Luke, flying in the Death Star trench, has to make an impossible shot to destroy the first Death Star. John McClane, with a gun taped to his back, has to drop Hans Gruber and another henchmen, all while his movie wife is positioned between them. Pressure situations in movies have been around since movies started and it helped make them a medium in demand. Video games have been creating tense moments, like the ones mentioned above, for a while now and gamers are taking notice and wanting more.
We may try to avoid this tense situations in life but with games, we search them out. Nothing immerses you into a game more than drama, especially drama connected to life or death. Games are creating stories on par with movies but at a much more immersive level, since you are the actor and you are playing out the script.
In Skyrim, I am a sneaky archer where each shot counts (because my frail elf body can’t stand up to a full frontal assault), so each encounter is a moment of truth, of life and death. With the added game unlock mechanic that lets archers slow time while zoomed in, the level of drama is increased and drawn out.
“Your first arrow hits the nearest target but three other bandits are on the move and closing in. So you slow time, breathe and loose each arrow… that could be your last. Just as the last bandit gets out the final words to his sentence of, “You never should have came here!” you drop him to the floor with an arrow to his head, his momentum carries him, sliding, to your feet.”
Moments like the ones above draw you into the game play and the overall story much more so than movie does. A movie lets you view the action, the life or death scenario, but it doesn’t allow you to “direct” it yourself. A game also provides you with a direct reward to your efforts you’ve put forth. The resulting death of the bandits may reward you with a successful completion of an assassination quest or you may find some valuable loot further inside the bandit hideout… or both.
What are the results of a gamer seeking, overcoming and being directly rewarded by successfully surviving such a tense encounter? Does a gamer become more able to handle stressful situations in his real life? Is he more disappointed when his efforts go unrewarded in a dramatic experience? Would work, that provides proper rewards to stressful situations, create better workers and better efficiency?
One thing I can say with authority is a game that provides high stakes, immersive, game play that then rewards the gamer with the appropriate amount of reward/success is a good game. It is also a game that will keep the gamer coming back for more. How can this knowledge be transferred to other aspects of our lives and improve it?
If you are interested in the effects of gaming on life and how it can help shape us (and society) for the better, please check out Jane McGonigals’s REALITY IS BROKEN: Why games make us better and how they can change the world.