Sunday, May 9, 2010

My game persona is an explorer

Luckily for me, so is my real-world persona.

This may sound like I'm stating the obvious, but bear with me; games allow us to live out some of our innermost desires.  Sometimes that can be something we never even knew we wanted.  Sometimes it can be something we know we'll never have.  For me, my love is exploring.  Others are not so lucky.

There's a test called the Bartle test, which can be used to determine where you fall on the scale of four player types: explorer, achiever, socialiser and killer.  I'm 87% explorer and 0% killer, so that automatically tells you a lot about my worldview.  When I was a child, I got used to watching my feet, just in case I stood on something that might be alive.  When I was in Edmonton last year, I decided to walk from my hotel to where I had to be, just to see what was around.  Longest 12 kilometres of my life, but I have to admit, I had a great time.  For me, these numbers match up.  Sometimes, for other people, they don't.

This is what concerns the people who have a problem with video game violence.  The idea is, of course, that playing violent games will automatically raise a person's 'killer' percentage.  As you can see from the above, that's definitely not assured.  But for the people who don't know themselves, or know what they want, taking the Bartle test can be a real surprise.  A person's playstyle is usually indicative of how they want to relate to the real world, and if they delight in PvP, griefing or otherwise causing other people discomfort, that can be cause for alarm.

Not all griefers do so out of violent sociopathy.  Some find it genuinely funny that other people allow a mere game to upset them so much.  But I have seen the sweetest girls and most adorable guys turn into smack-talking, loudmouthed, abusive jerks when they're behind an imaginary gun.  I'd say that means somethin' ain't right.

Having said that, gaming is a learned behaviour.  You learn from the people around you, and how your parents deal with frustration is a big indicator of how you will deal with frustration.  That includes frustrating segments of games.  If your parents swear like sailors when something goes wrong, welcome to F-ville, population: CS players.  If your parents blamed other people, you may need to visit Smack-Talk-aholics Anonymous.  If your parents ignored the frustration and simply kept doing what they were doing, you're more likely to be a level-headed player who focusses on the details.  Again, all of this makes sense: it's rudimentary psychology.

When it becomes a cause for concern is when otherwise placid, easygoing or friendly people turn into anti-social, selfish or otherwise unrecognisable morons as soon as they get online.  Single-player games are an exception - I will smack-talk my party members in Dragon Age because, hey, they don't really exist and it's a way of relieving tension during a long or difficult battle.  But online I'm much the same as I am in real life, and that comes from a strong self-concept.

I know who I am.  I know what I want.  I love exploring, and I have my parents to thank for it.  People who are not aware of these things, who may be insecure or troubled or confused, will make poor choices.  That includes socially, and that definitely includes gaming.  If you have a lot of anger to get out, it's gotta come out somehow.

So I recommend you take the Bartle test, not so it can tell you who you are, but so it can help you understand the aspects of yourself that already exist.  It's not the be-all and end-all - no quiz is.  The only real reward is getting to know yourself a bit better.  Understanding what makes you tick, and, more importantly, what gives you joy, are the most healthy ways toward long-lasting happiness.  If you don't know what makes you happy, how can you make sure you're doing it?  How will you know when you've found what makes you happy?  Everyone needs a starting point, so consider this test one of many.

And if you find your main score is in killer, it may be time to look at ways you can being to exert more control over your life, so you don't feel as powerless.  Either that, or take up boxing.

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