Although not particularly interested in video games myself, I have had my fair share of encounters with sports related games thanks to my mildly obsessed teenage brother. As his older sister, everything he has managed to do has somehow annoyed me once before, but nothing will ever make my eyes roll further to the back of my head than when I hear him shout at his computer screen in the early hours of the morning as I tirelessly attempt to finish my highly procrastinated homework. I have constantly wondered how on earth this fabricated virtual reality my brother plays on his little 11×8 screen causes such intense reactions.
Griffiths et al. investigated the concepts of identification and competition in video game play in their research, and highlighted how these two major components drive video game usage and in my eyes, obsession. I am particularly fascinated with their exploration of identification as I have first-hand observed this outcome of engaging in competitive video games. The authors use an adapted definition of identification in guiding their research as one encompassing the three dimensions of avatar, group and game identification. They hypothesized that identifying with a character or team during video game play could potentially exacerbate post-game play outcomes related to enjoyment and state hostility. In sum, identification equates to the audience experiencing the events of video game play as if it were happening to themselves. Such personal investment furthers cognitive involvement in media representation and in turn, shapes peoples attitudes.
What I find most intriguing in relation to the authors’ explanation of video game identification is the transformation of simple media content into a players own empathetic emotions. At first, hearing my brother get angry at his computer screen and throw his controller on the floor when he loses, time after time, caused me to think he was an obsessed fanatic. But after considering the implications of identification, my perspective on how these strong reactions, and addictive engagement ensue has broadened. The authors hypothesized in their research that player identification would predict state hostility levels, where playing as an identified team would garner greater state hostility than playing as a non-identified team. Interestingly enough, player membership had no significant implication on state hostility. Upon hearing such results, I immediately had an influx of inquiries which went into greater depth of the component of identification as I questioned the specific factors influencing such hostility. Being that videos games give players the freedom to be collaborators in their own game narrative, do these open-ended opportunities add to the “addictive” element such games posses as participants are able to put their own reality aside and create their own?
I find this ability to actively create ones own reality in video games, rather than passively being a consumer of content, as on a similar continuum with the idea of personal information deception (PID) in Church et al’s Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks. For example, avatar identification in video games as defined by the Griffiths article is seen as a “temporary alteration in self-perception of the player” (Griffiths et al, 469). Church et al see PID as “purposefully depicting oneself in a way differing from reality…to make deceptive self-representations” (Church et al 275). As @ksteu mentioned, what we are presenting in these online social networks no longer depicts reality. These two terminologies although expressed differently, are done with similar intent – either by identifying with a team, character, or false information, people engaged in these media platforms are all receiving similar gratification in not being their true selves. To me, this satisfaction in identifying with a different persona is quite fascinating, and is what I see as a driving motivation for such video game play.
In furthering the discussion this component of identification, it would be very interesting to explore to what extent and duration it effects people’s temperament and behaviour. For example, I have noticed that after my brother loses or gets frustrated by one of his video games, his level of hostility endures well after the ending moments of the game. As a first-hand video game player, @masondietrich7 also identifies with this behaviour, acknowledging the fact that he himself also noticed slightly more aggressive behaviour following gaming. A new avenue for further questioning and research could possible explore these lasting effects on temperament and behaviour which could give greater insight into the direct effects video game play has on human functioning.