The attempt of this article is to suggest an hypothesis to describe the influence of a video game such as Quake on the player's play style in other video games.
Please note that I do not have straight answers and I do not pretend to have the absolute truth in this topic. I am just passionate about video game psychology and psychology itself. However, the concepts and my experience in psychology are based on the courses I have followed as a university student. Therefore this content has to be considered as a suggestion or a hypothesis based on true concepts in psychology.
Once upon a time, a scientist named Ivan Pavlov had a dog. Pavlov's dog always salivated when he saw his food. From this statement, Pavlov's curiosity led him to conduct an experiment with his dog. Before he showed dog's meat, he would ring a little bell. Each time, and for a certain period of time, Pavlov would ring the bell and then show the food to the dog (in this specific order). After a certain time, the dog started to salivate right after he heard the bell. Therefore, the meat did not make him salivate any more. Pavlov changed the natural factor that would make his dog salivate for another factor (another stimulus). This is called classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning consists of an unconditioned stimulus that creates an unconditioned response. When the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is paired with a conditioned stimulus (CS), it transforms the unconditioned response (UCR) into a conditioned response (CR). All of this happens mostly unconsciously.
Therefore, Pavlov has proved that it is possible to associate any kind of behaviour with any kind of stimulus that is different from the natural cause of the said behaviour.
Now, is there any classical conditioning in video games?
Of course there is. Video games are virtual 4D environments in which the user acts and plays. In other words, the player's psychology remains the same but it is put in an environment that differs from the former one (the world commonly known as IRL). But how exactly does this work?
Let's leave classical conditioning and go further than that. The player's mind is shaped by the game's borders. A game's borders can be rules, physics (how fast can you move, how long can you move, etc), design (the maps - the more complex a map is, the more its limits will shape the player's reasoning in the game), time (timing of the items, round time, time limit, etc), and more. All these rules can be considered as stimulus and the player's play style (his reasoning) is a sort of response to it.
What about Quake? How am I conditioned on Campgrounds?
Now we can link some of the previous elements that make part of a video game with Quake. Quake has its whole environment to which the player has to get used to. To a certain extend, the game conditions the players to be successful. The "impressive", "excellent, "humiliation" and other kinds of rewards not only encourage but shape you to repeat these achievements and thus stay successful or become even better. Out side of Quake Live, its match-making and ranking systems as well as the awards are a source of attractiveness.
So what about your play style? Are you conditioned when you play? I believe most (if not all) of your assumptions and anticipations are mostly conditioned. After you have people a hundred times going to X place after they have been to Y place, you start to understand (unconsciously or not) that Y place means the will to go at X and therefore you will aim, pre-shoot, or do whatever action towards this place. Do not forget you can also do nothing instead (because the functioning of the brain is not that obvious eh) but still carry about it while you are playing. In the end, it is possible to assume that most part of an anticipation done by the player is due to conditioning and not real-conscious-straight-thinking.
One specific characteristic of this game I would also like to talk about is how much it encourages the players to have an unbalanced behaviour. A balanced behaviour means that you are either playing offensive or defensive in a fight and the opponent acts the opposite way. I often noticed that Quake encourages you to be unbalanced with offensive opponents. Some major fights I have seen, whether they were duels or group fights, often resulted in whoever was strong and bold enough to not back off and stick on the front would be the winner of that fight. Such a behaviour can surprise the opponent, as his expectation of the player backing off would be denied, and this surprise can give advantage to the targeted player.
It's not your fault if you're doing it wrong
Social facilitation means that an individual will be more likely to perform an easy action in a much better way if there are people watching that person. On the other hand, this same individual will also perform a task at its worst if the task is difficult. The fact of knowing that someone is watching you makes you feel pressurized, judged and evaluated as well. Therefore, you tend to give the best you can on something you already master because you have enough confidence to apply yourself in order to make it look nicer or better. As for the difficult actions, you will be more likely to fail big time because of the stress and the lack of confidence.
Therefore, if you're the last one alive in the game and things end up very badly, you know it's not completely a question of technicality ;) .
The famous "practice practice
" is, obviously, meant to tell you to become better. But what does it really mean, to become better? It means to bring things down to a level of easiness for you. In other words, as you work on your technical skills, you pull down the difficulties to turn them into easy things so that you will have enough confidence in the future to treat them as "very easy" actions in front of people.
Why would Quake have a stronger influence on players than another game such as Counter Strike?
What makes Quake different from other video games is its environment and the frame it gives to players. The physics make you free. In other words, you can play at every speed you want, although the point of it is to play fast. A Quake player is used to think fast. For example, you need very quick counting skills to time the items in a duel match. You have to be fast in your movements, in your aim, and so on. The speed of this game influences the visual skills as well. By being used to see things flashing and flying so fast (and sometimes at variable distances), your aim is strong and perhaps better than the average players on another video game.
Therefore I think Quake players are usually very good on other games because they can easily restrain themselves to the game's frame due to the freedom and the visual skills they have acquired in Quake.
To conclude this article, it is possible to believe that video games condition their players to a defined environment. Some video games such as Quake may condition the players so strongly that their conditioned responses will appear in other games as well. A video game is a huge environment and it is important as a video game creator to think about how you would want your players to use the game and not only as "how to play it". As for the players, perhaps it would be interesting to think about these conditionings and how to deny them in order to not be on the same waves with your opponents.
References and further readings
- Classical Conditioning on Wikipedia
- Social Facilitation on Wikipedia
- Psychology Of Video Games
- A blog on video gaming psychology written by a professional psychologist
Edited on Sat. June 14th to add the part on social facilitation.