• You never really leave high school. Do your gaming tastes?
01.29.13

You never really leave high school. Do your gaming tastes?

New York Magazine recently published a fascinating, depressing piece about the traumatizing effects of high school, based on some very new (and disturbing) research. The gist is pretty simple – since adolescent brains are still forming in a lot of important ways, the experiences we have during that time stay with us for life. It’s the time where we form our ideas about the world – and about how to deal with adult relationships and disappointments.

And it gets so much worse

- - -

The piece explains:

“Our self-image from those years, in other words, is especially adhesive. So, too, are our preferences. “There’s no reason why, at the age of 60, I should still be listening to the Allman Brothers,” Steinberg says. “Yet no matter how old you are, the music you listen to for the rest of your life is probably what you listened to when you were an adolescent.” Only extremely recent advances in neuroscience have begun to help explain why.”

There’s every reason that this logic should follow for gamers as well. Sure, some of us naturally gravitated towards games as a way of coping with the adolescent social order, but it goes much deeper than that. How much of what we play in our adolescence carries over to our adult lives? Do our younger selves dictate our gaming tastes and habits? Most likely, they do.

This is probably more motivation-specific than genre or game specific. In other words, it isn’t so much about what you like – but why you like it. You might play games for escapist entertainment or a sense of achievement – and play that way for life – rather than maintain an obsession with any one game. It makes sense that I played practically everything Nintendo and Rare and Sonic Team made when I was in high school, and I now gravitate towards games that are colorful and weird and evocative. I probably always will.

It’s fascinating to think about the psychology of various types of gamers. You may be familiar with some of the basic theory behind this, such as the 8 kinds of fun that motivate players to engage in different kinds of games. Just imagine – most of your own “fun motivations” are set when you are 14-18 years old.

Knowing this certainly makes me wish I had played more in-depth strategy games when I was 15.