Gaming Enlightenment

In reading books and watching movies, I have sometimes experienced moments of profound insight that have changed the way I live my life from that point forward. Have any of you experienced anything like this through video gaming? If not, do you think there is something fundamentally different about games that prevents this from happening?

I don't know about profound insights, but playing video-games ensured that I will never join the armed forces. Nothing like being forced to throw yourself into a grinder again and again for some arbitrary objective set by people far away. Seriously, f*ck the Meat Circus. In RL YOLO.

No, not really. Which is a shame.

We're all waiting for the Citizen Kane of video games, eh?

I do have a deeper appreciation for history though. And the military. There are moments, flickers of emotion from some games, but nothing has affected me anywhere near as deeply as books or film.

Haha, that link is great! Oh what a rabbit hole!

BioShock:Infinite. I've already said all I probably have to say about it so just...constants and variables.

Dunno if this counts as profound, but I’m reasonably sure that videogames have made me a significantly safer driver. Years of driving games have me picturing the “line”, being hyper-aware of braking points/distances and having a finely tuned instinctual response to a developing skid. You’d think that would tend to make me a worse driver – that is, a more risk-taking driver, and in my old turbo-powered 2-seat roadster, you may have been right, but in my current ride – the underpowered bus of a Honda Element, which is pretty much impossible to drive aggressively, it swings back the other way to getting the benefits of a deeper level of engagement with the task of driving without incurring the risks of pushing the limits.

The down side? It makes for me being hella nervous passenger, as well as being Judgey McJudgeface about other people’s poor driving choices (*waves to wife*).

That's true. I've certainly learned through games. Some of the podcast crew and guitar playing/music making would be another example. I still haven't experienced that sort of sudden 'enlightenment' moment that I have in other media though.

Good points about driving too. In decelerating through a corner with all the weight on the outside-front wheel, even if you're not spinning out at 60km/h, you certainly couldn't take any evasive maneuvers should the need arise. Racing drivers drive safely and in control (albeit at the edge at high speeds) and those same principles apply to slow speed driving. It brings to mind the 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast' adage.

To further the question, is it possible that by virtue of their being interactive games are more difficult to become immersed in? It seems counterintuitive, but could the fact that we are affecting the story make us less able to become lost in it? Of course the original question requires not just immersion but also content, some philosophical insight that we are brought to in such a way as to have a 'eureka' moment.

Perhaps another factor might be the extent to which we are able to identify with the characters involved. This brings to mind Julian's discussion of Life is Strange (that's not to say Julian is a teenage girl).

Sure! Playing Pokemon Snap during primary school gave me an interest in photography, which then lead to digital art and art as a general hobby. Throughout high-school and half of university, I was very *ahem* "arty" which definitely changed my world view. This lead to a bout of solipsism, which was a pretty...Interesting time in my life.

I mean, I came out the other side different. Better, hopefully. "Normal", ideally. But I very much attribute that side of my life to my interest in the arts. And that definitely came from adoring taking photos in Pokemon Snap.

Like others have said, individual games have deepened my appreciation and understanding of certain things. The opening of Battlefield 1's campaign, for example.

You're told that you're going in to frontline combat, and that you're not expected to survived. Then you're spawned as a nameless grunt, fight valiantly but futilely and die. And then you're told your, your date of birth... and the date of your death.

I found that hugely powerful and moving (and the combat itself intense and genuinely terrifying because I was desperately trying to stay alive).

I've also had modest revelations (of a kind) in two other games: Skyrim, and; Elite Dangerous. The revelations was: there's always grunt work that needs to be done - be it smithing armour or hauling cargo. It's not glamorous, it's not exciting, but it's necessary and has a quiet dignity all of its own... so suck it up and get on with it.

I suppose both of my insights have a similar theme, which is broadly that most people are never going to be the hero of any story - maybe not even their own - and there's nothing wrong with that. Just try to move forward steadily, trying not break things as you go.

In answer to your second question about why games generally fail to provide profound insights and revelations, I think its because the biggest and best-selling games are wish-fulfilment/power fantasy tosh because that is what we - the game buyers and players - want. We want to be the star cornerback playing a central role in a Championship-winning team . We don't want to be the back up quarterback, taking 10% of the practice reps then holding the clipboard on game day.

Until we're as willing to shell out £49.99 for a tale of frustration, tears, and final modest success, I don't think we're going to play games that force us to question and to reflect... I think.

The World Ends With You gave me a deeper appreciation of the value of diversity and exchanging ideas.

I am not sure if the immediacy of delivering content and message works against deriving lasting meaning in video games. And it seems it is much easier to create a film that is culturally relevant than a video game. Like for instance if someone were to try an make a video game decrying Islamophobia, it would more than likely fall on its face because video games almost can't help themselves from being heavy handed. I guess film has an advantage in that you are just capturing what is happening (truth) whereas video games need to be "created" or filtered through the medium.

There are certainly games and genres that have become social experiments: mmo's, Pokemon Go, Candy Crush. They toy with social hierarchy, social conflict, community, the willingness (or lack) to help others and peer pressure. On the flipside, many online games have become collaboration simulators/trainers.

Games like Age of Empires, probably 2 more specifically, injected world armies and warfare history into its stylized and simplistic battles. I don't think I would have ever known what a Janissary was if I hadn't played AoE 2. It also perhaps bucked the jingoistic assumption that European Caucasians were responsible for all, if not the most, important technological warfare advances in history.

One other obstacle is that games largely either shock you or make your feel triumphant. Sometimes the triumph comes at a cost and the game encourages you to sacrifice or at least recognize it. But perhaps a disturbing thought is that most often games are somewhat narcissistic with sacrifice. It is you against the world with impossible odds and only a few clue givers and grateful but bureaucratically hamstrung superiors on your side.

Jonman wrote:

, but I’m reasonably sure that videogames have made me a significantly safer driver.

Bit of a tangent but I distinctly remember one time, about 15 years ago when I was playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto.... 3? I guess? One of them anyway. I played it so much that I once got in my car IRL and set off from my house on the right side of the road (I'm in the UK). Fortunately no damage done and I realised quite quickly!

In terms of profound gaming moments... no, plenty of great ones, but nothing life altering. But to be honest I can't really say that films have affected me in that way either. Schindler's List I guess has come closest.

In the 5 or so years, I've been struggling quite a bit of feeling overwhelmed with life, the things I needed to do at work, just everything all at once and not seeing a way out of it.

I'd talked about video games in the past with my therapist, and I told him that I feel the same way that I do when playing an RPG, and the character enters a town, and like 20 people all have quests for my character, and suddenly my brain was just like "nope, too much" and I'd quit the game.

He suggested that I explore that more, and work through the issue. Play more RPG's, challenge myself with dealing with quest lists, and solving things one at a time instead of looking at the entire volume of quests I needed to solve. And I did. I focused on playing more RPG's, and more open world games, and working my way through the quest logs, solving each one at a time, and not worrying about all the other ones that were still unsolved.

It wasn't really an "aha" moment, but more of just persistence. Playing games when I wanted to quit, when it felt like I was getting overwhelmed and helping myself focus on just the current task and quest.

It sounds silly writing about it here, but it was stuff that was triggering panic attacks in me before, so being able to push up against something that was triggering me in a "safe" environment of a game was very helpful.

I wish I could say that the experience totally cured me of those feelings of being overwhelmed, but it REALLY has helped. I'm now using task lists more and more in my daily life to help bring order to the chaos and it's been helping.

Skraut wrote:

It sounds silly writing about it here, but it was stuff that was triggering panic attacks in me before, so being able to push up against something that was triggering me in a "safe" environment of a game was very helpful.

I wish I could say that the experience totally cured me of those feelings of being overwhelmed, but it REALLY has helped. I'm now using task lists more and more in my daily life to help bring order to the chaos and it's been helping.

Doesn’t sound silly at all. I’ve often wondered if video games could be utilized in this way. Thanks for sharing.

Skraut, maybe a system like the Franklin Planner would be of interest to you, as well. It helped me deal practically with the same sort of reaction to being overwhelmed at work.

Yeah I’m alternating between a couple different systems right now, one is just simple note paper which I’ve labeled “Quest Log” to remind me to treat work like a game

That’s amazing! That’s such a productive and valuable use of the medium! I’m not sure it’s the right word but it was fortuitous that you identified with games in such a way that they could act as an analogue of more real world issues you were facing, allowing you to examine them in more detail and ‘practice’ techniques to manage them. It really illustrates the power of games, and the converse, as you say; ‘real life’ is not so different from a game. Thank you so much for sharing!

Playing world of warcraft was the reasoning behind a lot of profound moments, but that was never because of the game. It was because of the people, and, specifically, because of how people treat each other due to the relative anonymity that playing online offers (for good and for bad).