NEW MEDIA: Video Games as Social Modifier

One of the benefits of being introduced to video games in group play is the ability to note the social aspects of the activity. 

Normally, I think I am a nice person, willing to share toys, thinking of other people’s wants and needs within a group atmosphere as well as on a day to day basis where one has some time to think and plan.  Well in this experiment with the writers group and the gameplay, except for the needed assistance from those who were more familiar with the controls, once I "got into" the story, the room could have disappeared for all I cared.

This is not unlike quietly sitting in a corner of the couch with a good book, but with the visual quality of watching a movie or television program with others, there is the capability of remarking upon the medium to others sharing the experience.  But with movies or tv, no one has more control (or in fact, any) over the story as it unfolds.  At the keyboard, the controlling user most likely feels more a part of the action than do the onlookers (who most likely are either bored or itching to get at the keyboard themselves), and foregoes the interaction with human people to relate instead to the virtual people on the screen with whom he/she has a shared interest in the mission of the game.  All this being just a fancy way of saying that video gaming leans toward antisocial behavior when in the midst of activity.

Sure, the gameplay is discussed after the fact, similar to discussing a book or movie, and that at least takes us out of ourselves for some sharing of the excitement or passing of information.  But what surprised me was that I never even thought to give up the controls and offer anyone else a chance at them.  Looking back, aside from the more mature audience in this scenario, I could well imagine someone whining to Steve, "She won’t let me play…!"

No doubt that it is the fact of the interaction required that fosters this selfishness, but it also relates to the notion of reader/user immersion in a well-written or presented medium.  (Reading through to the end of the page before noticing that someone’s asking you a question–"Huh, what?") There is also a sense of immediacy in a video game, and we forget the pause button is there to allow for the halt of the breakdown of family communications as well as stopping the action!

I haven’t researched the social effects of video gameplay, but I’m sure that it has had a defining influence on how we communicate with others.  Good, as well as bad; introverts may become more confident given the sense of control over the actions and outcomes of their characters as they manipulate through a narrative, while others may, as I, reveal a selfishness that would not be as evident in the reality of dealing outside of game playing.

Hmmm.  Then too, it could have been just me.  As always, learning anything new teaches us about ourselves as well.

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