Video games have taken a strange place in culture as the world develops. With E3 2018 about to wrap up, I wanted to take a look at how video games may shape culture as they become more sophisticated and wide spread. Let's start with the Psychology of Avatars.
Studies have been conducted on multiple games and how the avatars people create effect their overall psychology. The consensus tends to be that a co-relation can be observed in a person's overall image of themselves, and what kind of characteristics the avatar they create will have. If you've ever made a game avatar this consensus probably won't surprise you.
Most gamers have at one point or another had issue with self-image. Not because they're gamers, but because they're people. It's pretty common place in a culture that places social stature on such a high pedestal. Will this trend stay the same as the technology for games becomes more sophisticated? What kind of effects will it have when full-dive virtual reality becomes reality?
Will a gamer be able to say the same about creating an avatar when they can look in the mirror and feel like that avatar? Would this do good? Or would it do harm? I think that highly depends on the person. Playing virtual reality, especially one that can simulate real feeling and emotion, will be a pleasure(or pain for some) that should be treated with caution not unlike any other addictive activity.
Could we use full-dive and avatars to create therapy plans for people with self-esteem issues? What if someone who has been obese their whole life could dive and feel the value of being fit? Could it influence their decisions in the real world? Or will it simply drag them into a world more often where they don't have to work to live the way they want?
Could it be possible that full-dive could create a psychological epidemic among low self-esteem players? How would full-dive effect our reactions to death and killing? Would killing in a game make it seem easier to kill in real life?
These questions are absolutely valid ones we should keep in mind as we move forward, but there are also positive ideas to come from this. Full-dive virtual reality could make games and telling stories infinitely more entertaining. It could also make them infinitely more educational. Stories have always been used to purvey an idea or view that an average person may not even have the chance to experience.
It's all about perspective, and we could absolutely use this technology to help spread the idea of perspective. You're much more inclined to understand the moral of a story if you're actively involved in it. Especially if you immerse within the game enough to tie your psychology to that of the avatar.
What if it's not full-dive technology, but holographic? Would the psychology of avatars be important to telling stories with violence in them? Or would we be able to have the same level of game immersion knowing we were in the real world - regardless of whether we're truly safe or not? Would killing a hologram, even for the sake of a game, feel any different than killing a real person?
That heavily depends on how the game is designed. If the enemy poofs into a cloud of smoke and disappears, there's far less consequence to this psychologically. However, if a game developer created a sense of realism in killing, would killing a game sprite feel wrong? Obviously there are a plethora of questions and not a lot of answers until we reach this point.
I do think it's important to keep these ideas in mind as we move forward with gaming. Take it from someone who grew up far too immersed in another world and the avatar I played. You bet your shiny metal ass I wanted to be my avatar more than I wanted to be me at most times. It was a pretty easy mentality to have when the game was far simpler than reality.
This immersion could also create stronger bonds between social players. It could create a climate of war that's fought using pixels and respawns, rather than blood and heartbreak. It could also create never before seen level of cyber crime. What if a hacker could break into your VR headset and use the technology to implant ideas, or even desires? Who's to say a government couldn't control a population using neural technologies in such a manner?
There are far too many questions for me to ask in one blog post about this particular subject. Will the technology change the culture? Or will the culture change the technology? The future holds many possibilities. Whether they're positive or negative outcomes is heavily dependent on the individual and how they consume video games.
Regardless of the outcome, I know I'm excited to see what the future of video games brings!