Video games are a well-established part of our culture from the earliest arcade and console games that still have a nostalgic place in our hearts through to the up-and-coming Virtual Reality systems offering more in-depth immersion. So why are video games such an important part of our culture?
Since the moment we start to learn we play games. In fact, it is through playing games that we learn. “Edutainment” is a very effective way to learn – for example, modern fighter pilots spend hours training in virtual reality flight simulators before entering the cockpit for real. However, even before this term came about, children were taught using gaming principles, to allow for better results. Even our console games can help us learn, from the elements of history in the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise through to understanding string theory in “Bioshock Infinite” whose ending sparked a viral conversation about Quantum Mechanics involved in the final plot twist.
Learning is not the main reason that we continue to play video games even into our adulthood, however. The most obvious reason for playing games is being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, be it hero or villain, to feel the same emotions that character would feel, make decisions that change the in-game world. In these virtual worlds, we can solve problems that we typically would not face in our everyday lives enabling us to boost our own esteem. One of the main benefits of playing video games is being able to relieve the stresses of everyday life by escaping to another world away from their own. This escapism is the same urge that drives us to watch fantasy and action films.
One thing that gamers enjoy significantly is the rush of chasing and gaining a reward. In the same way that playing and winning a real-money game at a casino, be it land-based or online gives us a good vibe, completing an objective or defeating other characters or players can unleash a highly addictive dopamine rush.
Video games can also offer a sense of redemption when people fail to live up to their own dreams, escaping to a fantasy world can offer another chance to realise their dreams. For example, a person with asthma could be excluded from joining the military on medical grounds but could fulfill their dream of being a soldier or special forces operator by playing games such as the Arma franchise or Call of Duty and take part in missions they had dreamed of.
Video games not only allow us to fulfil our dreams but to escape our current reality and do things that we would never do in the real world as in the ever popular Grand Theft Auto franchise which is undoubtedly one of the most popular to date whether it’s blowing things up, going on a killing spree, committing crimes or racing through the streets at incredible speeds, video games offer an unparalleled form of escapism from the stresses and strains of the world around us.