Total Immersion: 2012 Video Game Trends - Modern Psychology
As the present quickly passes into the past, we are ever looking forward into the future, and so are the makers of the worlds hottest video games. This means that diligent designers, rigorous researchers and exhausted executives are working their butts of to bring you everything you could ever ask for from your video games. PC games, console games, mobile games - all electronic games are quickly evolving towards total immersion.
What does Psychology have to do with video games?
If it weren't for our amazing and often eccentric brains, there wouldn't be any video games, nor anyone to enjoy them (or hate them, depending on the game). And because the mind of the player is the most important part of any digital game, the best way to cultivate fantastic multi-billion dollar hit games - the makers of said games need to understand just what makes the mind of the gamer tick.
And it's well over the simplistic idea of having an avid gamer design the games that we play. It takes the refined services of an experienced cerebral studier, to really get to the heart of the mind inside a true gamer. If you were to just take a group of gamers, who understand that they like video games, but have never taken the time to analyze and understand why they and others actually like the games on a deep inner level - you would only see being produced for certain types of gamers, which is obviously what we've been seeing a lot of over the last few decades. Yet, if you add to your design team, a skilled psychologist or anthropologist (or even both), who also happens to be an avid gamer, you'll soon start to see just how limitless a game design team can really be. This happens because you've now connected the phenomenon of terrific accidents which turned into hit video games, with the science of understanding and application.
Basically, you are rewriting the equation from:
Great Video Games = Gamers
Gamers = Great Video Games
When you view things this way, you create the formula for the epic wins that true gamers seek when they immerse themselves into digital worlds of fantasy and stimulation. The gamer is where the game really starts, and once designers are able to grasp how and why gamers enjoy the games that they do, then the limits release and users find themselves in worlds they'd never imagined before, which has the significant side effect of leaving those users begging for more.
Select game designing companies have understood this concept for some time, but it hasn't been until recently that they've really begun to harness the opportunities available to them through adding more core psychology and human understanding to their game schemes.
What this all means...
While there has always been some amount of involvement of modern psychology in video game creation, the real trick is going to be grasping the real value of human emotions and basic needs. A good game plays on the Big 6 emotional needs, and should have these basic characteristics:
- Significance - A good video game makes you feel special. Like you're the only one who can save the world, get the girl/guy or smite the bad guy.
- Certainty - A good video game is always there, and you can always win, even if everything is stacked against you. This is probably the most addictive part of truly great video games. In the real world, you can't always win and you usually don't, and sadly, in the real world, you don't have infinite lives to fall back on.
- Variety - Great video games hit you again and again with surprises, twists, puzzles, complications and endless quests. This is something few video games are truly able to capture, which is why you see series of certain games, who are attempting to give gamers more and more.
- Love - It's the familial love of getting into live action play with your regular gaming buddies. It's the dramatic adventure laced up with intoxicating romance that you are the star of. It's the thrill of connecting with your most basic need to be accepted and welcome in any world, no matter who you are, what you look like or what your socio-economic status may be. It's the love of the game.
- Growth - This will be a big focus for game designers really trying to capture the human mind. They've already developed the certainty and significance that draws gamers into the addicting digital worlds, but in order to truly capture and immerse a person into the game, there needs to be a carrot at the end of the stick, and it can't just be the reward of saying "oh yeah, I beat that game." It needs to be the reward of growing as a person, without losing the fun.
- Contribution - I doubt there is a single gamer out there, who wouldn't give up a limb to be able to sit around and play video games all day, knowing that they were making the world a better place. While no one would probably admit it openly, contribution is a much bigger need for us then compensation. It is it's own form of compensation really, and there is no better kind. This will be another big focus for designers, who have been taking a lot of slack the last few decades for turning potential hard working citizens into living room zombies who do nothing to better their own lives or others.
The designers that understand these basic needs, and the fundamental foundation of human behaviors, are going to be the ones we will see emerging with top video games throughout the next few years. Those with the edge will be bringing games that work the body and the mind, not just the hands and fingers. They will be creeping ever closer to total immersion using tools like the Kinect, which allow players to game remote-free with their bodies. They'll be designing games that not only look good, get them active and work their minds - they'll be designing games that somehow impact the world on profound levels, games that pay it forward.