Cogswell student hones in on psychology and games.

Here is a guest blog from a Cogswell Digital Art and Animation student, Davain.

Hey everyone. First post of my blogging career. Kind of important isn’t it? Well I hope that I can deliver great topics to discuss and bias/unbiased views on said topics. As well as exceptional grammar since if I can’t even form a coherent sentence, what were all my 12 Language Arts classes for?

Ok, so today’s topic: psychology and games… well psychology and video games to be more exact. In this blog we will discuss the connections between psychological studies and how they are used by both publishing and developing companies in the video game industry. It’s a really big topic that I think about daily since video game development is something I want to do as a profession. It’s pretty big people. So where to begin? Let’s start off with some psychological terms that we are going to be referencing during this thing so you guys don’t get too confused: conditioned and unconditioned response, essentially training someone to do something or even not to do something; subliminal messaging, a hidden message or picture in plain sight, but is de-emphasized in order to trick the subject into thinking about whatever it is your trying to show or tell them without letting them know consciously, but subconsciously; fight or flight reflexes, either you do it, or you walk the other way…there is no in-between;  and I know this isn’t an official term, but I also want to talk about how video games use recognizable situations within their storytelling in order for the player to connect much more with the story and feel much more immersed in the game playing experience.

Let’s start off with conditioned and unconditioned reponses in video games. This is beyond overused because it’s what ALL games use in order to function at a level of enjoyment. You buy a new game, all shiny and new and you start playing. What’s always at the beginning of almost every game that is made nowadays? A tutorial or some level designed to show you the controls of the game and what rhythm you will be using them. You don’t always have to go through these tutorials, but for this blogs purposes let’s stick with the assumption that every person who plays a game goes through it. The game at this point is telling you how to play it and what commands you can give it to grant you success in its progression and if you plan on finishing any game these days, you’ll want to listen. But not all video games nowadays do the traditional tutorial level. Most tutorial levels in the past had you go through a level that wasn’t even a part of the actual storyline. It would put you in a room where you are free to try out the controls and not be punished for doing them wrong.

These days, it’s a mix of styles. Sometimes you get games that do the traditional style, and sometimes you get games that immerse you into the story and give you control commands while you play. On rare occasion, you may get no information at all and be expected to get to a certain part of the game before they tell you how to really perform the complex actions it is capable of. All are effective in telling the player how the game works in its own way, but sometimes the player gets bored or becomes uninterested because the controls are obvious to them or they have already played a previous installment and the controls are already conditioned in their heads. Some might want to skip the tutorial all together and just jump head first into the game, but can’t because the game requires you to go through a long tedious tutorial level. There are many different scenarios that come with tutorials in games, but all these different styles all are trying to do one thing: train your mind to perform the games actions with little to no effort. The developers want to train you, in a very small amount of time, how to perform actions that are new and have you execute them so you can get to the next level…or stage, world, plane of existence, etc. By having an intuitive demonstration of the games controls you will be using throughout the game, you give the player their own conditioning period where they may or may not choose to use certain methods to progress and have them feel like they can understand instructions faster than they originally thought. It’s one of the most important part of a video game and one of the main conditioning tools developers use to teach people how to play. Without it, we’d all go through trial and error for hours on end until we got it right. I don’t know about you, but I like to know how to play my games.

Phew…there’s a LOT to cover within each of these topics and I didn’t even get to touch into unconditioned responses. I’d love to continue onto fight or flight and subliminal messaging, but I think I’m hitting my limit for this blog alone. Check back next week for the continuation of this topic. Hopefully I can put this into much more concise sentences.

See ya guys.

-Davain

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