Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Games influence on our perception of reality

Do games have an influence on how we perceive reality? Can they change the way we observe and react to a situation? This is something that I have thought about from time to time for quite a while. It was just last week, though, when I finally noticed a prime example that has been right in front of me for quite some time.

I was taking my nice, and somewhat leisurely, walk from the far parking lot of my university up the hill towards the science building. I was walking up in that oft-abhorred ten minute break between classes. As I was making my way towards my destination, I was surrounded by professors hustling and bustling off towards their classes--some were moving from one to another, others had just arrived and were merely starting their day. It was at this point when I noticed that I had seen everything that was going on around me before. This was not a sudden bout with severe deja vu, but rather a realization. I watched these people run this same routine every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I, likewise, watch another group of professors go through their routines every Tuesday and Thursday.

I thought it was quite funny how these people do the same thing week after week. They wear the same jacket; they wear the same hat--certain ones always carry a briefcase, too. They also all have their own quirky ways of walking and interacting with those that pass by. The Physical Science professor is always smiling and shouting out greetings to those that he passes as he skips his way towards his class. The Religion History professor has his nervous waddle down the hill as he tries to find the awkward balance of eye contact to ground staring that he is comfortable with. Their personalities really shine through in something as simple as walking to their class.

I'm sure that by this point you're all wondering: "What the hell does any of this have to do with video games?" Well, I'm to that point now, and congratulations for sticking it out this long. This whole scene--once I became aware that it was happening--immediately reminded me of countless hours spent playing The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. For those that don't know--and shame on you, by the way--this Zelda game runs on a constant clock throughout its repeating three day period. The NPCs in the main town actually have daily routines that they will carry out whether you are there to see it or not. They will leave the house at the same time, head to the same destination, and walk in the same goofy--yet personality revealing--way every day.

The reason this event stuck out to me so much had nothing to do with it being special--in fact, it was anything but; it was really just a slice of life. It was made special to me, though, by my association with a video game that I have spent countless hours on and hold in very high regard. It also really cemented--in my mind, at least--that video games can and do change our perception of reality. When you spend a lot of time thoughtfully interacting with something, it only makes sense that it can have a long lasting effect on who you are. It may not have an enormous effect, but it does sink in somewhere. This can certainly be true for other forms of media as well, but due to the large time investment and interactive nature of video games, I think their effect is more potent. I look forward to the next time I am meandering through a boring and uneventful day, only to find myself perceiving my reality in a way that wouldn't be possible without video games.

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