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The Power of Immersive Games


Games allow us to experience new worlds, new situations, and in a way, new selves.

We are each born into a unique set of circumstances — a particular body, gender, health-level, family, geography, environment and culture. Our specific circumstance has its own set of rules, norms and allowed behaviours, while ‘shunned’ behaviours are dis-allowed, or might even have extreme repercussions attached to them (depending on where we are physically located).

In a way, we can escape this particular reality, and try on new SELVES. What we dislike, we can simply discard and forget about. What we like however, we can take back, and potentially even integrate into our real selves back ‘home’.

This can be true for anyone, anywhere. All we really need is a mobile phone, game console, laptop or desktop… and we can escape into new, immersive realities that entertain, teach and engross us in numerous ways that may be missing in our daily life.

Games as Escape Hatches

Given the many variations of games, the types of game play, mechanics and available choices, it’s no surprise that upwards of 3.09 Billion people consider themselves ‘gamers’, while most play games daily, spending hundreds to thousands of hours, and numerous billions of dollars on game experiences. The numbers have increased a whopping 32% over the past seven years (now including more than 1 billion additional people!), while the number is expected to increase to 3.32 Billion by 2024.

And perhaps it’s no surprise; real life can be repetitive, full of responsibility and at times boredom, while games offer an immersive colour scheme that players can escape to. The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that 31.9% of youth 13-18 years of age have some type of anxiety disorder, while an estimated 8.3% of adolescents experience severe impairment due to anxiety levels. Temporarily ‘tuning out’ of our own difficult situations might benefit the psyche much more than we know. .

Games as Skills Acquisition

A CEO friend I’ve known since childhood (and who shall remain anonymous!) once said:

"Games were the first place that made me feel like I could do something interesting, something new… something… different? I never considered myself a ’natural-born leader’, but in WOW (World of Warcraft), gamer friends kept on insisting that I lead the team, and it was the first time that had ever happened. After some time, many abysmal failures, and some great winds, I developed enough skills to actually lead, and it seemed like these were skills that could actually spill over into the real world. They did."

Anynymous Serial Entrepreneur

Today, he is a self-made tech industry success, a ridiculously shy and quiet math-geek-turned-tech-startup-star multi-millionaire with 100+ employees whom he leads daily, and at least three successful companies under his belt. He further adds that without games, none of this would have happened, and he would still be ‘stuck in a cubicle’, working on projects that generally didn’t inspire him, or push the boundaries of his coding abilities. It was the fun and low-key failure tactics of gaming that allowed him to try and push the boundaries in the real world.

Games as Teachers of Failure

Many of us are terrified of faililing, and rightfully so. In many communities, cultures and societal situations any type of failure - big or small - can have a lasting effect. We’re even wired to succeed, or at least remain safe at all costs. Games can be a wonderful ‘vaccine’ or ‘antidote’ to the fear of failure, given that if we fail in games — and fail we will! — (unlike in the real world) we can just try and try again. Many games are purposefully difficult, with game challenges being hard to increasingly impossible, and failing them miserably only to learn, move forward, and ultimately succeed can inoculate us against the terrifying fear of failure. Given enough tries, we can perhaps even learn that life itself can be a game, and that failure here doesn’t have to be fatal.

In short, immersive games can allow us to explore new discover situations, experience new environments, people an places. To push new limits, expand our fear limits, and set our own boundaries. Games always effect the real world, whether we know it or not, and the more immersive, the more they have the potential to do so.

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