Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dragons, Gameplaying and Altruism recently went to a movie about dragons...

In fact the title was 'How To Train Your Dragon' and it was a Pixar release which meant pretty great graphics... 

The story was really good as well, as it was the typical heroes journey, where the main protagonist starts out as a small character that finds himself through his adventures as the story advances. to the movie made me think more about Dragons in particular and how this related back to my previous post on Dungeons and Dragons...  Which was interesting in itself as I am still thinking over how fantasies, sword and sorcery, and role-playing fit within the culture of gaming.  In real life, we live a drab existence, no dragons, no clear cut lines between good and evil, and no real heroes journey...  It's much harder to maintain a value system without the hands on practice that is evident in games.
I believe that games generally do society a favour, by instilling the principles of teamwork using quests with clear cut lines between good and evil for the people that play them.  It's a training ground, essentially, and I am convinced that the explosion of the popularity of gaming is directly related to the fact that they give us a chance to exercise our nobler instincts.  As well as giving us a community of gamers that we can relate to on a more personal level.

Even the sports and racing games can have the same effect, in my opinion, as the same principles apply.  Teamwork, shared hardship, challenging the player's reflexes to train the hand to eye coordination which is hardship and and way to learn. you look at the statistics on the popularity of specific games, you can see that the most popular games are where the player is the 'good' guy with a clearcut enemy to deal with throughout the gameplay.

Games that flop actually don't make this type of distinction, which supports my argument that people generally want to be 'good'.  Games allow people to exercise their altruistic instincts.  And I believe that the more that these instincts are used, the more they expand and strengthen.  So, games help society as they give us a learning experience to exercise our better instincts!  I realize that this runs counter to some of the horror stories about how games are destroying society, but I don't agree with those theories.  Based on my own experiences and what I've seen around me, I think they do the opposite.

In my opinion, we all get a chance to be the white knight and have the gratification of doing good and being appreciated for it by using games as a entertainment method.  Movies don't instill positive values and are soon over, a game can be replayed many times, strengthening the underlying message it gives. Which makes it a much more powerful medium when you think about it...

1.  Dragon Abstract by Teresa Young - Mar. 2010,  2.  Gaia Unmasked by Teresa Young - Jun. 2007,  3.  The Dragon by Teresa Young as Toulouse LeTrek - Mar. 2010,  4.  Speckled by Teresa Young - Dec. 2009.


Darlene said...

Great post Teresa!!

SF Girl said...

I really like this post, Teresa. I like your statement that games "give us a chance to exercise our nobler instincts."

I like the case you make for our inner altruistic tendencies. You might enjoy an earlier post of mine on our inner altruistic nature and how it feeds our souls, called "Altruism at the Heart of True Happiness":

And here's a quote from that post: "In the end, there is no magic stick or pill to achieve happiness. We are most happy when we make others happy. We are happy when we are in touch with an inner spark, follow an ethical path, feel connected to humans and the natural world and contribute to the wider community."

I don't however agree with your point about games superiority to movies because they can be replayed over and over (if this was indeed your point). Movies, like literature, are an art form that can be revisited over and over again either literally (I saw Doctor Zhivago at least 12 times) or in one's mind and imagination. The visual arts and the word are powerful indeed in our memories... Just think of your favorite piece of literature and it "lives" again, fresh in your mind.

Great post!

Dalifan said...

Hi Nina,

Actually, I think I need to differentiate between games in videos to explain what I mean there. In movies, you rarely see one longer than a few hours, where with games, they regularly take over forty hours to complete a single cycle.

Also, with a lot of games, you can play them through and then go again unlocking new things with each subsequent cycle. Meaning that the game changes each time you repeat it, where with movies, you see the same movie each time. Even though you often get more or different things out of the movie when you rewatch it. I am actually trying to make a point for games being more dynamic and changeable than a static movie which isn't affected by the decisions of the audience.


Dalifan said...

Thanks for the comment Darlene!


SF Girl said...

Hi Teresa,

While I do agree with you on the dynamism and opportunities offered by role-playing gaming and their incredible positive force in helping to form our society, it is this comment of yours that I challenge:

"Movies DON'T instill positive values (my parentheses)and are soon over, a game can be replayed many times, strengthening the underlying message it gives. Which makes it a much more powerful medium."

I find that "story" (in the hands of a skillful storyteller) can be very powerful and CAN instill positive values, despite being over in two hours. If the story resonates, it will last in your mind for days, months, a lifetime.

Having played many role-playing, racing, war & strategy games with my son and friends over the years, I have always gravitated to those that tell a strong story with memorable characters.

What I am saying is that I do not think one is more powerful than the other--they are simply different. It depends on the storyteller, the gamer and the interaction. It is, in the final analysis, the story and its archetypes that make the difference.

Again, excellent post, Teresa. And a subject worth discussing.

Your friend,

Dalifan said...

Ah! Now I get it! What I'm actually saying about movies is not that they can't instill positive values, but that they consistently fall short or don't even try...

Especially the higher budget ones. They go for the most sensationalist product that they can ignoring the messages they are often sending in order to garner the most controversy and attention.


SF Girl said...

Ah, so you aren't talking about the medium, per se, but how you find it is currently treated by those in the industry...In that, I am in agreement with you: many movies, particularly big-budget ones as you said, fall short of "art"--being produced and overseen by non-artists who simply wish to make money through entertainment (poor entertainment, I might add in many cases).

Surely, that same phenomenon of "mediocrity" exists in the gaming industry? I think so... I've seen it on the store shelves and in my own livingroom (games my son or his friends have purchased or rented).

The world isn't perfect, no matter what medium we choose for expression... I think both media suffer from the same ailment (greed for profit at the expense of art).

Dalifan said...

I certainly agree with you on that one. The ones that don't adhere more to the traditional approach for games can flop really easily.

Approaches tend to become traditions based on what sells, and where the gaming industry is much younger and less lucrative than movies, I think it has managed to keep some of it's freshness...

Just my opinion, I'm sure there are lots of exceptions out there, but not as many as movies;-)