Why do people react to their character’s actions in video games physically, as if it was actually happening to them?

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Best example would be an adrenaline rush when just barely making a jump or avoiding enemy groups in a platforming game.

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Video games are unnatural, monkey brain sees something happening and thinks it’s happening to you

When their is a level of focus involving video games, our bodies involuntary reacts towards certain moments. It’s called immersion. You can get so focused on a task a sudden change of scenery can make you jump or raise your adrenaline.

Because there is still risk involved with playing a game. Ok if you barely make a jump the risk is not actual death but it’s risking whatever the consequence is in the game (character death, going back to checkpoint, etc)

So we still experience real life risk even though the scenario is simulated.

People have the ability to empathize with and even identify as other creatures.

There is neural circuitry in the brain that is especially word to mirror the emotional expressions and gestures we see expressed by other people around us, these are called “mirror neurons”. We also have the mental capacity to imagine ourselves in the place of another person and imagine ourselves feeling what they feel.

These abilities are so strong and generalizable that we can even empathize and identify with simulated/fictional people and non-human animals.

Asking “why do video games create tension if it isn’t real?” begs the question “why do people play video games at all, if it isn’t real?”. Clearly something has to be real, for people to care about doing it.

I would argue that it’s because it *is* actually happening. The video game is really being played, by a real human being, with real motivations, real feelings, and a real fear of failure.

Same reason I can feel sad for somone, or feel pain seeing somones hurt themself. We’ve evolved to be social creatures therefore these characteristics allow us to be more social. But video games movies and tv shows trigger the same responses that we would usually get from looking at or interacting with other humans

I’ve been known to lower my head as if to duck while running away from people shooting at me in games.

The purpose of video games, in psychology terms, is to fulfill an evolved need we as humans have, that we no longer have a survival purpose for. That is the need for conflict & drama in our lives. Our lives used to be full of it in tribal times & enjoying solving these problems helped w our survival. Now in a boring world of ultra stability, we use video games & movies as our need for conflict outlets.