from a brief internet search that highlight the potential positive effects of games:

The Social Benefits of Video Gaming
The positive effect of action video games: Speed of visual processing
The Many Benefits, for Kids, of Playing Video Games
Reciprocity, Urban Planning, and SimCity Social
Lastly, I'll give a short list of some games that I've played over the years, and what they've taught me:
Alpha Centauri
Learn about 'technology trees', which are based on the philosophical idea of contingency.  For example, if you want your society to have a high-tech rail transport system based on magnetic levitation, then that system is contingent on the existence of a number of other tangibles and intangibles, including: knowledge of magnets; high-tech resource gathering; social stability for scientists to research in; a secure food supply for your population.
It's not an abandonware or freeware game yet, so you'll need to buy it from a high street shop or online from somewhere like Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US).
Sim Health
A game that allows the player learn about the health-care system in the USA (as it stood in the 1990s). It uses the political quadrant as a foundation stone for the philosophy of the player
Download it for free HERE.
Transport Tycoon Deluxe
Learn the importance of thinking/planning ahead by constructing a railway network that can cope with increased rail traffic, and also anticipates how a city will geographically grow (and infringe on potential railway lines).  A player who builds a railway network without thinking ahead will suffer for it in the long term, much like urban planners who build cities 'biologically', and then end up with an infrastructure that cannot be enhanced.  To see a real life example of this look at unplanned medieval European cities or their modern day equivalent - slums, and compare them with planned cities like those built in the USA or the Roman Empire (which are characterised by square living quarters and broad, straight road networks).  Slums suffer from narrow roads, ad-hoc building designs, and other flaws which limit their carrying capacity and the quality of life for the people living there.  These planning flaws also make it difficult for them to be enhanced with modern technology.  Well planned cities on the other hand are much more capable of dealing with increases in population density and are much more capable of coping with technological improvements (like electricity, sewerage, telecommunications).  This shows the benefits of thinking ahead in terms of urban planning.  Benefits which can also be felt by everyone, to a certain extent, who decides to plan ahead rather than living a totally ad-hoc life (some ad-hoc is essential, after all, life cannot be totally planned out in advance).
Download it for free HERE.
There's a mod that makes the game more realistic and playable that can be downloaded HERE.

Capitalism 2
Chock full of business terms that you could find in any business studies textbook.  The game includes the three common divisions of industry: primary (resource extraction like maize/corn farming), secondary (manufacturing, like canning), tertiary (retail, like supermarkets), quarternary (service industries, like advertising).  Perhaps approximate to a GCSE level view of the economy.
It's not an abandonware or freeware game yet, so you'll need to buy it from a high street shop or online from somewhere like Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US).
Europa Universalis 2
This game is history in action.  It allows the player to learn about important historical events by experiencing them first hand rather than reading about them from another persons perspective.  It also allows the player to experience the past from a non-fatalistic perspective, i.e. the player lives history without knowing what the future will turn out like, because he has a direct hand in how it will turn out.
Another bonus is the soundtrack which is a medley of period tunes from over the centuries including more well known works like Verdi's seasons.  It's a good way to accustom/acclimatise yourself to classical music if you're not used to listen to the genre but would like to.
An outstanding mod called AGCEEP (short for Alternative Grand Campaign/European Expansion Pack) should be downloaded as it adds more detail to the game and corrects some cartographical errors in the official game.
It's not an abandonware or freeware game yet, so you'll need to buy it from a high street shop or online from somewhere like Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US).
Download the mod for free HERE.


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