Psychology applied to video games: an area in continuous expansion.
That technological evolution is growing exponentially at enormous levels is no secret. In the same way, then, the video game industry is doing it, with the technical characteristics of these and the money they generate are increasing. Thus, we are in a phase of full apogee of the video game industry and with it, before a process of expansion that is happening at a dizzying speed.
The generational technical leap is one of the most surprising factors in this industry since today’s video games are achieving ever greater levels of graphic realism, which allows us to have a much more immersive and vivid experience. However, the most important milestone in the entire history of video games is perhaps the moment of consolidation of e-Sports , which has given a great boost to the entire industry and has allowed its growth to a point difficult to imagine previously.
One of the new paths that has been opened in this industry is the entry of psychologists as active agents in the development of video games. We will try to shed a little light on this new field, still in its earliest stages but which aims to change the current paradigm.
Psychology and videogames: a possible pairing?
Psychology deals with the study of human behavior, its mental processes and its sensations and perceptions. Since the main objective of video games is to provide the public with a pleasant and fun experience, why not apply psychology to them to improve their role? And even more: Given that playing video games involves explicit mental activity, do they have consequences on our levels of cognitive functioning? To make this article more understandable, we will begin by answering the second question to give rise to the first.
Gaming, a way to enhance certain cognitive skills
One of the primary characteristics of video games is their visual nature, to which is added a motor component for interaction with the video game, and several secondary elements such as music or dialogues. Due to its primary visual nature, spending time playing video games can enhance the spatial-visual abilities of the players (Alloza, Costal & Jiménez, 2016), to the point of greatly improving this ability in those who perform this activity during many hours.
Thus, authors such as Green and Bavelier have been studying these phenomena for many years and trying to analyze all the visual processes that are enhanced, in addition to including processes such as attention (Alloza, Costal & Jiménez, 2016). At the level of care processes, we also see that there are substantial improvements in their basic performance and that this same improvement is translated or generalized to other activities (Wilms et al., 2013). All these implications in the functions of the human being could be broken down and analyzed in a much more specific and complete way, in addition to analyzing many others that also have implications; but this would lead us to produce a much longer and more scientific article.
From the previous paragraph it is concluded that video games produce great changes (mostly beneficial) in the cognitive functioning of people. In addition, they also produce improvements in motor skills and, increasingly, they are being used in the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered stroke (a type of syndrome that involves a sudden suspension of brain activity, accompanied by a variable degree of muscle paralysis) or to improve cognitive function in the elderly, including for the treatment of phobias. For these reasons, video games can turn out to be great tools for the work of a psychologist, but the implication of this figure within the industry is not limited only to these functions.
8 aspects of a video game in which a psychologist has something to say
Psychology within video games can be used in many ways and the truth is that, really, a psychologist can be of great help at any stage of their development or in any area within a company dedicated to video games.
Some of the elements that a psychologist can contribute are:
1. Emotions, sensations and experience linked to gaming
A psychologist could perform analysis functions of the quality of the immersion that a video game produces. The knowledge of the human mind and its behavior helps to decipher how the context of the game should be, along with all the elements that compose it, to generate the emotions or sensations that are desired.
2. Context (music, design …)
Continuing with the previous point, a psychologist can design in addition to diagnosing whether an element is well designed or not. In this way, topics such as lighting or music, for example, would be key factors in certain video games that a psychologist could design properly.
3. Mechanics and reward systems
He could also adopt the role in charge of analyzing game mechanics, contributing his expert vision of the human psyche, to feed them with characteristics that facilitate and provide greater fun. Again you can also take a more active role and design the mechanics that limit the game to be able to generate certain sensations in the players. A couple of examples are the basic mechanics of positive reinforcement (rewards) to keep the player playing and thus increase user retention. Or the social part of the video game, designing a competition or social interactions to increase the engagement and motivation of the players, not being the only way to do it.
4. Personality profile of the characters
In addition, it also could easily design personality profiles of different characters in the game s. In certain games there are pathological characters and who better than a psychologist to specifically design the behavior patterns that they should display.
5. Level design and progress
The psychologist also plays an important role in the creation and design of video game levels, or the way they show the progress that the player takes in it. Be it levels of Candy Crush, secondary missions in a classic RPG, or different circuits in a racing game, the figure of the psychologist can contribute his bit, thus increasing the quality of the product and providing added value.
6. Economic aspect: monetization
Even on an economic level, an expert psychologist could play a very important role in the monetization of video games by being a great connoisseur of consumer profiles, and due to the innovations that are currently being made in the way of monetizing them.
7. Psychologists in video game multinationals
Outside of the product, the psychologist could also fit quite well in a company dedicated to the development of video games. In fact, there are already professional psychologists actively working in many departments of companies today, and video games are no exception. Some of the examples are figures of Community Manager , Customer Experience Designer and even in the Human Resources department.
8. Sports coaching
Finally, psychology could also be applied with professional competitive teams that participate in e-Sports as sports coaching, in the same way that it is used with professional athletes to prepare their mood and mental state for certain competitions or events vital.
Much to discover, much to advance
However, the role of psychology in video games is still in an early phase, although large companies such as Valve, Ubisoft or EA Games already have psychologists on staff as designers. However, there is a lot of reluctance to what our profession can contribute to the development of video games, which is undoubtedly a lot.