Posts Tagged 'Video Games'

Seems like video games are finally getting the research they deserve. While we can still expect tabloid headlines bemoaning just how terrible this form of entertainment is for adults and children alike, articles are starting to emerge that explore just how gamers are affected by their pastime. We’ve know for years that games have had to accommodate the strange ways the soft machines of our brains are wired. There’s the ‘normal’ and ‘inverted’ settings on a controller’s joy stick, how some people get travel sick from playing in a first person perspective, and how those without stereoscopic vision are lost to the 3D and virtual reality experiences.

A few years ago a study discovered that patients in a burns ward required less pain relief medication when distracted while playing games on Sony’s PSP. This experiment was then replicated in 2016 by Professor Dale Edgar from Australia’s University of Notre Dame, this time using a Nintendo Wii, with similar results.

Now, in 2017, we’ve already seen a couple of stories about researchers getting in on the gaming kick. First up is a group of scientists from the University of Washington who have created a gaming app that rates anyone folding a series of proteins. High scoring runs of Foldit are then analysed by the research team in a marvelous adaptation of crowd sourcing. Also in March we discovered that the Karolinska Institute in Sweden had been utilising the shape matching game Tetris to help lessen the emotional impact of those suffering from post-traumatic stress. As with the Australian study, it seems that the specific distraction of matching shapes to spaces can be just as effective with emotional pain as other games can be for physical distress.

We now experience haptic systems in our phones every single day, so it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to get to the full sensory feedback systems of Ernest Clein’s, Ready Player One. In this his protagonist, Wade Watts, transforms himself physically simply through the act of playing games while wearing a suit that generates a sensory image of the virtual world. A vision of the future? Keep an eye on the gamers, as they may well be the first to get there.

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Don’t despair! There is a relevant, if not altogether happy, conclusion to the previous few posts about death and robots – AKA, killer bots versus puny humans. Welcome to the day when we group hug, make up and merge into one purely digital entity. All still a long way off – at least according to the Maria Konovalenko’s recent road map – but the idea of digital immortality is a discussion point that’s emerged time and time again on Drozbot.

Back in 2011 Aleks Krotoski reported on how our online lives were already having a massive impact on attitudes towards our ultimate demise, and numerous stories continue to emerge about friends and relatives working to back-up and sustain the online presence of the dead – as iO9’s recent interview with Sarah Cashmore exemplifies. But there’s one aspect of digital existence that has been repeatedly overlooked in favour of textual and image based legacies.

Gamers have been engaged with electronic megadeaths ever since Mario first encountered one too many barrels in Donkey Kong (1981). They’ve shown a healthy disrespect to shrugging off this mortal coil, but they’ve also been embroiled in multiple issues around their attachment to online avatars – the pertinent question being, after investing hundreds of hours in these virtual characters, what happens to all that emotional energy when the games company finally decides to pull the plug? Reactions have tended to revolve around one final blast of activity for those dedicated fans still playing and, perhaps, there isn’t any real need for avatar memory gardens as gamers possess an inherent hunger for the new. There’s also the contemporary shift of play time being invested in more disparate and less hour swallowing experiences. But bereavement counselling as the result of dead avatars? Heh, well, not to worry. That’s almost as ridiculous as people paying real money for digital goods.

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