Monday, 15 September 2008

The 'Affect' Discussion

What affect does a videogame have on a player? A watcher? What about on wider society? These questions have yet to be satisfactorily answered, with critics lambasting games for being so-called 'murder simulators', much to the horror of gaming advocates, while the same advocates say that videogames are an emerging art form. The problem with this position is that Art does affect - and should affect. Are videogame advocates trying to have their cake and eat it too?

I'm definitely on the affirmitive side of the 'Art'/'Not-Art' divide - I think games are (if not in nature, certainly in content) quite like Films, Books, Television and other media. And I don't think that Grand Theft Auto is a 'murder simulator', but what affect is it really having on the players?

A good friend of mine, a second year psychology student who writes the blog Lexje's Insights, brought up the issue of videogame affect, particularly in regard to frustration and anger generated by games.

A game could be relaxing as it is a recreation etc... But also (especially as i have witnessed a lot of Halo Tantrums) people can get really stressed and angry about what they are playing. One relaxed the other stressed out; the same thing could have 2 different effects on people. Someone probably needs to create some kind of gaming perception scale.

I thought this idea of a 'perception scale' was interesting enough to warrant sharing with my readers. So, putting it out there - what do you think? Should games be ranked according to frustration generated in the player? Can games even be labelled in this way? Should perhaps we be categorising the players (ourselves) somewhere between 'easily frustrated' and 'cool calm and collected, instead?

I'll be the first to admit that a lot of what we get out of media like games and film is a reflection of what's already inside of us - like holding up a mirror to aspects of ourselves - but I also believe there's undoubtedly a part played by the media itself.

Extra Credit: Watch this video of a kid getting upset while playing Halo (Note: This video skirts the cruel/funny line at certain points, but it also illustrates a point about how affecting videogames can be.)


Anonymous said...

Hey, love the blog.

I think that the reaction to frustrating games or frustrating parts of games depends just as much on who is playing it as what it is that is causing the frustration.

I find that even just the general mood I am in is a key factor in how I react as well... It would probably take years of recording reactions from thousands of people to get any meaningful data to analyse this. (Sounds like just the sort of thing the internet was made for...)

On a more general note I quite often find that whatever mood I'm in it tends to be exaggerated or exacerbated by the game I'm playing. In other words, if I'm in a positive mood then I'd probably (quite literally) grin and bear anything thrown at me, but if I'm in a bad mood I will probably unconsciously *seek* for things that will frustrate me.

I hope that little bit of rambling makes some kind of sense to you or someone :P

Ben Abraham said...

Hey there rjashton, thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts.

I think you're quite sensible thinking of it as 'half and half', the more I think about it the more applicable it seems. Like you say, even a mediocre game can be improved by being in just that right mood, and the reverse is true. I can't think of a particular example, but I'm sure I've played games in a really bad mood and hated them not because they were bad, but they were bad for the mood I was in.

Anonymous said...

The intersection of games and the gamer's psychology... now that's an untapped field of research.