Video games as accomplishment simulator

Carrington Vanston posted about video games. This is similar to some thoughts I’ve had before. He says:

That’s the big lie of video games: the illusion of activity.

This is something that first occurred to me in the middle of some isometric RPG. I had gone through an ordeal to get the sword that was one level better than the sword I had previously. I was feeling quite proud of myself, but then it occurred to me that the only difference between the old sword and the new sword, physically, was three bits of memory. (There were 8 different swords in the game. 23=8) If my access to those bits weren’t restricted by the rules of the game, it would be a simple matter to change them.

Of course, I could say the same thing about chess, that I could just take the other player’s pieces off the board if I weren’t restricted by the rules of chess. But something about that deflated the fleeting sense of accomplishment I had from the game.

I think the addictive aspect of video games comes from an ability to instill an inflated sense of accomplishment. From primitive times, your brain is wired to enjoy gathering berries and hunting animals, and a lot of video games replicate those activities.

I won’t completely condemn video games, because of something similar to what Simon Cooke posts here about projecting yourself into the game mechanics. A game can create its own ways of observing and interacting with its simulated world, and you learn to accommodate that.

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