Friday, May 20, 2016

What Do your Gaming Habits Say About You?

Modern games call for a diverse skillset. Problem solving, dexterity, spatial reasoning, memory, and communication are just a few of the many intertwined abilities our brains are juggling at 60 frames per second. But why?

Will your super-gaming skills save the human race one day?

If you're a "gamer" statistics say you spend about 6-7 hours a week playing video games. Most of us have probably never stopped to ask ourselves why we do this, but a lot of research has been done on the topic. A great place to start is here...

Your brain is wired to prioritize needs this way for survival. When you fulfill a need, you're rewarded with happy feelings. Often we must sacrifice higher needs to maintain lower ones. For example you might continue working a dead-end job (financial security) and sacrifice pursuing your dream (self actualization).

But video games allow us to simulate need-fulfillment without any risk! That's why they're so addictive. With a video game you can live your dream of becoming a warlord without any of the repercussions. Conversely, you can enjoy fulfilling needs that have already been fulfilled in real life, like building yourself a shelter--while sitting comfortably in your house! 

Not everyone enjoys the same kind of games. The following 2 studies demonstrate relationship between age, sex, personality, and your gaming preferences. Read on... 

[AUTHOR'S NOTE] Social science is an extremely "soft" science, it is based on conclusions derived from statistical evidence (read: generalizations) and it demonstrates trends, not rules or laws. The following studies were not performed by me.

Personality and Video Game Preference. (Click to See The Study)
  • Extroverted players tend to like casual games and games with party or music themes. 
  • Introverts (marginally) preferred Action RPGs, MMORPGs, and Strategy Games.
  • Sports, Racing, Simulation, and Fighting games are best liked by "conscientious" people (punctual, orderly, high test scores)
  • Action, Adventure, and Platformers scored highest with people who are looking for new and unique experiences.
  • (From a Different Study) First Person Shooters and Action games correlate with aggressiveness in young males.

People also change as they age. Here's some interesting data, charting players' mean age & gender across different game genres.

But What about Me? 

It'd be impossible to psychoanalyze every gamer on the planet in one blog post. But I'd like to help you do it yourself! Below is a list of common game genres, and the type of experiences they typically offer us. This list was compiled from reading developer interviews, game design guides, and published articles about each of the genres.

If you find that you generally gravitate toward a certain genre this could indicate:

  1. Your cognitive strengths. Maybe you like to solving problems with creative solutions, or by sheer skill, maybe you're inclined to be nurturing. Your choice of games might indicate which cognitive abilities you are most inclined to use (and maybe you don't get enough chance to use in everyday life).
  2. A need in your life that is unfulfilled. Simulating the fulfillment of this need makes you happy.
  3. A need in your life that is too easily fulfilled. Our brains evolved to build shelters, form tribes, hunt & gather food and raid other tribes. Modern life has removed the need for any of this without providing our animal instincts an outlet to express themselves. 

Game Genres

  • Action - Use skill to dominate. Feel your safety threatened, then feel powerful as you overcome your enemy with dexterity & reflexes. This anxiety-release mechanic releases adrenaline and puts you in "flow state", a zone where your mind fully concentrates free of distraction.
    • First Person Shooters - Use your primal instincts, fight-or-flight decision making. By mimicking human point-of-view and using the most realistic graphics possible these games simulate real life and fully immerse you in the action. They also allow you to be aggressive without consequences.  *Source New Yorker "Why Gamers Can't Stop Playing First Person Shooters"
  • Strategy - Use intellect & creativity to dominate. Make meaningful decisions that determine the course of events. The slow pace of strategy games allows you to use your higher intellect and reasoning, dexterity should not be a large factor in determining the victor of a strategic match. *Some very helpful ideas from Criteria for Strategy Game Design
    • Tower Defense - Defend territory; create a safe space. The Tower Defense phenomenon is basically a grown-up version of children's love of building box forts.  *The Saturday Paper: Wherever Whenever
  • RPG - Nurture & grow, use empathy, be part of a great story, be somebody else. RPGs immerse us in the minutiae of another's' life. By guiding your character's' growth by making both big decisions and small, you psychologically build an attachment to your character's and feel invested in their success.
    • Adventure - Experience novelty. Use problem solving. Do things at your own pace. Adventure games focus on story and travel. They often force us to slow down in order to solve a puzzle, then reward us for solving it with access to new areas.