Psychology and video games: part three

Time to finish this trilogy with an Ewok celebration and not a whiny call of admiration for a one-dimensional love interest. For those of you who got that joke, you get a million points added to the imaginary score system I have adapted for every human in existence. For the others that didn’t, go re-watch the first and second Star Wars trilogies, then come back. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Ok all caught up? Great! Let’s dive head first into our final psychological additives that goes into video games: Subliminal Messaging and Relatable Themes.

Video Games have a tendency to let you, the player, come back and see much of what was previously seen through the game experience and also test the limits of how much unplayable content they can fit in so they can give you both a cinematic experience along with the interactive. Inside the cinematic experiences the developers add in are sometime subtle hints to a certain topic inside or outside the gaming universe, or so opaque of a hint that the message can only be registered by the mind if told that it is there up front. These instances can be classified as subliminal messaging, but only to a certain degree. And before I continue, yes the interactive portion can use it too, but let’s focus on one since it might save us some space on the blog. Now, these “hints” as I said before can be classified as subliminal, but only if they are set up the right way. The goal of a subliminal message is to inadvertently get you to think about, like, hate, or know something without letting you realize that you received any information at all. Take the movie Fight Club and its use of showing silhouettes. During the beginning, we are following the life of some unnamed character that apparently has a meek and boring existence. As we progress and have his voice narrate his inner feelings, we at certain times see flashes of a man wearing a red leather jacket and spiky hair. Many who saw this the first time saw them and wondered who he was, and many didn’t see him at all. But everyone who did see the movie was a victim of subliminal messaging since the goal of it was to present this character without even formally presenting him in the storyline. You got something out of it whether you consciously saw it or not since he was there and you must have caught a glimpse of him somewhere. Those silhouettes made the feel of the movie much more enjoyable and dove deeper into the insanity that the main character was driving himself into. Video games use this trick in a similar way, such as showing something that relates to a person or event later in the game, such as an enemy’s logo, a T.V. you see that has a building on it that you will end up going to later in the game but shuts off almost immediately as you see it, or even as subtle as setting up groups of words to spell out a sentence that reveals a truth. One good example of that last one is Dead Space, where if you take the first letters from each level name, it spells out “NICOLE IS DEAD” which tells the player that the love interest you are trying to look for half the time is going to or has kicked the bucket. Sure it’s hard to catch the first time, but hey this is what subliminal messaging does.  There’s not too much more to go on with this concept since it’s as straightforward as you are going to get. That being said, let’s move on to our final and most interesting topic (For me at least), relatable themes.

You see it all the time in video games that you play today: Characters that resemble your personality traits, events that go on inside the game’s universe that closely resemble experiences of your own, or feelings about certain morality choices that a group has towards a person or a belief. Without any of these parts constructed into video games of today, we’d be bored out of our minds of every new title that came out and would probably make the video game industry tank. Almost every person who plays video game plays for the sole purpose of trying to relate to something the game presents, or at the very least be put into an experience that they never could feel on their own without the experience the game gives them. I know that’s one of my main reasons for buying games nowadays, which definitely explains why I’m in love with the Kingdom Hearts series. I can totally relate to Sora, just minus the spiky hair and magic abilities. His angst and will to do what’s right for everyone totally emulates my own persona and just makes me want to play because he is like me. That and he’s voiced by Haley Joel Osment who’s young Sora voice is too cute to deny. Back on topic, I’m positive everyone who has played a video game has had some character or event that you have related with and made you want to pursue the game further. That is what a lot of developers these days try to emulate in their products so that they can sell it to a general populous, or to a certain demographic. Regardless of what the developer wants to give you, it is almost impossible to play any game and not tell yourself: “Hey, I had something like that happen to me.”. It Just makes that interactive experience that much greater and gives you a connection that speaks to you in ways other mediums can’t.

OK everyone that about wraps it up! Hope everyone enjoyed that three part blog post. I know, there are some things I could have touched on a bit more detail and clarified, but that’s what you get when you are told to keep blogs short and sweet (which I feel I will have a streak of not following to the teeth). See you guys next time.

-Davain M.

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