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Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Mass of Psychological Video Games

Video games have a varied history ranging from almost nonexistent to full blown media uproars. Today I'm here to talk about what we can call psychological games. Now, psychological games are much different from ordinary games. When you play something like Grand Theft Auto, not a lot of psychological thought enters the player's mind. If any thought does appear in this gamer's mind it's more along the lines of, "How big of an explosion can I create?" or, "I wonder how long I can go on a killing spree before dying?" If you're having trouble in seeing my logic of how Grand Theft Auto 4 can be psychological then just watch this video:

Now when you see this video a lot of things come to mind like, "why did this guy take this much time just to make an explosion?" I have entertained this idea of the psychology of video games in a whole of like 'why would you do that' or 'what was your motivation to do that' kind of questions. This, however, is just a small and general portion of psychology in gaming.

Today I'm going to be focusing on a few games that specialize in either messing with the gamer's head or have mechanics that accidentally messed with a gamer's head. One game I purchased a while ago was Dark Souls. If you have no idea what Dark Souls is, here's the trailer for it:

This game is insanely popular with a decent following for one reason: it is unforgivably tough. Every single enemy is more than capable enough of killing you. No matter how strong you get in this game, the weakest enemy still can kill you if given the opportunity. Now why would someone want to play this game? Well a couple of reasons. First, the game is insanely difficult so it's both addicting to play the game and super satisfying when you actually do complete something say slaying one of those massive bosses you may have seen in the video above. The overall tone of the game is very bleak and alone. This world is dead and so are it's inhabitants. This gives you a certain feeling of claustrophobia because you know that behind you can be lurking yet another enemy waiting to kill you. The game actually allows other real players across the world to come, kill you and take your souls which are used for currency as well as making your character stronger.

The last things I'm going to talk about are four games that have recently gained popularity called SCP: Containment Breach and Slender, and a game from yesteryear called Silent Hill 2 and one more recently called Bioshock. I'm not actually going to show you any videos of this because these games are quite scary and if you're brave enough you can go watch a video of them on Youtube.
Now both of these games are completely free and made by independent parties. If you're a person who doesn't like horror movies or games then we can see eye to eye on this matter. However, these free to play games, specifically designed to scare you, are very popular. Why is that? One can argue that fear is the final medium that we all can feel with media. When I go into a heartfelt movie or a sad movie, usually I'm not sad or feeling anything other than wanting to go and refund my ticket. But fear is universal, and is used a lot whether to shock someone or to make them think twice before entering a dark hallway. Why do people download these games? Well usually it's because these games have a unique style. In Slender, you're main objective is to avoid Slenderman (look it up, it's kind of weird) and collect these pages to kill him, I guess, it's never really made clear. Your only way to see him is with a single flashlight. If you see him, the screen starts to fuzz. If you don't get away quick enough, eventually all you see is a completely fuzzed screen and Slenderman's blank face staring at you from inside your computer.
In SCP, the game is even more weird. The graphics are horrible at times, but the atmosphere is really what gets you. There's a mechanic in the game where you need to blink every so often. How this is implemented is there are these really creepy enemies who can only kill you if you're not looking at them, so blinking can be a life or death sentence.
In Silent Hill 2, you're a lone man wandering a nightmarish town with creatures waiting to kill you. The creatures are all incredibly creepy but weirdly enough, every single insane character has a deep psychological purpose tied to the protagonist. Back when the PlayStation 2 was at the peak of it's popularity, it didn't have as much processing power as the newer PlayStation 3. To compensate for this, the game developers decided to do something creative.
Lastly is Bioshock. At first glance, this game is seen as being a steam punk-ish first person shooter with some cool stuff to boot. This man is helping you out named Atlas (probably reminiscent of the book Atlas Shrugged). He gives you tasks and before each he keeps saying, "Would you kindly...?" which has become synonymous with the game's franchise despite only being used in one game. It's incredibly unusual to say the least. At first it's thought that he's just a very polite man but then he says it every single time like it's a catch phrase or something. Eventually a shocking twist is found out when you're forced to kill a man named Andrew Ryan who runs the undersea dystopia aptly named 'Rapture', or at least what's left of it. A bunch of things happen but the final conclusion is that 'Would you kindly' is actually a hypnotic phrase designed to mind control our protagonist into doing whoever says the phrase's bidding. The last thing Andrew Ryan said still chills me to the bone: "A man chooses, a slave obeys."

There are many reasons why psychology is prevalent in games as well as movies and books. Perhaps it's a way to draw in their audience or to make it feel real. Whatever it is, it works and it's not going away anytime soon.

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