Simulation and Identity was my first published essay. In it I explore some of the subjective differences between narrative and simulation based games. I also theorize about the potential impact on player psychology for video games that mix simulation and narrative elements.

An Excerpt

The future of interactive media is hard to imagine. Publicly, video games are most associated with adolescent males acting out violent rampages in fantasy worlds. Most people know that modern games mimic reality to an astonishing degree; they do not, however, fully understand the ways in which the experiences players have in virtual space may be affecting their real lives. There is much more to this relationship than the commonly cited link between violence in video games and real world aggression. I believe there is little risk associated with the often criticized ultra-violent games because they require little moral decision-making on the part of the player. These games are safe because they operate far outside what we know as our real-world moral framework. As virtual and real-world experiences increasingly overlap, however, morality in video games has now become an important issue. When a player commits a violent act while playing a game, with whom are they identifying with at that moment? The protagonist in the game? Or are they just being themselves?

The newest generation of video games is defined by virtual experiences that paradoxically feel more real than reality. With the proliferation of such hyper-realities, there now exist greater potential risks as well as greater possible benefits in game play. At some point the social structures and personal morals which define our real life experiences will begin to make their way into virtual worlds. While video games today have not yet fully reached this level of involvement, aspects of some games already exhibit this evolution.

Simulation and Identity was published in the Fall 2006 edition of the University of Pennsylvania’s journal of undergraduate research, RES.