What’s the appeal of first-person shooter games? I ask that question because I find no appeal in them. I’m a sitting duck, a target, canon fodder, the guy everyone sneaks up to get an easy kill.

Some apparently find it appealing, and Maria Konnikova has an explanation : flow.

Taking her cues from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow , the experience of losing yourself in an activity, she writes: “‘Video games are essentially about decision-making,’ Lennart Nacke, the director of the Games and Media Entertainment Research Laboratory at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, told me.

“‘First-person shooters put these tasks on speed. What might be a very simple decision if you have all the time in the world becomes much more attractive and complex when you have to do it split second.’ The more realistic the game becomestechnological advances have made the original Doom seem quaint compared with newer war simulators, like the Call of Duty and the Battlefield seriesthe easier it is to lose your own identity in it.

“It isnt just the first-person experience that helps to create flow; its also the shooting. ‘This deviation from our regular life, the visceral situations we dont normally have,’ Nacke says, ‘make first-person shooters particularly compelling.’ Its not that we necessarily want to be violent in real life; rather, its that we have pent-up emotions and impulses that need to be vented. ‘If you look at it in terms of our evolution, most of us have office jobs. Were in front of the computer all day. We dont have to go out and fight a tiger or a bear to find our dinner. But its still hardwired in humans. Our brain craves this kind of interaction, our brain wants to be stimulated. We miss this adrenaline-generating decision-making.’”

More on: Miscellaneous

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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