The Digital Predator – Instinct in Gaming

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There are opinions to the contrary, but I’m of a mind to believe that we are the apex predator on the planet and I’m interested in how this aspect of our nature has shaped the world of gaming.

Moreover, I’m interested in how this instinct, which has been instrumental in developing most, if not all, combative video games, may actually draw some attention away from the graphical superiority of new gen titles.

I’ll start by saying that I am loving my new gen experience and am continually blown away by the upscaling of fidelity on most titles.  As a gamer of some thirty five years I’ve seen the incredible advances we’ve made through the eyes of someone who really does remember Pong as being the only option (and it being a damn exciting option at the time) and I remain amazed at every graphical advancement the industry makes.

So, imagine my excitement at being able to play console titles at the level of visual fidelity offered by the Xbox One and the PS4.  Being an avid gamer, though, it’s not just about the visuals and most of the titles I play offer a visceral experience that brings much of the apex predator into play.  What I noticed recently was that this instinct generates something akin to tunnel vision as soon as the chase begins, reducing the lovingly created visuals back down to a simple map of information to be navigated in order to achieve a goal.

This is far from a criticism or even a negative observation as I still get plenty of satisfaction from the experience and still manage to enjoy the visuals offered by new gen titles, but I think it is interesting to observe how much of that gets tuned out when the adrenaline starts pumping.

Take, for example, the chase in Watch Dogs in its various forms.  Once a target has been identified (whether human or AI) all I can see is the white outline of that character and the minimap – everything else is reduced to obstacle or passage.  That’s an extreme definition as clearly I can still see everything on the screen in all its high definition glory, but I do wonder how much the brain reduces its processing of this information to satisfy the urge to hunt, to focus so completely on the prey.

Likewise in Titanfall, the visuals aren’t at the top of the tree for new gen, but they are pretty and the verticality of the environments is amazing, leading to some breathtaking maps.  Yet again, though, I find myself playing this game with the same predatory focus that precludes almost everything but the target and any hazards that might prevent me from reaching my target.

This is not a problem, or a complaint.  I wouldn’t for a moment advocate downgrading the graphical experience of such games just because I might not be looking.  Far from it I think the graphics of new gen titles are an invaluable aspect of the experience, but I am intrigued by the idea of how much attention we might actually be paying when that kill or be killed moment approaches and how such a realisation might shape the future of gaming.

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