A clinical psychologist reveals how video games can reveal who we are and who we could be, and in so doing help us decide the kinds of lives we want to live.
What is it about video games? Despite their ubiquity – you can always find a handful of subway riders playing Candy Crush on any commute – there’s something embarrassing about admitting to enjoying them. Moreover, those of us who don’t identify as 'gamers' tend to pathologize what appears to be self-indulgent escapism and a retreat into fantasyland.
Frustrated by such dismissals of game-playing behaviour, the clinical psychologist Alexander Kriss began looking more closely at the phenomenon of gaming. What he learned was that video games were not always a mere escape, but rather could be a rich source of psychological and personal growth and insight. For many of us, games can provide a kind of potential space – an open world – outside dreams and reality yet bounded by certain rules and feedback, where we can work out issues that we couldn’t face elsewhere.
Drawing on his own history with gaming and his experience with his patients, Kriss illustrates how video games can help us to explore our potential, make sense of our lives’ complexities and even heal our minds. Games, he shows, like the people who play them, are diverse and complicated, and to understand them it is vital to examine not only isolated games but also each individual player–game relationship.
Universal Play offers an accessible and empathic framework through which players, parents and curious onlookers can understand our vital and evolving relationship with video games.