First of all, I’m an aspiring game designer, so my opinions are going to be shaped by that. Along that vein, most of the thoughts that I’m going to discuss here were inspired by the following videos. I’ll do my best to make the ideas clear on their own, but they’re posted here just in case you want to explore any of these ideas further on your own. All credit for the videos posted here go to the team at Extra Credits.
I think the best place to start this discussion is by dispelling the myth that people never change. The best way for me to prove what I think is a fairly obvious statement is by placing it on a macroscopic scale. It’s pretty obvious when looking out across history that people have been changing for as long as there have been people around to change. It just happens so slowly and with so much friction that it’s pretty hard to accept that change is happening all the time. So here I stand, in a changing world, attempting to predict the course of the things and people around me.
I think that video games are one of the most important things in the world today because people are increasingly ready to open themselves up to being influenced by video games. People have always been influenced by art. Paintings, music, books, films, and even television inspire people to find the deeper meaning in the things that happen to them everyday. Video games have an even greater chance to do this because they make the player responsible for the progression of the story line. This does two things: it gives the player a sense of agency, and it makes it easier for players to learn things about themselves.
First let’s begin with the sense of agency. By allowing people to have this sense of control over the outcome of stories, people begin to make more decisions in their everyday lives in an attempt to achieve a desired outcome in the real world. People who don’t have a sense of agency in their lives tend to earn less and have higher rates of teen pregnancy because these people believe that these life events just happen and are out of their control. On the other hand, research shows that people who exhibit a sense of agency tend to make more choices and be better of in life because they make their goals happen. Even when something unexpected does occur, people with a greater sense of agency tend to be more willing to keep pressing onward than those who don’t make decisions over their lives.
Now let’s talk about a little soul searching. The greatest strength of video games as a medium, and another way in which they change us as we go about our daily lives, is that they help us to explore our personalities by having us react to extreme situations in a safe environment. While films and books often depict heroes making grand decisions in touch situations, the viewer of a film or the reader of the book has no obligation to place themselves in that situation or make that choice for themselves. In a video game, the player is the hero, and the story does not progress until the player has confronted that choice for themselves. Would you sacrifice a hundred lives to save a thousand? Is it better to be alive without free will or dead? Would you cut off your own arm in order to save the life of your son? As you play through video games, you have to make these choices, and in doing so, you learn something new about your own values in life. My own life was changed the first time I played Assassin’s Creed and truly learned to understand the saying “Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted,” and I’ve had many moments while playing Mass Effect and other role playing games when I’ve just had to set the controller down and contemplate the meaning of life. By helping people to discover these inner parts of themselves, players are more informed as they go about their real lives, allowing them to make decisions faster and with more confidence and to process information faster.
Finally, I’m going to talk about what the videos above termed “21st Century Skills.” Because of things like the Internet, instant communication, the ability for ideas to quickly become wide-spread, and interactive forms of entertainment and fiction. The future is promising to be a more communicative world. For this reason, people are going to need to have decision making skills, communication skills, and critical thinking skills. Games are going to be increasingly important in our education systems in the upcoming years because they not only teach people all of these skills, but they also engage people and help players to learn these skills in such a way that the player enjoys it. Because of this, the information will stick with the player longer and the skills will become more engrained in their everyday lives. Clearly, video games, will play a major role in shaping people in the years to come.