We discussed in class last week the concept and factors that induce a player’s immersion in video games, how each element of a video games’ design can completely capture an individuals attention and even create within them a sense of existence inside the game realm. One of the aspects we talked about was how connecting to other players and being able to communicate with them contributed to immersion, but at the same time corrupt it as well. With relation to social network gaming, I look at social connection in gaming from a different angle.
Facebook games may have been initially a good idea to start with: they served as an entertainment tool and also a new way to communicate with your friends, at the same time providing something to talk about when small-talk topics are scarce. However, the copious amounts of time university students and adults alike devote their time to social network gaming is proving to affect productivity, and is serving us more harm than good.
It cannot be denied that countless students’ study time has been eaten up by these social networking games. The furious slamming of the space bar we hear in Kate Edgar Student Commons in Auckland University, initially thought to be higher stage students going over-enthusiastic on an essay due the next day, but turning out to be an enthusiastic game of Tetris instead — can never fail to make my eyes roll in incredulity. Just what is so immersing about ‘the Russian Square’?? As a ‘good girl’ that always obeyed my parents’ harsh restriction of games in the house since childhood, video games have always been a luxury to me — and in time, a waste of time. Farmville? Tetris? What is actually the point of these games? Never did I think I would fall into the clutches of Candy Crush. However, in the past year of gradually obsessively making my way to now level 421, Candy Crush has not changed my opinion on social network gaming whatsoever.
Social-network gaming is essentially more counterproductive than it is socially advantageous. At least to me, and my fellow university classmates. Many a night did I put off doing assignments until I got to the end of a set of levels, and after being told it was the ‘ideal’ game to play in a slow lecture, I ultimately resulted in having to read the readings more carefully because I did not catch a single idea of what was said in class. The key to Candy Crush’s success, in my opinion, is in the map that is splayed out with your Facebook friends dotted here and there. The immersion, or probably more precisely obsession, partly arises from the psychology of comparison, of wanting to beat your friends or get a higher score than them in a single level. And along with great visuals and sounds, as well as the seemingly never-ending map of levels, keeps players hooked on the game, gradually forming a habit of playing, and wasting ever more time on an ironically minimally interactive social-networking game.
To conclude, it is not that I hate these games to the core, but as with all other forms of entertainment, we must find a balance and recognize it for what it is, and not let it dominate over what is more important in our daily lives. It definitely won’t hurt to while away bus-waiting time on a game or two, but just make sure that it’s candies you’re crushing — and not letting the game crush your life.