Game psychology


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Game psychology

Empathy & Altruism

Empathy and altruism are not easily addressable in computer simulations because the user is aware that the situation isn't real and there is no need for either. Rational skills and dispositions related to empathy and altruism, however, can be trained by computer games and simulations. Contexts that allow to train rational skills and dispositions are, for instance, citizenship education and mentoring.

Psychological effects

While computer games (especially violent games) are sometimes attributed to cause aggression the much more relevant observation appears to be that computer games may deny certain perceptions and may exaggerate others, without causing the player to rationalize the in-game behavior to be sensible behavior (that may become a side issue of future games with even more realism).

  • Computer games can reward the player with a feeling of success that is more interesting and easier to accomplish than many other tasks, including learning and possibly even interest-driven learning. As a consequence motivation for and a sense of achievement from other goals can be significantly reduced. One could probably call this "flow addiction".
  • Computer games can suppress socialization through social learning. The in-game behavior of players is often unsuitable to allow any form of socialization. Computer games could be seen as potentially more detrimental than excessive TV consumption because computer games can remain entertaining much longer than a TV program usually can and can provide a feeling of success even though nothing was accomplished.
  • Computer games can promote a "lego mentality" (or "JavaBeans mentality"): The game promotes the attitude that building blocks fit together and every feature of the game has a purpose that is designed to fit together (in a sufficiently simple relationship) with the purposes of other features, which could be seen as running contrary to promoting theory formation.
  • Both single-player and multiplayer computer games can easily promote a bias towards competition and egoistic goals (unlike, for instance, cooperative games).


  • Mentors should understand psychological effects of games and be given means to influence computer use of their protégés.
  • Game developers should understand psychological effects of games and aim to support pedagogical goals, if feasible.
  • It may be desirable that game developers should be mentors, primarily to understand and apply the perspective of a mentor. (e.g. in an 28+7 working-time policy for companies like EA)
  • Cooperative scientific games appear to be a desirable game category.

In-game psychology

Simulation of realistic psychological effects is possible in some games. Especially adventure games with books [Book and game] may benefit from well-considered characters with understandable psychology. An example for a game with psychological effects approximating realism is Luka und das geheimnisvolle Silberpferd.

See also

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