Although I haven’t played them very much lately, I am a big fan of video games. I remember late nights being up until 3 a.m., my mind buzzing from the virtual spaces I had just spent the past five or six hours in. They were incredibly compelling mental environments. My favorite game types were first- and third- person shooters. Marathon, Oni, and Halo were among my favorites. After those, any game with zombies in it would usually work pretty well for me, too.
The thing about those games that fascinates me to this day is that I can remember the experiences of exploring those 3D virtual spaces the way I remember moving around urban or architectural spaces in the real world. My memory of virtual spaces is vivid and strikingly similar in quality to my memories of the real spaces they are based on. To me, that’s just nuts. It makes me say “wow.”
“Engagement” is the other thing that blows me away about video games. That I can stay so focused on a task for so long at such a consistently amped emotional level makes me marvel at the people who designed for those experiences. They know something about what makes people tick whether it’s scientifically based or more intuitively based.
Tom Chatfield talks about this kind of engagement in his TEDTalk: 7 ways games reward the brain. He talks about it in terms of how games are like a big laboratory that gather vast amounts of data about their users. They are giving us insight into our psychology. He draws some clear lessons about what we’ve gleaned from video games. Video games are giving us insight into our psychology. These lessons can influence the way we approach educational, business, and societal goals. It’s a matter of figuring out how to apply the lessons. And given the success demonstrated by the game industry, figuring out how to apply those lessons beyond gaming are worth the effort.
Also by Tom Chatfield: “Rage against the machines.”