Video games have been in the media over the last decade for a multitude of reasons, but the largest by far is the video game violence debate (Bartle, 1996; Dill & Dill, 1998; Kleinfield, Rivera, & Kovaleski, 2013; Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006). There are many reasons for this (e.g. politics, opinions, research) and it does not appear to be leaving our attention anytime soon. Currently, there has been an increase into research about the influence of video games on individuals (Arriaga et al., 2006; DeLisi et al., 2012; Ferguson, 2007; Ferguson, 2013; Hall, Day, & Hall, 2011; SCOTUSblog, 2011). With this comes a responsibility that many are not able to discuss independently of their own views and what they “discern” from their data aimed at making their own points clear; I may also be one of those individuals, time will only tell. With the current debate climaxing again because of a recent shooting in a D.C. Navy Yard, everyone involved (no matter how small) are becoming polarized to the extremes of video games are good or bad, but are having a hard time staying in the middle of the argument with an objective view (Ferguson, 2013; Gentile & Anderson, 2003; Kato, 2010; Markey & Markey, 2010; Olson, 2010; Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006). Furthermore, the current research we possess is flawed by numerous means. For instance, it relies too heavily on moral panic theory, uses small populations from one area of the United States, does not take into consideration important sociocultural variables, games used are created for the studies specifically, only a student population is being used, console games themselves have not even been properly studied, and many more (Ferguson, 2007; Ferguson, 2013; Hall, Day, & Hall, 2011; SCOTUSblog, 2011). What this is saying to the researchers is we don’t know anything about video game research and have no proof they cause aggressive characteristics after playing (Ferguson, 2007; Ferguson, 2013; Hall, Day, & Hall, 2011). What I propose here is what I am currently researching and believe to be integral in playing video games for any individual.
Video games allow a unique experience that an individual can play in differing from the rules and regulations of our own reality (Bartle, 1996, 2004; Bean & Groth-Marnat; 2013; Kato, 2010; Yee, 2007; Yi, 2004). Within these new worlds, ideas, rules, and even characters differ from what our current time presents. To say that these experiences are nothing short of miraculous would be an understatement. The ability to play as someone else, have different powers, or even just talk to someone from another country with in-game avatars is an enticing proposal (Bartle, 1996, 2004; Kato, 2010; Yee, 2007; Yi, 2004). The community aspect of gaming research has been going strong as of late with some great proposals into community elements found and enjoyed within the game. However, while community gaming is important, it also denies the individual themselves. Motivational theory has attempted to strive into this territory proposing motivational means of playing video games to much success (Przybykski, Ryan & Rigby, 2009; Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006). However, again it does not discuss a good portion of the individuals themselves. Both areas of research appear to be focusing on behavioral characteristics rather than the person and their own experiences.
This is where I believe my research can hopefully fill in a part of the picture. I look at the personality characteristics of the individual playing the video game in an attempt to learn more about the gamer and how they interact with the world. My research in publication currently is on World of Warcraft (WoW), playing styles, and personality characteristics (Bean & Groth-Marnat, 2013). What it has shown, for WoW players, is depending on the style of play we choose; it is dependent on our own personality elements. Central to understanding video games and their players is the interaction of personality, motivation, and gaming. Personalities consist of complex inter-workings that cause people to react differently to various environmental interactions and have been shown to influence motivating factors of play (Carver, & Scheier, 2004; Phares, 1997; Przybykski, Ryan & Rigby, 2009; Sharp, 1987; Yee, 2007). As personality is a key element for how we interact with the world (e.g. for therapeutic services) and our own interpersonal relationships, this research may shine a light on what we are missing. Another interesting part of the findings were the personality elements were not suggestive of anti-social or aggressive traits in individuals (Markey & Markey, 2010). This is in fact another piece of the puzzle showing a random sample of the WoW population not being characteristically aggressive as much of the research has been attempting to portray.
It is my belief we use video games not as an escape from reality, but a means to play as and integrate different personalities and characteristics into our own personality and/or play as an alter-ego, something different than who we are.
It is no secret that personality develops as we continue through life, but it most changeable when we are young (Carver, & Scheier, 2004; Phares, 1997). This does not mean however it is forcing or manipulating us into deviant beings. We may play as these types of characters, but no one has discussed the possibility of us just playing them for the experience. When the discussion of violent video games begins, it hovers around this style of thinking, of assuming, playing these games causes harm (Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Anderson & Dill, 2000; Arriaga et al., 2006; DeLisi et al., 2012). I would be more inclined to say that we play these games to see what it is like to behave in this manner. Some of the characteristics will be integrated, the ones that the individual views as important to survival in their world. Determining whether integration of personality characteristics will be good or bad; time will tell along with the individual’s surroundings (e.g. contextual variables). I believe a person is made up of more than just their game playing; they themselves are unique and are looking at other unique perspectives through virtual play. I also believe there is an archetypal influence appearing by the different games we choose to play, but then again, that is a much larger discussion for another time.
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