Amen, Steinkuehler and Squire.
One of this things that has fascinated me since I started playing video games again in my late thirties is their immersive power. As much as I enjoy a good novel, movie or TV series, I can get lost in a video game in a way that is not possible in other media. There are many reasons for this, of course, one being the agency that games provide the player. Squire talks about this, and I agree that it is a powerful and empowering draw, but I’m more interested in what gaming is doing to and with my identity.
Much ink has been spilled on the issue of the effects of video game violence, and studies do show that competitive violent games can have negative effects on young people. But many others show that cooperative gaming, even if very violent, has a beneficial effect on gamers, making them more likely to exhibit altruist behaviour.
I have witnessed this phenomena first hand in the cooperative masterpiece, Destiny, by Bungie.
One study in particular grabbed my attention. It revealed that even though Mass Effect gamers were free to play as Renegades (Jerks who used violence as their go-to problem solver) and Paragons (Gentleman Warriors, White Hat Cowboys), 75% chose to play as Paragon. Even more impressive, of the Jerks, most had played through the game first as Gentlemen.
It seems games are indeed a “third space,” a testing ground for our sense of self.