Empathy in video games: a special connection - editorial

Empathy in video games: a special connection - editorial

Empathy in video games

"I see you" would say the protagonists of Avatar, the award-winning 2009 film that has been able to thrill millions of people. Such a statement is a unique way of saying, in a sense, that our minds can be connected. Well, the videogame landscape has often shown us titles full of empathy, although lately the developers have treaded the hand. Some believe that players' sensibilities may be shaken by the comatose numbness in which it lulls itself. It can also be a way to open the eyes of a stubborn soul, as well as try to involve those who feel a profound apathy for video games.

We told you about it a few months ago, and perhaps the two scales do they almost perfectly counterbalance. Yet, just like with a scale, some aspects need to be dosed to avoid unpleasant exaggeration. First of all, the kind of feeling you want to convey must be spontaneous and genuine. It is good to specify, however, that although a well-written plot can momentarily upset, it is wrong to think that it can upset the way of life of people. A player may get excited, but he may also not translate this reaction into an actual change in his actions. Of course, it could happen, but these are all too rare and isolated cases.

Although the interactive sector is the real pearl of It Takes Two, its incredibly true story has hit our hearts. Precisely for this reason, it is necessary to start shaping empathy and the main social skills in the two most delicate and vulnerable periods: childhood and adolescence. Indeed, it is precisely in this period of time that the future character of an individual can be effectively formed. In short, it is difficult for an adult and vaccinated man to suddenly learn the power of empathy and, above all, replicate it in real life thanks to a video game. Should this happen, it would happen for a very important reason: a good foundation of "soft skills".

These are four specific skills, in English called 4 Cs, which are taught to children. We refer to creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. However, the relationship formed with one's mother in the early years of infancy also has a particularly impactful influence. Apparently, it would be (and also) the mother figure to transmit empathy in a more or less intense way. Precisely for this reason, what materializes over the years can be the result of the mother-child relationship (as well as certain dynamics that occurred in the family environment, regardless). I had the opportunity to talk about it with Camillo Langella, Doctor of Psychological Sciences and Techniques, and he revealed some rather interesting information.

"Empathy is the ability of individuals to tune in to others, on an emotional or emotional level. emotional, therefore to understand the state of mind. We are able to do this with other human beings, but also with animals, with objects and with virtual characters, in fact, concerning video games ", he said. Well, let's focus on the positive aspects: in this riot of nuances, we are sure that video games are not just such. Not all of them, at least. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 67% of parents play with their children at least once a week, strengthening their bond and discovering new facets of their emotions. This wonderful interaction tool proves that the gaming world doesn't have the destructive power you think, but it can bond people and allow them to relate to fundamentally realistic situations.

Watch on YouTube. A perfect example is It Takes Two, Josef Fares' latest creation which, with extreme genuineness, shows the various facets of empathy. On the one hand we find a little girl who perceives the pain of her parents and tries to bring them together. On the other hand, the couple is blinded by the quarrels and cannot focus on the suffering that is causing the little one. It might almost seem like a kind of selfishness or superficiality on the part of the parents, but as you can see, empathy has a myriad of very special nuances. Furthermore, it is a situation in which many people could mirror themselves, and therefore empathize in a more or less intense way.

According to Langella, another perfect example can only be the famous Life is Strange series, a narrative universe that has thrilled countless players over the years. "A video game that certainly empathizes a lot is Life is Strange. Empathy is also activated in front of characters who resemble us or who, in any case, have similar experiences to ours," she said. "Let's take Max as an example, the typical character who feels inadequate, insecure, and who perhaps has a bit of a social phobia. In short, he is a fairly typical facet among adolescents".

A study carried out on some middle school students, by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, revealed some really interesting results. Kids who played games focused on developing empathy showed altered neural networks; the latter, in fact, are connected to the regulation of emotions. Well, these play sessions coincide with an explosion in brain growth, as well as a time when teens are more exposed to potential first encounters with depression, anxiety and bullying. This is why video games can mainly have an impact in this age group, but they can still affect the emotions of any individual, regardless of how young the individual is.

Friendship, insecurities, emotions, fears: a riot of emotions in which it is difficult not to reflect. But let's be clear: a very important aspect of empathy is that it doesn't focus exclusively on emotions or positive attitudes. Even a bad, cruel and selfish character can arouse empathy, and this also depends on the way in which the narrative body of the story is structured. It is clear that if you cast your hand excessively, you would risk obtaining the opposite effect. At the same time, however, it is not even necessary to come across who knows what intricate plot to get excited.

"I believe that the ability to empathize is very important, because first of all it guarantees that the player proceeds with the game, but above all it makes the "more intense gaming experience. This is because a great deal of emotions come into play. However, video games thrill even without empathy. Think of Super Mario or Doom: they are games that do not empathize, yet have a lot of fun," said Langella.

Well, an example that stands out completely is the Doomguy. "The latter is simply a character who kills anyone. We know nothing about him, except that he kills demons. The game itself is a lot of fun, but there is no structure behind it that allows us to feel similar in some way. to him ".

But do we really need an emotional structure to love a game? And, above all, can video games change our mentality and our way of life? As we have already anticipated before, it is difficult to shape the mind of an adult and change its actions in such a shocking way. At the same time, these are extremely subjective events which, although they do not have the same impact on everyone, can still remain impressed and teach us something. One thing is certain: empathy plays a fundamental role in video games, both from a purely interactive and emotional point of view.

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It can open our eyes, make us think and teach us something. Personally, I feed on intricate textures as if they are some kind of energy source for my mind. Countless titles have given me emotions, they have brought tears, smiles and, in some cases, deeply in tune with some familiar events. This is the core of empathy in video games: tune into a protagonist and feel him almost as if he were a part of you, despite everything.

However, if that doesn't happen, it doesn't matter. What makes you feel good matters more than anything else, whether it's killing demons, throwing yourself into a PvP match or platinum My Name is Mayo because it counts. The gaming world is full of nuances, but sometimes it is not essential to focus too much on them. Being aware of the various training aspects is certainly beneficial but, as clarified in the article on apathy, it is essential to follow your instincts without puzzling too much. This is precisely the beauty of video games: they are a virtual refuge in which it does not matter what you do, what you think or what the final result is. It's a nice trip regardless of anything. If the latter, eventually, can teach us something or help us to live in a different and peaceful way, even better!

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