Friday, December 11, 2009

Maslow's Hierarchy of Video Games

I just realized that video games satisfy different fundamental needs. Imagine a pyramid, with more common games at the bottom:

Most games have a Darwinian/Athenian-Olympics emphasis. Tap the buttons faster than the other person (ah, Summer Games for the Commodore 64!). Beat them in head-to-head tournaments. The irony is each person, playing alone, can be master of his own domain and top of his own food chain. But then we have millions of food chains, each an illusion. It works until you turn the power off (or until the interminable credits are scrolled off the screen). Or you can get online and be better than someone you don't know in a country far away.

Then there's rhythm music games: This involves following complex instructions precisely (no real tone control, only timing). If you hit the notes you get the reward of the music. It feels like you're creating something but the real goal is parroting. Yet you can learn about song structure from these. I have a new respect for Ringo Starr after realizing some of that drum stuff he did was actually pretty hard.

Then there's The Legend of Zelda: exploration (which is like foraging for food and recreating maps of the environment in your head) The joy of getting food in the form of hearts and fake money is supplemented by the joy of solving puzzles and getting new tools, a eureka moment, like doing well on a final exam. Mario and other platformers generally fall below Zelda in exploration, and are closer to the pure competition/repetition of button-mashing, but can include puzzle elements that move them up the hierarchy. Little Big World has a considerable creativity element from what I understand but I've never played it.

I've never been able to play The Sims but it seems to be social: some interaction with others (real or not), putting the self in context. Most games just don't put a high priority on this one but the success of this series suggest it's a good idea to try to build on. The complexities of this and what it can reveal about you means it may be the highest on the complexity of purpose list. But I still don't have the patience to figure out how to play the darn thing. I rented it once for the GameCube and gave up after 5 minutes. What does that say about me?

... And yet, and yet, don't you feel there must be something more? (I assume it's not the Playstation 4!) (It must be James Cameron's Avatar!) (um, maybe not.)

1 comment:

Deanna said...

Somehow, all I see in this post is a thinly veiled plea for Santa to please please please bring you LEGO Rock Band for Christmas. ;)