LIMBO: A HEARTBREAKING ADVENTURE

Playing video games is like driving. You need to learn how to do it. Many triple-A titles include thousands of hard mechanics, that evolve as the game and the character does, widening the possibilities of what you can and can’t do. Those are long games, with a semi-open world or with open world scenarios. But it is not that easy to learn how to play this games.

Casual gamers or even non-gamers, those who have never played a video game or those who have played a few, are not used to mechanics or things that hardcore and regular users do without even thinking. That’s why I think Limbo is an amazing game.

A heartbreaking story: let me think

I prefer to read a book rather than to see the movie. I love visual arts, I love the way some actors and actresses show emotions, how they make me feel, but is there anything better than to create yourself the story? When reading a book, I am the one who decides how the main character looks like and I am the one who decides how does the scenario look like. Because of that, a book can be completely different for two readers.

A book gives you the freedom to build the world but (excepting some cases), they give you the story. A video game gives you the scenario but can let you build the story.

This is what Limbo does. They give you a little boy. They give you the control. And the most important think Limbo offers you is the story. From the very beginning, you ask yourself: Who is this boy? Where is he going? Is he running away from something? Is he looking for someone? And the pace of the game, the way it is told favors thinking about how to answer this questions.

There are thousands of theories about what does Limbo mean. The best thing, however, is that it is still unknown. This means everyone is right because everyone lived the game in his or her own way.

Simple mechanics = Accessible game

Have you ever bought a game, played it a whole day, then went to work, study, or whatever normal people does, and when you got back you didn’t remember a single control? I’m not talking about playing a fighting game, with combos and with different characters. It may seem that if a game has simple controls, the game is going to be simple too. Limbo shows how this is not true.

Limbo shows how this is not true. The joystick, X and O (PS4 version) are all you need from the beginning till the end of the game. And that’s why I loved to play this game. Because it started as it finished. Laying in the grass, waiting for something to happen. The character does not evolve but the environment does and so do you. The magical moment when you realize that everything you need is around you, that it’s you and the sound of your steps, the game changes. The one who is learning how to play is the main character, not you, and this feeling is amazing.

Simple movement mechanics may turn into repetitive and boring scenes, but as I said, while you don’t change so it does the environment. In an almost perfect challenge curve, the game teaches you how to play while an overwhelming silence surrounds you.

Flowing like Csikszentmihalyi

Why is this review in a psychology blog? Because this game shows how a deep game can be accessible to everyone. How the power of the story that you create gives you the motivation to continue. And how as you walk, the scenario talks itself without any word needed. How everything clicks and how this feeling of achievement is always present.

How you flow with the game. Flow is a psychological state described as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake […]. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one […]. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost” (Csikszenmihalyi, 1990).

It is thought that people are happier when they are in a state of flow. But it is not that easy to enter this state. As shown in the figure, same levels of challenge and skills are required in order to achieve this state of flow. It is in this terms where Limbo excels.

 

flow graph
Flow graphic

The challenge evolves with your skill. Each new situation requires a little bit more, but you are ready to learn this and to improve your skillset. Just at the beginning of the game, you see that everything you need to continue your adventure is there. New game mechanics appear in a simple order, and most of them are easy to learn but difficult to master, what makes this flow feeling last from the beginning to the last scene.

Another characteristic that eases the achievement of the flow state is the story. As I said before, a non-told story, with lots of questions and no answers. The pursuit of something you don’t know but that every time is more difficult to achieve, more challenging but with more resources gives you a feeling that can’t be easily explained.

Although it’s not a new game, some years have passed since it was released, but many games should learn a lot about how to tell stories, when not to tell them and how to make gamers feel that is the character the one who is evolving and not us.

References:

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row

Working and growing

This is one thought about my own experience around video games and psychology. But it isn’t something exclusive to this field. I think my opinions and thoughts can be applied in many other situations.

People change. In many ways and not always to good. But we change. As a psychologist, I’ve been told that nothing is black or white, and that we fluctuate, affected by the ones that surround us, by our feelings towards others and towards ourselves,… And when we change, we learn things. Some are sweet and full of colours, and others are dark and unpleasant.

And as we change in many fields of our lifes, we change our motivations & interests. And during my formation (which will never end), I’ve changed many times the objectives of my “future”life. But I’m in love. I’m in love with what I’m doing, with what I’m learning and with who I’m becoming.

But lately I’ve had a weird feeling. Like if something that I do, and I get payed for, does not longer give me any thing. And that made me think about the main theme of this post: growth. Continue reading “Working and growing”

For Honor Closed Beta

Few days ago I had the chance to play the closed beta of For Honor. Initially I had no intention of making a review or anything like that, but after answering Ubisoft’s user experience survey I thought it could be interesting to use this game as a way to talk about 2 really different things that deserve one or more solo posts for themselves: menus and online communities

Apart from game modes, champions, controls, rewards… I think these are two really important features to talk about from a psychological point of view. Both features are really different and can be approached from various psychology fields. Lets talk abour For Honor then!

for honor.jpg

Menus: hell or heaven

Menus are the first thing you will see each time you open the game. And you can’t get rid of them. So menus need to be clear, simple, intuitive and confortable. I need to feel that I’m like in a safe area, that is going to lead me to battle.

Of course we are talking about a beta, but For Honor’s menu made me feel unconfortable. I felt like I wasn’t getting all information in a glance, and I had to enter each menu section to really understand what they included.

I have some hypothesis about why I had this experience:

  • Too much written information: there was a ton of information in the main page of the game, and I didn’t pay attention in any of it.
  • Too much visual information: it was like a punch in my eyes, different images and lots of dark colours which drove me crazy
  • Messy traductions: I played the English version and the Spanish version, and when all settings where in Spanish I felt some of the words included in the menu weren’t helping me a lot, instead they were bringing more chaos to the interface

In conclusion, the menu intention was (in my opinion) to give lots of information, but because of this information, the way it was shown and the way it was written, the menu failed in its objective

In a few hours (dunno when this is gonig to be published), open beta will be available. This game has lots of potential, but all I’ve been talking needs to be reconsidered in order to offer a fully enjoyable game experience.

I’ll write a full article about usability and menus, about what does a menu need to be useful, but as I said before, let’s talk about online game communities. I will focus in what I experienced playing For Honor, but online players deserve at least a full article talking about them

forhonor(1).jpg

Online players: welcome to the jungle

Have you ever played an online game? Overwatch, LoL, DOTA, CoD, WoW? If your answer is yes, you might know what comes next. If you haven’t, just read.

When I’m playing inside a game, I’m not Psychogamer. I’m someone else, somewhere else, doing something different of what I’m used, allowed or capable of doing. Imagine now if I’m playing an online Video Game. Let’s call it For Honor.

Imagine it’s my first time playing Nobushi, and because of some matchmaking issues, I’m playing against a lvl. 12 Pacekeeper. I am not going to win this fight. Not because of my attitude, not because of my opponent’s attitude, just because I don’t even know how to fight against her.

But If I’m playing in a team, of course, they will see I’m not a master, but their reaction is going to be the most important thing in this game. They might just think: ok, he’s a noob, no problem, let’s try to go as a team and see if together we can win. (90% of the time they don’t say this). Or they just can start trolling and making my game experience horrible, unable to understand how my champ works, and understanding that next time I’ll pick Nobushi it is going to happen the same.

That’s what happened to me in a closed beta for a game that’s not even available. People ragequitting, trolling, solo playing… why do we act like this? does our sense of control have something to do in our actions? Can we convince this player that even if we win or if we lose, we can still have fun?

I don’t have an answer to this question, and there are many studies talking about toxic players, League of Legends community and their personal traits. But this was about For Honor.

To summarize, I had a nice experience, being only interrupted by menus and community, and in some cases for matchmaking and  connection issues, but the difference between these details and the ones I talk about is clear.

A question comes out of this…. Can we make better online communities? How? Are toxic players easily identifies? or can all of us became one of them?

 

Left-handed players

Have you ever thought about how right-handed people rule this world? It may sound silly, but there are many differences between how lefties and righties live their lives. I can tell you some basic things that may ring a bell on you. Scissors, knifes (the cutting part tends to be on the left side), doors, TV switch buttons…

Yes, I am left-handed. And I could write a lot about things that annoy me because I feel are not designed for me (UX pls). But I am here to talk about Video Games. Few studies are directly talking about differences between laterality and its effect on playing a game.

Some games, as CoD, have the option of switching from right-handed to left-handed controls, and it’s (for me) a big relief. But you might ask why most of the lefties dont complaint about playing video games using controls designed for right-handed people. I think I might have the answer. Continue reading “Left-handed players”

Learning through Video Games

It may sound boring, tiring, and if you were born after the 90’s, familiar. Schools and educational systems are starting to include Video Games on the curriculum. And here I am, as a psychologist to show why we should help in the developement, implementation and analysis.

As most of us know, at least in Spain (my country), educational system is completely obsolete. There are many reasons that can explain this lack of utility of education. Youngsters are being taught like their parents were. And teachers are teaching the way they were taught. It looks like education is stucked in 1990, and more than 25 years have passed since then.

There have been many studies showing better ways to teach, to reach the interests of the students and showing how not everything that we were taught is useful now. If you talk with teachers they will tell you that it’s difficult for them to catch with the students, Continue reading “Learning through Video Games”

E-sports and psychology

It’s been some years since x-Peke and Fnatic won their first (and only) world championship, and yet many things have changed.

The number of people interested in e-sports is increasing, and because of this, the money and opportunities around e-sports are increasing too. Just to bring some facts, last year’s League of Legends (most played online videogame ever, with 100 million player monthly according to RIOT data) world championship had an audience peak of 14,700,000 viewers.

E-sports are still newbies, without many aknowledgement, and without a solid infrastructure behind them. But despite that, every year more and more people are gaining interest in e-sports, and just as the number of players is also growing, the number of viewers is too.

If you did not understand a single word of what I’ve said before, dont worry. There are pro players of many videogames, and there are teams, with sponsors (like Samsung, Asus,…), that have coaches, psychologists, and there’s a huge crowd of young and not so young people who watch them play, via twitch, youtube, or similar sites.

And yes, there are psychologists inside some teams. And coaches, which some of them have formation in psychology or skills related to psychology and its field of knowledge.

What can I do as a psychologist in the world of e-sports?

Continue reading “E-sports and psychology”

Psychology and Video Games. Why?

This makes sense. What does psychology have to say about video games? And how can psychology be useful during the developement and analysis of a video game?

It’s not that easy to answer this question, because these two concepts (psychology and video games) have different origins and initially different objectives and have gone through a different transformation over the years.

What’s a video game? What does psychology mean? Where do these terms merge?

I dare to say that you have at least played a video game once. Parties, friends, boredom… it’s really easy to find a place and a moment to play. Candy crush, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Final Fantasy, the Legend of Zelda, Pong, Tetris… these names might ring a bell in you.

Continue reading “Psychology and Video Games. Why?”