Psychology of Gaming: Crash Course Games #16

Psychology of Gaming: Crash Course Games #16

Hi, I’m André Meadows.
This is Crash Course Games.
In this episode, we’re going to explore the psychology behind games and see what leading experts have to say about why we play them and what they teach us about ourselves and others.
Now, this is an episode on psychology which, well, is one of these squishier sciences, but there are some legitimate studies in the field and some of those even happen to be about games.
So sit back, relax, and let’s talk about your Mother… Brain.
[Theme Music]
Games are incredibly effective at satisfying many of our intellectual needs.
You may have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
You know, the enemy of John Green and Hazel Grace Lancaster?
It’s a common topic in Psych 101 classes and it ranks human needs, suggesting that lower priority needs must be met in order for us to reach self-fulfillment.
Now, I should note that there are some criticisms of this model’s over-simplification of the human psyche, but it’s kind of useful for our purposes as it relates to games.
The model suggests that you’re not going to care about writing that term paper when you’re hungry,
and if you don’t have a roof over your head, trying to beat the Turbo Tunnel from Battletoads probably isn’t the top priority.
I don’t know, some people, I think, it still is.
But once you meet those basic needs and have a good social support system, you find yourself wanting more fulfillment, and this is where games come in.
The beauty of a game system is just that — it’s a system.
Games produce perceptible results so once a player completes a game, they are given feedback telling them how well they’ve done.
This could be done at the end of a game level, on a phone, in a deck of cards, or even on the kitchen table.
Modern video games have extensive achievement systems in which players can compare their achievements to others.
These constructs allow players to see how far they’ve come and how far they need to go, basically outlining a direct path to fulfillment.
But competition isn’t the only social drive for playing games.
Academic Jane McGonigal explains that,
“co-operative gameplay is also psychologically driven, as it has been shown to lift players’ moods longer than competitive play.”
“It also helps build stronger relationships.”
So we’ve talked about why we like games, but not all players play the same types of games.
Why do some people prefer football and others poker?
Well, first, let’s talk about the satisfaction we get from games.
Roger Caillois classified games in his landmark book Man, Play, and Games based on the different experiences games create.
Competition experiences are found in games like basketball and go.
In these games, the enjoyment lies in overcoming the challenge of the opponent.
Chance experiences are found in games like slot machines or dice rolls.
In these games, the joy lies in the excitement of not knowing and trying to guess an unpredictable outcome.
Vertigo experiences can be found in games that require intense concentration in which the user gets in the “zone”.
We’ll talk more about that in a bit.
And make-believe experiences allow players to assume characteristics and abilities they don’t possess in real life.
For example, League of Legends allows players to act as an all-powerful summoner working for the greater good.
Not something we get to do in real life.
So games are composed of any combination of these gaming experiences and they define why we play games.
But how do we decide which game
we would like to play?
Well, to better understand, we’re going to have to look at the psychology of players.
Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.
Richard Bartle, a founding father of the MMORPG gaming genre, spent much of his life trying to describe character identities of players.
In 1996, he published a paper that would describe the Bartle Test.
Now, the Bartle Test was based around
immersive world games,
and Bartle himself states that is incomplete for different game types,
but is still useful for understanding gamer preferences.
Bartle claims that all players can be described by their scores across four main character types — achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers.
Achievers find fulfillment in success.
They’re a completionist that finds satisfaction in gaining points, completing quests, or leveling up.
Most MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft, are designed for this character type.
Explorers find fulfillment in discovery.
They often feel restricted by tightly controlled games and enjoy learning about hidden places, finding easter eggs, or revealing glitches within the game.
A game like Myst is designed for this character type.
Socializers gain enjoyment through interaction with other players, or even AI.
This character type tends to play games that rely heavily on relationships and communities within the game, like Animal Crossing.
And lastly, killers enjoy competing with other players in the game.
This character type seeks to dominate the game itself and other players through their actions in games like Call of Duty.
A player’s gaming preference is a combination of how strongly they identify with each of these character types,
and they find the most satisfaction in games that align with these preferences.
Thanks, Thought Bubble!
Now we should talk about flow, or the “zone”.
This is a theory on mental states defined by a Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.
People find themselves in the zone when the outside world slips away and they are fully engaged with the task at hand.
Ever play a game and someone was talking to you or something’s happening around and you don’t even notice it?
You’re in the zone.
Csíkszentmihályi described it as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.
The ego falls away.
Time flies.
Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.
Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Baseball players, musicians, gamers, and many others have all reported this state of being.
And Csíkszentmihályi claims that he knows the factors necessary to reach this state of mind.
First, players must be engaged in something that can be actually done.
It can’t be a simple activity like sitting, but it also needs to be something that requires some skill.
Players must also be fully engaged with no distractions in a task with clear goals and constant feedback.
This is where games excel.
And the players need to be able to have some control that requires significant concentration, almost like meditation.
When the zone is finally achieved, players will become fully integrated into the activity
and will experience altered time, and what takes hours may feel like only minutes.
And if you’re playing Bayonetta, you’re experiencing altered time and witch time.
In a 2008 study by Lennart Nacke and Craig Lindley, it was found that first person shooter games fit Csíkszentmihályi’s zone perfectly.
Games like Doom and Call of Duty help players achieve the zone by allowing them to become fully immersed through the first-person mechanic,
while at the same time creating a mix of challenge and tension through shooting mechanics.
So we’ve seen how games affect our brains while we’re playing the games, but do these games affect our behavior in real life?
Video games, and especially violent video games, have often come under fire for their realistic, and sometimes unrealistic, portrayals of war, murder, and other terrible stuff.
And media outlets have had a rich history of trying to tie violent video games to real-life violent behavior.
For example, in 1999, much was made of the fact that the perpetrators of the Columbine high school mass shooting were avid Doom players.
But it isn’t just the media that thought so.
In 2015, the American Psychological Association released a report tying violence in video games to real life regression.
The report found “a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior,
aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and insensitivity to aggression.”
But wait before you put your all caps rebuttle in the comments section.
Just know that not everyone agrees.
The APA’s report and others like that have been met with criticism, and not just from the gaming industry.
Critics argued the APA studies were flawed and failed to take into account other factors that can lead to violent
behavior, including socio-economic status and violence in the home.
Critics also point out that crime statistics don’t show an increase in violent crime, despite the massive growth in the video game industry.
In fact, violent crime has been steadily dropping for decades.
And a 2011 study by Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University even found that playing violent video games led to a decrease in frustration and aggression.
The debate over violent video games is far from settled, but evidence is mounting all the time that the vast majority of people who play video games have a strong ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Most players don’t engage in violent behavior after shooting up their friends in Call of Duty.
Just like I don’t go around stomping on turtles after playing Super Mario Bros.
So whether it’s through studies, discussions, debates, or personal experience, we learned that games are capable of stimulating amazing things in our brains.
And we play games because they help us feel fulfilled.
Games vary by experiences, but they all have a component of satisfaction.
But all players are different, and our differences dictate the games we choose and the ones that get made.
And if we choose the right one even time itself can seem to stand still.
Thanks for watching.
See you next time.
And you made it to the end of the episode!
Achievement unlocked!
Crash Course Games is filmed in in the Chad and Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it’s made with the help of all these nice people.
If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for everyone forever, you can support the series at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the content you love.
Speaking of Patreon, we’d like to thank all our patrons in general and we’d like to specifically thank our High Chancellor of Knowledge, Morgan Lizop, and our Vice Principal, Michael Hunt.
Thank you for your support.

100 thoughts on “Psychology of Gaming: Crash Course Games #16”

  1. league of legends is a competition game, not a make believe game. the fantasy setting is a skin for a deeply competitive game.

  2. If anything League of Legends is competetive. It's definitely not about "acting as an all powerfull sommoner".
    Error 404: proper research not found.

  3. 6:08 "sometimes unrealistic, betrayal of war, murder, …."
    I think it should be "portrayal" instead of "betrayal".

  4. I read that a study into the psychological effects of violence in video games suggested that it did NOT create aggressive/anti-social behavior so much as amplified it.

    Playing GTA won't turn healthy, stable person into a serial killer but someone who is already aggressive or anti-social will become more so. Of course there is a big difference between anti-social and mass murderer. The study also suggested that if this is true then other kinds of games could have the opposite effect and so some were looking into the idea of 'Game Therapy' using specially designed video games to help mental patients.

  5. Like you say yourself the study posted tying game aggression to real life aggression has been criticised, but it actually has some merit, while its set-up was flawed its results are still useful. They point to the following, that playing a game like call of duty will make you more proficient at using a real life weapon, as the weapon replicas in the game are damn accurate. But becoming better at say using a weapon or stomping on turtles, does not mean you are more likely to go out and stomp on turtles or shoot people, it may actually have the opposite effect, when taking into consideration that just because someone has a personal fantasy about doing something in real life, while actually doing it in real life may bring them great uncomfort, video games can often reveal this uncomfort, without having to actually kill another human being.

  6. Minecraft have the four types. Some in mayor way than others. The exploration lies in looking what the procedural algorythm has made in a map bigger than the surface of neptune. The achievements it's just a part. You can create your own achievements in getting certain items or finishig buildings. Social may came in sharing your findings and knowledge with other players and having multiplayer rounds. and competition against the enviromenr or other players. UltraHardcore have all of rhis in almost equal parts.

  7. Lame they hadn't mentioned Skinner Boxes, I think that is the main issue with games today. They all tend to be online, trying to drag you into a community, force you to play every day for daily rewards, just use any possible mechanism (not just Skinner Boxes) to make you feel you need to play lest you fail to meet some goal or fall behind other players. It can make games compelling without being fun, allowing for addictive, trashware games full of microtransactions and even making good games feel like a job half the time. It really needs to be abolished by the industry as a whole.

  8. I feel they're wrong for assuming it's only violent video games that foster violence, Mario Party has made me way more violent than any 1st person shooter ever has.

  9. 6:40
    BTW, the noun "affect" has a particular pronunciation that distinguishes it from the verb "affect." It's a common English construction, similar to the noun "insult" and the verb "insult." The noun has the emphasis on the first syllable, while the verb has the emphasis on the second. You wouldn't say "He INsulted me" or "That was an inSULT," and neither would you say " . . . a consistent relation between . . . aggressive afFECT." No, it's an aggressive AFfect, and that emphasis also changes the way you pronounce the A.

    It's a silly, minor point, but it helps distinguish the four rather complicated senses of the words "affect" and "effect."

  10. People who search for agression correlation are looking in the wrong place. They should be looking at moba games and not shooters.

  11. I experience flow as a software developer. I've experienced a full eight hour day seem to last only an hour. ^_^

  12. I like to complete everything, but preferably without any sort of outside help. In that sense I'm both an Achiever and an Explorer.

  13. Anyone who thinks that video games influence the way we act outside of them should think about this. Just because I play Gran Turismo doesn't mean I'm going to be a racing driver once I put down the controller. Likewise just because I play Phoenix Wright doesn't make me go out and become a lawyer. Claims that video games cause violent behavior is outrageous.

  14. I don't really fit into the Bartle model. Although, I'm no fan of multi player online games. I dunno, maybe I fit closer into the achievement category, but only very loosely. I mostly like getting into the flow, and the aspect of abnegation that can come along with it. I suspect the MDA framework (as described by the Game Design and Tuning Workshop) would be a better model to work from.

  15. It is important not to confuse violence and aggression. No reasonable Psychologists is arguing that violent video games cause violence in the players; however, there is a preponderance of evidence showing that violent video games do lead to increases in aggression.

  16. It would be really awesome if you could post links or at least what the studies were named in the video in the box below the vid. I would love to read some of them.

  17. If you liked this you should check out the book "Reality is Broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world"

  18. Some of the folks who work for Magic the Gathering have come up with Magic the Gathering player types. It was cool to compare those player types; Spike, Timmy, Johnny, Vorthos, and Melvin with the player types of Achiever, Explorer, Socializer, and Killer.

  19. i can't believe you did an episode on gaming psychology without mentioning variable(intermittent) reinforcement, its the main principle of why MMORPG , RPG and gambling card games are addictive and a major factor in the reward design of free to play MMORPG games.

    if anyone is intersted in the topic you can find it in the wiki link below:

  20. The hyperfocussed state you call "the zone" (Seriously? You couldn't come up with anything better?) is something I'm very familiar with for programming. All your thoughts are focussed on what you're trying to program the computer to do, and there's a lot of state to hold in your head while doing so. When you stop, it takes a while to unload all that state and get yourself back into a more normal mode of operation.

  21. If nothing else I love this channel for understanding how playlists work and making each episode play in order. It's such a rare treat that I felt I needed to comment on it.

  22. Violent people enjoy playing violent video games, but people who enjoy playing violent video games are not necessarily violent people. There's a selection bias at the core of the study.

    I've found myself getting into the zone doing many things. Playing games, of course, but also while reading, writing, singing or doing puzzles (jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, etc).It's hard to describe but it really does feel like your body stops existing, or at least it stops mattering, and the only things that are relevant are your consciousness and the task at hand.

  23. So I paused the video to take the Bartle Test online, and it turns out I'm 93% Explorer, 47% both Socialiser and Achiever, and 13% Killer.

  24. I disagree with the four main gamer types, the fail to take into account other types or behaviors. Such as Planing, Solving or Management. This ignores the idea of Strategy games, puzzles games or simulation games. These games don't uses these standing criteria, as well they can be applied to Tabletop and Boards games. I'm not sure what to use instead, but i don't think the Bartle Test takes these concepts into account.

  25. Was anyone else concerningly proud for a moment when they got to the end of the episode and he said "achievement unlocked?"

  26. Achievers = Analysts, Explorers = uh Explorers, Socializers = Sentinels and Killers =… doesn't fit in any group, perhaps some Analysts. Diplomats would be just casual gamers I guess.

  27. I believe this aggressive thing is real. But the person who is the one being lead to being bmagressive is his/her problem, not the video game's.

  28. Other studies have shown no such link between violent video games and violent behavior. In fact, they've shown a consistent DECREASE in violent/aggressive behavior because the games allow the player to express their violent feelings/actions in an indirect, non-dangerous manner

  29. GUYS I NEED HELP. I currently am creating a thesis on the academic implications on different types of games and am having a hard time on finding theories that can support the study. can you guys help?

  30. I did a huge report on violence in relation to video games (and desensitized kids) and the psychological studies and test done to prove it were so laughable. One well known University conducted a test/study to prove the relationship, and it sounded like a 10 year old thought of the idea. Really bad and flawed tests.

  31. Hmmm,here in the Philippines,those who lose at DOTA or LOL oftentimes have fistfights with their opponents outside the internet cafe…and most of them are minors.

  32. a big flaw that comes from studies going to the news is that they always confuse correlation with causation. Just because they played violent video games, doesn't mean that it is the cause of it.

  33. The APA has similar results over the years on other things like Rock and Roll, movies, cartoons and even Jazz music. I take such reports with a grain of salt.

  34. In the 50's, a psychatrist also claimed that comic books were the source of juvenile behavior. That should tell people something about psycahtirsts.

  35. Video games are incredibly popular, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't/doesn't play CoD in the USA and so the chance of correlating violent video games to violent behaviour goes up.

  36. I find that people who consider Psychology to be one of the "squishier" sciences often apply its insights and practices to their own lives without giving it credit for being knowledge gleaned via the scientific method.

  37. I'm a gamer and yet I can freely admit and confront the fact that learning violent behavior from media such as video games is how people replicate such behavior. Why can't other gamers admit this fact? The backlash from the gaming community against criticism of our beloved pastime is childish, emotional immaturity. We don't want our toy to be taken away from us, so we won't admit there are some problems with that toy. The same childish behavior happens when you criticize the sexual violence of pornography. People, take responsibility for the psychological, social and behavioral outcomes for your pleasures. Otherwise, they should be taken away from you.

  38. Psychology is not “squishy science” as you called it. Psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes and when practiced properly it is just as real of a science as biology. Psychology has had a shorter history than most sciences so it is still relatively new and not every area of psychology’s history is purely scientific (cough Freud cough) Psychology has moved passed that largely and the only reason people treat psychology different is because it relies on people and their observable behaviors and invisible mental processes

  39. I probably watch or have watched a dozen crash course series, but this is my first games. It was great! So going to start watching.

  40. So are we talking about non violence in hardcore gamer or casual gamers, or both? Because we all know gamer gate was had its share of angry men, and constant exposure to violent games may lead to desensitization. Maybe some people are more prone to be affected by these different social environments inside games in many ways. Point being, I feel this is way more complicated than "violent games dont create violence, bro" some people actually MIGHT start a process of desensitizing that may lead to violence, although im talking more about angry jack violence.

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