Are Game Memories Real? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios

Are Game Memories Real? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios

Are all the memories that we
have playing video games real? [MUSIC PLAYING] Last year, my wife and
I went to Argentina and came back with a bunch
of incredible photos. Really amazing country. I loved walking all of
the tree-lined streets, meandering from plaza
to plaza, and climbing to the top of the
Palacio Barolo. But what’s common about
all of these memories is that they’re real
things that happened to me and I captured them
all with my camera. So it’s odd, as someone
who plays a lot of games, that the memories of
things that I did in games are equally vivid memories–
my buddy saving me in “Farcry 2,” the scream
of Lucca’s mother in “Chrono Trigger,” speeding down
the highway in Alderney at dusk, blasting LCD
Soundsystem in “Grand Theft Auto IV” en route to
take down Jimmy Pegorino. Incredible, right? What’s weird is that I
remember these moments as lived experiences,
not as played ones. When I recall them, I simply see
the actions as they happened. I couldn’t tell you what my
fingers were doing at the time or what TV I was watching. And as a mediated experience,
video games are unique. Unlike, say, remembering a
favorite scene in a film, you’re ostensibly the one on
set performing the script. And this is an
important distinction. When you recall a scene
from a movie or a book, it doesn’t feel personal. It doesn’t feel like I did it. Whereas when you play
a game, the memories often feel deeply personal. To me, my game memories
and my memories from my trip to Argentina evoke
the same kinds of feelings. Games are the only medium where,
when talking about something that happened, we often
say, “I did that,” as in, “I took down that guy,” or
“I ran on top of that train,” or “I went fishing.” [MUSIC PLAYING] So this begs a very
important question– are these memories of things
that I’ve done in games real? Lots of people say no. Nope. One might argue that game
experiences are not real, in a sense, because I thankfully
didn’t do or see or strangle those things in real life. In fact, that’s a common
critique leveled against games, that they supplant real world
experiences with fake ones. So of course you would
say that the memories of those experiences
aren’t real at all. And yet, my memory of walking
up to the Marquez house for the first time feels
as vivid as walking the streets of Palermo or
biking the canals of Amsterdam. Writer Tom Bissell
argues that, quote, “Games give us real experiences,
not surrogate experiences, many of which are as important
to me as any real memories.” So clearly there are
two sides of the debate, but maybe we’re not looking
at this the right way. Maybe there’s a third
option that we haven’t even considered yet. But before we go any further,
we should talk a little bit about how memory works. I don’t want to get too bogged
down in the neuroscience of it. It’s not my specialty. And Vanessa over at “BrainCraft”
has a great video on memory that you should check out. But here’s what’s
really, really important to understand about memory. The brain does not
work like a filing cabinet that allows you to
perfectly retrieve memories at will. And memory is a creation
that’s constantly morphing and changing over time. McGill psychology
professor Karim Nader says that the very
act of remembering changes the original memory, as
any loyal listener of “Serial” could tell you. So that last-minute
“Mario Kart” victory likely didn’t go down exactly
the way that you remember it. The other important thing
is that memory is deeply tied to our emotional states. Researchers have found that
the vividness with which we remember something is tied to
our emotional relationship with said memory. This just means
that emotion helps us feel the memory as
if it was yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that
the memory is more accurate. Yaa! What? That– what? How did that– daa! The point is,
when we talk about real versus fake memories,
it’s a false dichotomy. At their heart, games
represent a relatively new kind of experience that we
could view to understand as a new kind of memory. I don’t mean in a
neural scientific sense but in a philosophical one. Think about memory
along three stages– the experience of the
event, consolidating a memory of the event, and
then recalling that event. For example, my wedding was
a real event that happened. I consolidated
memories of my wedding and now I can recall the
event with my memories. And if all else fails,
I’ve got this guy. On the other end of
spectrum, let’s look at implanted memories
or false confessions. In those cases, the
experience did not happen and you’re consolidating
a false event. However, your recall
evokes the same feeling, as though it had
actually happened to you. And this happens way more
than you might think. It’s kind of scary. Watch this amazing TED talk from
psychology professor Elizabeth Loftus for more examples. Games, however, are a
very strange third option. They’re fake experiences
in that you didn’t actually kill hundreds of Nazis
in “Wolfenstein.” But you’re consolidating
memories of a real event, because you did play
the game and you did lead a resistance
against General Deathshead. And the recall of
the memories evokes a real emotional response,
such as remembering the times that you were with Anya. In your recall, you’re
combining a simulated experience with a real encoding of events. So probably the
best way to think about the realness
of our game memories is kind of like dreams. We have emotions
tied to our dreams, but we know that they’re
not real in the sense that other people can confirm
them as shared events. But that doesn’t mean
that they didn’t happen, as anyone who suffers from
nightmares can tell you. Moreover, dream researchers
like Jayne Gackenbach suggest that dreams and games
may serve the same purpose. They allow us to model
behaviors that we might need in the real
world, but within the safety of their unreality. So anyone who says that
game memories aren’t real is kind of missing the point. In the grand scheme
of things, games are a relatively
new medium, which means our memories of our
experiences are new as well. But just because
they’re new doesn’t mean they’re not as real or
as valuable or as meaningful as any memory from
my waking life. So what do you think? What are some of your
most vivid game memories and do they feel as real to
you as things that you’ve done in the real world? Hash it out in the comments
and if you like what you saw, please subscribe. I’ll see you next week. Last week we talked about the
legality of Let’s Play videos. Let’s see what you had to say. First and foremost,
a big thank you to Peter Bodechtel who
sent in this amazing image of the “Game/Show”
logo but compiled from all of these different
screenshots on Steam. Incredible work, Peter. Thank you so much
for sending that in. There’s a link to the
image in the description. Sedona Pardham leaves
an amazing comment, a comment so good I wish
I had included it actually in the episode. Sedona points us
to the curious case of Irv Novick, who
was a comic book artist– he worked
for DC Comics– and whose work became part
of Roy Lichtenstein– who was a very famous 20th century
painter– it became something that Roy built upon
and sort of adapted in his own particular style. Roy ended up selling the
work for millions of dollars and Irv did not
quite as much money. Sedona goes on to
point out, and I think this is a really good
comparison to sort of what’s happening with Let’s Players. You have this, like, high end
of the spectrum of Let’s Players who are making a lot of money,
but the creators themselves whose work serves as the
inspiration for these Let’s Play videos, they’re not
making quite so much. And it does ask this
question– Sedona says that she has a friend
who doesn’t really buy games, but watches them for free. It does sort of raise
this larger question– like, what’s our responsibility
to the creators themselves? Because if there
isn’t enough money for creators to make
games, then there will be no Let’s Play videos. Or if the quality of
the games that are made aren’t very high– I
guess, I don’t know, they’ll end up with really
crappy Let’s Play videos. Regardless, it’s a
really good question Sedona asks and,
yeah, it should be food for thought for all of us. Drackar takes issue
with me saying that no one’s been talking
about the legality of Let’s Play videos. Yes, I know that
that’s something that Let’s Players
have been discussing. By “no one,” I mean, like,
case law, like lawyers, like ultimately people who
will decide whether or not something’s legal or not. That’s what I meant by
it, that there hasn’t been as much of a– I
personally was surprised that there haven’t been court
cases and things like that. Maybe there never will be. I sure hope so. But yes, I understand
where you’re coming from. I’m being a little hyperbolic. 007MrYang and a couple
others of you asked me about international copyright
law, specifically about how different territories or living
in different places would affect the legality
of Let’s Play videos. I recognize a large
portion of you do not live in the United
States and this episode was about American copyright law. Nonetheless, I went back to Andy
Sellars, the copyright lawyer from Harvard’s Berkman Center
for Internet and Society, and here’s what he told me. He said that each country’s
laws are territorial. So for you as a Let’s Player,
you should focus on the laws where you’re doing you’re
copying and distributing and making videos and
less on the laws where a particular game
is coming from. So let’s say that you’re based
in Kenya or Italy, for example, and you’re making a Let’s Play
video of an American game. You’d be analyzed under
Kenyan or Italian law, respectively, not
under American law, even though the
game is made there. Here’s where things get tricky. First of all, the internet
is obviously a big and global place and this idea
of where something is copied or distributed is
obviously more complicated than just your
physical location. And also, large companies
like EA or Activision, they have offices
all over the place, so it’s not just a situation
where it’s like, oh, this is an American
company, for example. These things get
really complicated. What’s interesting about the
legality of Let’s Play videos is that it reflects the
global nature of games, not just in terms of
creation but also in terms of distribution and commentary. It’s something that’s done
by lots of different people all over the world. So it will be really interesting
to see how this plays out in the future. [THEME MUSIC]

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100 thoughts on “Are Game Memories Real? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios”

  • Something else I would mention is how a lot of times games can be linked to audio or visual cues that trigger intense memory recall, something you don't get as much from non-interactive media. For instance, any time I hear the song "On Melancholy Hill" from Gorillaz I get all sorts of vivid memories of playing Minecraft, without any of the visuals of me playing the game. Just what happened in the game. But if I hear the theme to Jurassic Park, I remember seeing the movie but can't instantly recall any of the times I saw it in the theater or on tv.

  • I think LP's actually help make a point here. Someone else made a comment about how passionate gamers are when discussing a game because the experience is so personal to you. If you watch a LP's of a game I think you will be less likely to remember what happened during the game. The actual YouTuber you are watching has a part in it as well. I never played Heavy Rain but I clearly remember watching Pewdiepie play it. At the same time I watched Pewdiepie play episode 1 of The Walking Dead and I haven't the foggiest what decisions he made in that game and I think it is because after watching it I bought the first season of The Walking Dead and I clearly the remember the choices I made but nothing of what he did in the game.

  • Depending on the game, my emotion is binded to that specific moment. I do not feel accomplished in games that have to do with murder (Super Mario Bros., FPSs in general), but those games that have an emotional link to me do stay with me for a long time, such as the first death of Crono in Chrono Trigger, the growth of link in Ocarina of Time (also being my first game in the N64 during my teenage years), the death of characters in Final Fantasy IV (due to the emotional investment in them and then just DYING) or reaching 99 battles in Street Fighter against M. Bison (and continuously failing). So, either my link to games is through enraging impotence or emotional investment in specific times of my life. I could not play Wind Waker without remembering my ex and crying myself to sleep, for that matter.

  • The main problem with games these days is that yes they do have their moments but they are forgettable. You may start to feel that you don't know what you have played or accomplished because the game didn't really appeal you that well. While older games that we grew up in the past have given us all the memories that we know how to do. Sure some people forget but when they play the old games it sometimes comes back. Thats just my opinion from the way I see it. 

  • Interesting theory but I don't see how this is just a gaming thing and not also a reading and watching movie thing.
    Ok before you all go on with 'you are more active in video games' and so on:
    Since long books were praised to be able to give you experiences that you couldn't obtain other wise. And you get just as emotionally invested into a good book or movie or even theatre play as you get into a game. Well maybe not everyone does, since everyone has their own preferences, but I bet anyone at least know someone who cried at a sad scene or laughed hardly when something funny happened or shouted at the screen or the book if the protagonist was about to do something really stupid. You get just as emotionally invested.
    And while, yes, in a book you hardly say 'I was doing this' as some people do with video games, It's still a very emotional experience. For example when ever I remember the tale of 'the little matchgirl' I get really sad, although it's just a tale and I didn't even SEE ist but only heard it.
    The same way, Bruno Bettelheim suggests, do fairy tales work for little children. They use them to cope with things just like they use dreams.

  • One of my favorite game memories is in Fallout New Vegas. Where the NCR and the Legion are battling for the dam and out of nowhere the boomers fly over and blow everyone up.
    Thats was amazing.

  • As a good example of this concept, I remember talking to a friend who was dealing with whether or not to cut ties with her abusive mother. We had played The Walking Dead: Season 2 recently and I remember bringing up Kenny as an example of someone that you care about but can't afford to have in your life as if he was a real person we both knew. For the both of us at that time, Kenny was a friend of ours that we cared deeply about.

  • I'd say the experience of playing a game is real, not fake like you said at 4:40 ish. It's a simulation of events, and the simulation of events is experienced.

    Take the difference from being in an actual war versus playing a COD game. One has a high chance of giving you PTSD, and is generally horrible and upsetting, while the COD game is remembered as being fun. Soldiers back from war do sometimes recount their experiences fondly, but a COD game is not going to give you PTSD, and riding in a humvee with a gun at your side might be exhilarating and frightening as doing so in a game, but the degrees are different.

    For another example, I'm a huge fan of horror games. I've played Silent Hill 1-4, The Penumbra Series, The Amnesia Series, Outlast, Lone Survivor, and I'm sure a few others. I remember those experiences as being terrifying, heart stopping, panic inducing, and with great fondness. I loved being scared, but if you put me in any of those situations in real life I'd probably just slit my throat and bleed out. I get scared in banal social situations. I'm fucked if Jason knocks on my door.

    The point is, the real experience and the simulated experience are different experiences with different memories. The memory of the simulated experience is just as real as the real experience's associated memory, it's just a different memory with different emotions attached. Both experiences are real, but even in a simulation of a real life event (the war on terror and COD) the experiences are very very different.

    I hope I made sense there.

  • Professor Albus Dumbledore: Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

    Video Game memories are the same as Simulations or Virtual Realities, it's not happening in the "real world", but our the things we do in those other fictional worlds still happened, it was just isolated to its own separate, temporary reality which doesn't affect this one.

  • You could say that it depends on your definition of "real" and "experience", but ultimately the memory of the illusion of immersion is real. 

  • It might have been a novelty at first to tell friends I was going to Los Santos that night, but after a while the line between "playing GTA" and "going to Los Santos" blurred. My adventures were very real to me. I hadn't experienced immersion like that before in other games, where saying that I got chased by the cops through Paleto Bay really felt like something that had happened rather than something I did in a game. I think there's differences in our interactions with games that make a difference. Narrative experiences don't come across as real to me because I understand this is a story I'm guiding a character through, but my GTA Online character effectively is me (down to my clothes and hair, other than my beard being larger) so the things I do in game really feel like an extension of me and my recall of those actions felt like my actions.

  • Right now?  My two most vivid video game memories are from telltale games, the first when Snow's head gets delivered in The Wolf Among Us and then when the young lord gets shanked in the Game of Thrones one.   After that… the ending of Mass Effect.  Vivid, vivid memories. 

  • I suspect this varies a lot from person to person–even when I get really immersed in a game, I don't walk away feeling like I was "there"; I feel like I played a really cool game. It gets filed away in the same vein as having memories of a movie, book, or perhaps even memories of playing pretend as a kid. There's always a very clear emotional line for me between experiences I have in the real world and experiences I have in a game.

    In-game memories do get more powerful to me if there's a strong multiplayer element involved. If I'm sharing the moment with other people through some form of chat, but particularly voice chat with friends, now it's something we did together. I have tepid memories about achieving things in my Minecraft single player world; I have great memories of collaborating with friends to build something ornate, or just fooling around with nonsense in creative mode, or hosting events on our server. But it's the human connection there that mattered to me, way more than the specific things happening on screen.

  • This made me think about how many people mention parts of films/television shows that they vividly remember, but don't remember what they're from. It seems to be a similar thing – you don't remember what you were doing, or what you were watching it on, but you still remember the imagery and how it made you feel.

  • I want to say they are real, but saying that opens a strange question for me.  If the memories are real, what does that mean about the reality of the violence that I've done in a game?  Research seems to show that that violence isn't real or at least doesn't bear the consequences that committing those actions IRL would, but does legitimizing those memories mean the experience is formative?  So I answer a hesitant yes, game memories are real.  Hesitant because I'm afraid that means I've been far too dismissive in my opinion of violent content.

  • As a mediating experience, games are somewhat unique, but they aren't the first.  Stories(oral and written).  My example is of really well-written books.  Fiction or non-fiction, the reader can become engrossed in them if the imagination and skills of the author are beyond certain thresholds(of the reader) and can catapult one into the story.  The experience ends when the linear progression of the story(or chapter) ends and begins again with the next one.  The experience is real even if it is not an actual, physical experience of the reader.  Music is an experience for the ears.  Movies and cutscenes are the realm of optical storytelling with both story and music.

    Games take it to another level with each experience unique to different agencies and interactions with those agencies.  Live interaction steps up the experience with more of the human senses being used to facilitate investment.  Evocation of feelings are attributed to investment of the experience.

    Memories created in games are REAL using the three stages you presented. If the experience did not happen, it can't be a true memory.  Consolidation and recall are what make memories real, even if recalled incorrectly.  That still opens up a can of worms on experiences, but they are defined by us mostly by using observations which we place a lot of faith in.

    Writing and reading this post is an experience.  Because my experience is in writing it, I have little investment in consolidating or recalling it so I will probably forget about it.

  •      Aw man, when Eli Vance gets killed in the final moment of Half-Life 2: Episode 2…I was crying right along with Alyx and I can remember that moment viscerally, as if I was grieving with a real friend of mine over a real death.
         Seems to me this argument ties in very well with Beaudrillard's explication of hyperreality. Now more than ever before, we experience the world through a plethora of mediators, most of them digital. The argument that "real" experiences (and the memories of them) are superior to "hyperreal" or "mediated" experiences (and the memories of them) I think tends toward a fallacy of nature, that more primitive, "directly sensed" (?) experience counts more than the simulated, "indirectly sensed" (?) ones. Jamin talks about video games being a relatively new medium, but what about social media? Even newer, and, I would suggest, arguably just as hyperreal as a "lived experience" in play. One would have to address this if one were to argue that video games remove players from real experiences.

  • The vast majority of my most remembered gaming experiences have been ones that I've shared with friends. Like my friend Rob showing me how an emulator worked for the first time, or the first time I played Smash Bros with my friend Chris, thinking I was pretty unbeatable and getting my ass kicked because he was on a whole other level than me, or trying to unlock EVERY Silent Hill ending with my friend John, or that time during a sleepover with a bunch of my friends we all sat around and beat Final Fantasy 9 together.

    Even if I made incredible progress in a game or raised my skill level in a game I was playing by myself, that memory is nowhere near as important, or even as memorable to the most mundane events that happened while playing games with friends.

  • I have to disagree quite firmly with your assumption that game memories are on a much different level then movies and books. I am personally both a big game and book fan, and my memories from reading a book is in many cases just as strong as my gaming memories. Take for instance the Harry Potter novels, I may not have been Harry, Ron or Hermione, but my memories are as if I was there in the same way as with games. I do not remember the events through words, I remember them through what I imagined.

    Also I want to point out that as opposed to when you make up memories, you have actually experienced the memory when you played the game. The experience is not fake, but the cause of the experience is virtual. This is just as with memories.

    I want to also note that due to the way we recall memories it is natural that we remove screens, controllers etc. This is apparent when you sometimes remember things from a top down perspective, we are very good at imagining how things look from above (likely has to do with the need to navigate in the wild).

    These were my thoughts on the matter.

  • Hi.
    Good reference to the dreams, because I have a different memories of dreams, than of games (as long as I don't play like on a holodeck). In dreams I am the actual protagonist (mostly, sometimes I'm an non-corporeal observer). Things in dreams happen to myself, I can feel it. In that case being in a dream is the same as being in the real world (in all but one dream I'm not aware I'm dreaming).

    In games I steer an avatar and am aware of that. Many of my memories of gaming (nearly all of them) include the setting of the real world. I can recall where I sat at the moment and played that game.

    It's still a real memory (up to an including the action on screen), I was there and played and it's very important to my life. Dreams are also very important to me and I know (when waking up that is), that it's a "fake" memory (beside once in my childhood, where it took half a day for me to figure out a memory I had was a dream from last night (and in reverse I once remembered something and thought it to be a dream only to get told: "Dude, that was totally real!"). That never once happened with games.

    Fascinating is, when I dream of being in a game (which happens from time to time). I'm in the game world, as the avatar I usually play and I still have my HUD and to engage certain actions I don't throw the fireball (for example) I have to trigger the button in the HUD. Weird!

    Just my view on the topic. Thanks for reading.

    P.S. Nice show, keep on!

  • You said that game memories are not experienced, but when I think of a great game memory, I think of all times i play games with my friends, or when i beat my friends in smash. those are the memories i remember the most.

  • I'd refer to the movie Avatar to make a comparison. In it, when you use your avatar you are doing something, but at the same time someone could say that you aren't doing that something. This is because we tend to think that a person is tied to his body, when in reality he is but not as much as we perceive. So when YOU do something through something that isn't your body, like an avatar (like in the movie, or like in a videogame), it seems confusing at first whether or not YOU're doing that thing. In reality it is actually YOU who is doing that thing, just using a tool that isn't your body.

  • While it perhaps falls into a different topic all together, I'd like to throw my two cents in with my connection to video game music. Being a glutton for atmosphere in gaming and life, I tend to listen to a lot of it, and appropriate songs at that (snow levels during the winter, beach levels at the beach, etc). Many songs end up having two layers to them that intertwine; the games context, and my own context. For example, perhaps a sad song from an event in a game that I've listened to during a sad event in my life; the song tends to bring up both memories, or perhaps the games context gives the song its own 'lyrics' to relate to, as it were.

  • I had an interesting experience when I went to Barcelona. I was stood at the top of the Museu Nacional d'art de Catalunya, looking out across the beautiful city when I had a strange feeling of deja vu. But this wasn't like any deja vu I had felt before, I had definitely been here before. I could even point to specific locations as to where things would be, like the entrance to the subway etc..

    But how could this have been possible? This was the first time I had been to Barcelona.

    Then it hit me… About a year prior to the trip I had been playing Left4Dead 2 custom maps, in particular a map called Warcelona. The modellers had done such a fantastic and accurate job on the map that it actually made me feel like I had been there before, and in a way I guess I had, all be it blasting zombies with a machine gun and running away from Tanks.

    To me this memory I have from a video game is as real as any other memory I have.

  • This is interesting because i just finished an essay last night for high school and it was about how my experience with playing Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time influenced and changed me as a person. In part of the essay i digressed about how games have more influence on our feelings than movies or books, because we are the character and we can make the character into whoever we want to be, but we also feel more repercussions if we make a mistake or are in a bad situation.

  • Awesome! greetings from Argentina! i'm glad you liked it here! 

    At first the question sounded like something Jaden Smith would tweet but after watching the video i gotta say, some of the most emotional memories of my life are related to gaming somehow, be it simply a very meaningful ending of a game or a very cool moment i shared while playing with my sister or my friends.

    I tend to think of games as real experiences, not in the sense that i've actually killed a thousand nazis but in the sense that when you are really immersed in the game, you… kinda forget that you're not a supersoldier or a billiant football player or a… really fast hedgehog i guess, so in a way, you are actually experiencing the events of the game, or at least if the game is good, your brain thinks you are.

  • This is a very interesting topic. I think what might be causing some of the issues here would be our definition of a "memory." I was hoping Jamin would clarify what he's calling a "memory" a little bit, because the working definition can change what we mean entirely. 

    For example, from what I know about cognitive science and neuroscience, the brain stores the salient aspects of sensory input for later retrieval. When playing a game, the fact that you are playing a game is not relevant to a trained gamer, so it is largely ignored information. As a result, the experience that the gamer has is stored more directly as a sort of lived experience, but also with some amount of distance. In a similar manner to what Jamin explained earlier, It's not exactly a memory of something you did yourself, as you have a sort of distance from the event (this idea also seems to be reminiscent of the "Are you your character?" discussion from earlier on Game/Show. Similar to a dream, you aren't using your own body to accomplish the actions of a character, so the information contained within a memory of a game will not contain the memory of physically experiencing a live event. Yet, its not exactly dream-like, because your experience is still mediated through sensory processing of the world and it's not using the recurrent pathways meant to strengthen consolidation (at least, that's what one of the stronger hypothesizes of dreams might suggest). 

    A non-gamer might also have a different experience with this. For them, the experience of a game might include the fact that they are playing it some some device. They may not be only experiencing the game, but the experience of playing the game as well. It's not particularly useful information, but the untrained brain doesn't know that, so it holds on to the information. Similarly, playing local multiplayer with friends and family may evoke both/either experience for a gamer–the experience of the game and the experience of playing the game with others are both interesting enough for the brain to retain as a memory. 

    Maybe the question isn't "Are game memories real?" Maybe it's "When are game memories real?"

  • The funny thing is; when a HD remaster is released it often looks just how you remember the game, except you know it isn't because the internet is full of side-by-side comparisons. Similarly, I remember playing Tony Hawk's 3 on the PS2 then going back to the previous game and being so surprised by how blocky it looked compared to how the sequel had effected my memory of it.

  • Metaphysically/physically, for anything to qualify as real, that thing must exist as spatio-temporal entity of some sort (You can always debate as to what kind (ontology) later.) which is a fancy way of saying it 1.) It takes up space and 2.) it passes through time. The physical disk does take up space, but does the digital? I'm not sure how to answer that. My guess is probably. As for time, yes games do take up time, but with things like replays, you can see it again and again in exactly the same way: instances never change. At least with a movie, the actors age independent of the films original recording- But Master Chief will never grow old.

    Secondly, you must have sense and reference. With your talk of memory, we have sense covered, what is more complicated is reference: that thing in the world your recollections point to, which you might say is the CD of game you just played, or the screen through which you viewed it, or the controller you used to manipulate the "game-world" (a term which complicates things further for us) or the hardware that processed it, or any combination of theses. Because technically, a game is just a series of calculations that correspond to your inputs. What you remember is the "output", so what your remembering isn't real (there isn't a "Mushroom Kingdom" or a "Samus" in the world, there are digitally-devised representations of them) at least to the extent that it relates to the operations thereof. ( a "Pikmin" is nothing like, nor bears a resemblance to the lines of code that brought it into "being"- which it is important to remember it also has none, because it's only existence is vested in a collection of photons projected onto a screen, which is also nothing like the organic, plant-people Pikmin are described as in-game.) 

    Finally, video game experiences might be reminiscent of intentional sentiments, and evoke emotional mindsets, but are not themselves, indicative of states of affairs. In the same way that a Unicorn is not a species, so to are video games not genuine "life events" in the same way a walk in the park is: You could pass by a long lost cousin, or trip, fall, and die right there and then: such consequences are not possible in a video game. 

    Which isn't to say games aren't important or meaningful. 

  • Whenever I play a game, it's often very much a role-playing experience. In my mind, the actions of the player character are not my own, but that of whatever character I'm pretending to be at the time. Even if I'm the one pressing the buttons, the personality of the character and the world they live in dictate what occurs on the screen and I'm essentially witnessing events unfold rather than experiencing them first-hand. These events may be real in the sense that they affect me emotionally and intellectually, but their relationship to me personally is still subject to at least some level of dissociation.

  • I would argue that games do follow all of the 3 stages of memory. No one actually states that they killed hundreds of zombies without implying that they had actually been playing a game. How does that not fall into an experience? I was playing the game and experienced the action. Games allow us to be teleported into an alternate universe and experience things we might not have ever experienced.

  • Really impressed with your research and explanation on this topic. Also liked your set backdrop a lot! Keep it up!

  • The definition of reality wouldn't be too strict as far as I know from philosophy. So here is a point: We control our body from our brain in real life and we control our character from our brain in a game. We have dreams related to real life and we have dreams related to gaming memories. And anyway why wouldn't be an ingame place itself real for example?

  • Gaming memories are absolutely real. I don't think there's any question about that, even without getting into the science of it. Even though what HAPPENS in a game isn't actually real, the experience you have with it most certainly is. It's as simple as that. It all comes down to how much an experience resonates with you, whether that experience is virtual or reality. I think sometimes people simply fail to distinguish experiences from the people, places, and things themselves. "It's just a waterfall" does not invalidate someone's experience with a waterfall just as "It's not real" does not invalidate someone's experience with a game.

  • I have a lot of video game memories, both good and bad, from catching my first Shiny Pokemon that wasn't the Lake or Rage's Red Gyarados to the many fails I had trying to defeat Gruntilda in Banjo-Kazooie.

  • Most vivid gaming memories, hmm?
    What I can remember pretty prominently from when I was younger was the Legend of Dragoon for PS1. I remember that game mostly from the experiences I had watching others play it (my siblings, who deemed me "too young" for it because there was some swearing.)

    What I can remember more clearly is something like Journey, which I played for myself. (light spoilers ahead.) I can remember this wanderer that came with me on the final stretch of the game, chirping back and forth with them and warming each other through proximity. I remember a time where they were spotted by an enemy and ran toward me, getting us both hit– I was kind of upset about it. The next time, he ran away from me instead and I kind of felt bad for him, though I was happy to see this complete stranger worrying about me virtual wellbeing.

    That was– and is– a good game. To those reading, if you haven't played Journey, I invite you to do so.

  • Commander Shepard… This might be delving more into the category  of Being your avatar , but i think it hold a valid point none the less. 
    When asked about my experience playing mass effect, a game that was so successful in engrossing so many players in its world and characters, people grew real attachment to the universe as a whole. And looking back at the choices made, its not what "Shepard" chose to do, Its what "I" chose to do. My choices saved Tali, it was my choices that caused Kaden to die. When a deep emotional attachment is made to an event, whether fiction or nonfiction it changes us, and in remembering the event we can remember how it changed us. 

  • The thing about memories is that we will "fill in" details that we don't recall automatically. Things like the exactly phrasing of sentences, or the color of someone's shirt, maybe. But when you experience something, you do remember it, and you remember it perfectly, even if you don't recall it perfectly.
    False memories happen when you are led to believe that you experienced something that you didn't. this is particularly effective after things like a trauma, when you'll have a very difficult time recalling memories with accuracy.
    But, game memories? You may not actually be experiencing going through a desert, but you are experiencing playing a game in which you explore a desert. You may not remember the controls or the setting, but you remember that it happened, and that it was a game. That is a real experience. As you noted, you consolidate it with real emotions, and you recall (more or less) what happened, with those emotions.
    So, yeah. Game memories are real, because you did actually experience playing the game, and you do actually remember that, even if you don't remember what have become autopilot functions- after all, if you remember something that happened while you were riding a bike, do you remember all of the details about pedaling and turning, or the familiar setting of your neighborhood? Or do you remember the thing that you were focused on- whatever event was happening?

  • It was difficult to keep listening after you said you were in Argentina… Dude! Next time let us know, we well make you a great "Asado" (Grilled meat) to welcome you!!!! 
    Great Episode btw.

  • By extension, I wonder if certain types of games lend themselves to this more than others.  For example, would an RPG, such as something from the Witcher series, be more likely to cement a memory than Bowling on the Wii?  Or could games with greater immersion be more likely to create a memory?

  • Somewhat related.  I have memories of a family vacation when I was really young.  Except I have no idea if they actually happened.  They are extremely vague, so it would be difficult to describe to my family memebers.  So are these real? Or just old dreams that I never forgot?  No idea.  They could probably be classified in the same way as you just did for games.

  • Game memories are powerful things, real or not.

    One of what I consider to be my most meaningful childhood achievements hinges entierly around videogames. The long and short of it is that, in the days before we got Xbox Live, my older brother and his friend were pretty much the only people I commonly played multiplayer with. Our game of choice: Modern Warfare 2. Now, before you get all high and mighty about how 12 year-olds shouldn't be playing Call of Duty games, just remember that this game is only being mentioned because it forms the basis for some of the most positive experiences in my life thus far, so discussing whether or not I "should" have been playing it according to the ESRB is irrelevant.

    Digressing over, most matches on those Saturday afternoons went along the lines of  a Team Deathmatch to 30 kills, with a final score 30 – 16, my brother and his friend basking in the glory of victory after teaming up to defeat the menace that was, well, me. But you can only get thrashed around of Favela so many times before getting a little bit sick of it.. So, I hatched a plan- Get good, and then win. Flawless, right? I was 12, after all. But regardless of the plan or its legitimacy, I spent the next few matches trying as hard as I possibly could. A couple kills here, a couple kills there- my score was beginning to improve. It came to a head during a match on Invasion, a match that I still remember vividly. Every crisp burst of the FAMAS, every explosive shell of destruction from the SPAS-12, and at the end of the day? The victory, a proud 30 – 23. Not once since has a ragequit felt quite so good.

    That match happened- my memories are as real as they get. And for somebody else to deny, even for a moment, the complete validity and legitimacy of that powerful positive experience, is incorrect, and dare I say disgraceful.

  • this is kinda off topic but I think you should talk about it.  I am 14, and as someone who wants to work in the industry I am glad is a new and not mainstream media like movies and sports.  It means I have less competition, and one of my biggest stresses is it will be too hard to get a job or college education because the rising population means more cometition, by the time I am an adult.  But sense I am the only person I know who wants to work in gaming I am incredibly relieved. 

  • I think there's something about how in the moment of gameplay there's a tie between your actions and thoughts (pressing this button, etc, which option to choose) with the narrative or mediated events. So the two become conflated then, which makes it an easy step to other situations where you made decisions and acted and experienced a subsequent response Walking into the kitchen, seeing bread, putting it in toaster – those series of movements did happen, but did they happen virtually or meatspace? How you're interacting with the world isn't that much different so I see how it could pass reality distinctions. I could have made hundreds of cupcakes according to the customer's order. I feel like I have. Because I spent time working on perfecting a set of movements that would be most successful until I made cupcake after cupcake. And then I repeated those movements over and over until they became naturalized. 

    It get confusing with "smaller" events like that I think, because there are so many memories of similar situations, that the game version becomes just another one in a long list making it harder to delineate. Like I "know"* I haven't stolen escape pods to fly to another planet where there's a special gun that let's me kill a half-spider-half-giraffe. That's just far removed from my other experiences that it wouldn't be able to fit it. It sticks out as abnormal and so it can't be reasonably incorporated as a "true" memory. But when a game includes things I have done, like talking to a stranger on the street, or checking my messages, or I don't know, I'm having a hard time thinking of sufficient examples. But what could be called the more "everyday" stuff. There's so many more memories of that experience, a mediated one, like from a video game, would have an easier time passing with the others. I know when I'm doing laundry sometimes I'll forget as soon as I walk out of the room if I actually turned the machine on. Because I've done it so many times, the experience becomes a lot harder to pull out of pile in recall. The memory looses individuality in that way that I think would easily facilitate the conflation of game memory and real memory. 

    I think, to combined the two subjects, Let's Play videos complicate this even more. Because then you're not even the one catalyzing the event, is it still a memory then? It's an interesting question if watching a video of or playing changes the relationship to this murky memory answer. 

    Anyway, this episode's question was really interesting, that's why I rambled so much. It grabbed me! Thanks for the great content.

    *keeping away from meta-physical, alt realities, universe ideas bc like, too complicated. 

  • Love this episode, it is one of the things that is a constant theme over my whole life.  Those memories are real but to say that you don't remember the TV, maybe you don't but I bet that it contributed a lot to the experience.  The reason we love games is because of the great games but also because of the environment we were in while playing them.  The emotional environment, inspirational, whatever.  The audio and visuals.  When I listen to Metallica's Reload I want to play Halo 2, when I hear Chinese Democracy I want to play Unreal Tournament 3.  When I go to my Nonna's house and play Donkey Kong Country it is more significant than playing it on an emulator, because of the smell of the house.  Italian food! 😀

    Memories are the best.  So are magic mushrooms.  It is all about the experience man!

  • I think another aspect of game memories that comes to mind strongly for me is the nostalgia aspect of games, and especially how remakes/replays might play an unusual part in that. One example is that I remember my younger cousin playing Ocarina of Time on the N64 but I never played it myself until the remake for the 3DS came out, yet once I came to the few scenes that I did know, I felt a really strong memory recall. In a way it probably helps that it was so wonderfully remastered from the original.

    But then something weird happened to me when I played Pokemon Alpha Sapphire. I have spent some incredulous hours playing both Pokemon Emerald, the generation from 10+ years ago that was remade with the ORAS release, and Pokemon Y, whose style the remakes rely heavily upon and has only been out for a year. It felt, simultaneously, like both a nostalgia trip and just playing the same thing from last week. Eventually it reconciled into the former as I tried to remember the places and events that kept faithful to the original, but because there is so much new added content/features (unlike OoT) it feels less like reliving old memories and instead like creating new ones.

    But then again, what does replaying the exact same game several years apart do for our memories? As someone who doesn't really do that often (I mean there are cases like Smash Bros that don't really count), I'm fairly curious about it now.

  • I my experience the only other form of media that evokes the same personal reaction as video games are the old school tabletop RPGs that i still miss playing.

    To this day i could (if i wanted to bore you to unholy tears of frustration) tell you about my long running Vampire: the Masquerade character and I would almost certainly use I and me, similar to the video game stories.

  • My most vivid memories don't come from the narrative of the story but more from cooperative play. The narrative has to do with character who aren't me. I can be emotional attached to them sure but in this sense it's no different from a film with characters I was emotional attached to.
    The memories come from me making my own narrative with real people that I can interact with. The most vivid memories I have are from multilayer sandbox games. Running with a 5 star wanted level in gta, going off to kill the ender dragon in minecraft, these are all felt real and important. In contrast when I played The Last of Us, I was always rooting for Joel and Eli but I never felt like I was Joel. In games like gta and minecraft I had my own agenda. I feel this is the way games are unique.

  • I'll always have those memories when I was a kid playing Secret of Mana. Wandering through the crystal ice forest or finally making it to the Pure Land and finding the Mana Tree. I can hear the music that was the playing and the wonder I had while exploring these new places. I can say the same when I went on a trip to Chicago with a bunch of photographers. There is music that I listened to with people that takes me back to those moments, wandering downtown, listening to my ipod with one ear bud because my friend had the other one in and every time that I hear those certain songs, it immediately takes me back.  They will always be real experiences and places for me despite the fact that one is completely digital and the other was an amazing experience that helped mold some deep friendships. They are equally as important to me as the other.

  • I remember watching my dad play Super Metroid when I was a kid. When I was about 10, I finally picked up the controller myself and played the game. I even took the exact same route as my father did. When I finally beat the game, I felt something…so surreal. The Metroid hatchling's sacrifice had left a profound effect on my mind, and I can even recall laying out in the backyard, watching the summer sun begin to set while reflecting on the game's bittersweet ending.

    To say none of it was real is blasphemy. I experienced it, therefore it exists.

  • I have weird memory with books, though.  I'd read A Song of Ice and Fire before the show came out on HBO but once I grew accustomed to the characters on the show, I kept having memories of seeing "The Purple Wedding" (a lot better than was actually on HBO) before the episode ever aired AND with the Game of Thrones actors and actresses in place of the images in my head from the book.

    But I don't think I've ever "remembered" doing something that I'd done while playing a video game as if it were me.  I don't have memories of raiding tombs or running 101 yards to score a game-winning TD.

  • I have to disagree with the idea that books and film don't feel personal. I assume this may be true for other people aside from myself, but I have very often experienced recalling a moment from a book as if it was my life and my actions. It was as if I was the character rather than myself. There was even a moment during a class in high school where I was fidgety all class because for a while I actually thought I was in the middle of some crucial quest and the class was getting in my way. I realized that quest was just in a book, but there were a few moments where is was my life and quest I was thinking about, not just a storyline. 

  • "Ah yes, we've been expecting you. You'll have to be recorded before you're officially released. There are a few ways we can do this and the choice is yours."

  • Memories are all virtual. Trying to split off game memories from other kinds ignores this. A game memory is no different than any other kind. Bound up in the question you have asked is the implication that memories are truth, even though you mention that false memories exist. These two things are still implied to be similar or the same by your question.

    Memories are our stored experiences. My memory of eating icecream is as real as my memory of stomping Goombas in Super Mario. That goombas don't exist in my actual living room doesn't make them less real, just like icecream not existing in Super Mario doesn't make it less real. Ergo, my experiences of both are equally real, but also unrelated to whether goombas or icecream are real things.

    On whether goombas are "real" well, we don't know of anything like it in the physical world, but within the game they are definitely real. So here real is defined as existing within a very specific context. I can't stomp goombas in the real world, therefore goombas don't exist in the real world. So, do my memories of stomping goombas really exist? Again, that I can't stomp goombas while walking down Main street doesn't negate the fact that I have a memory of doing so somewhere else. Memories are all virtual and therefore equally real.

    Now if we're asking about truth, that's something else. I think your video sort of touches on this aspect, but you didn't really go into why we conflate memory with truth. Did I stomp goombas? Is it true that I stomped goombas …this is what everyone is actually trying to answer. Because truth is also defined as something that only exists when people know about it, which is of course also false (recall the riddle about what the tallest mountain the world was before Everest was discovered. The tallest mountain was always Everest, even before people knew it existed).

    We have to conclude that game memories are real if we believe that our other memories are real.

  • A couple points – 

    I don't know how many people truly ascribe their videogame actions to themselves in a "real" way.  "I killed that dragon" is shorthand, it's understood that you mean "My character killed that dragon" or even, "I made my character kill that dragon".  It's the same shortcut in speech when you have an auto accident and say "He hit me" as opposed to "his car hit my car"  The car is an extension of yourself while driving, and the character is an extension of yourself when playing a game.  But there's no true conflation of the two going on, save in certain outlier cases where a person may truly have a problem distinguishing reality from fantasy.

    So we're not remembering false events as much as we're remembering our personal experience of an immersive dramatic performance.  I too remember the events of Chrono Trigger in great detail, but I don't recall them as events that happened "to me".  I remember beating major bosses in games, but more because of the time and luck it took to do so by making the right strategic choices.

    And as part of that, I dispute that a film of book cannot be as deep or "real" remembered experience as a real event.  Again, we don't remember them as real, but we remember how we feel, how we reacted to the events, and how the actions of the characters affected me in the moment, and moving forward.  It's not a "real" event, but reading/watching it is an experience.  

    Consider this – if a friend tells you about something that happened to them, and you remember the story, is it a "real" memory?  You didn't experience the event, but if the story is told with enough detail, it can be remembered in as great a detail as if you experienced it.

    They're all "real" memories; it's the source of them that differ, and as long as one can rationally identify the source as…let's try "actual" and virtual", all is well.

  • This discussion reminds me of one of my favourite Harry Potter quotes.

    Harry: "Is this real, or is this just happening inside my head?"
    Dumbledore: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

  • not just the memories, when actually playing them you feel you are doing them…. they are interactive and emotional yes. consciously we imagine ourselves actually doing these things yes so they are real for our concious emotions at the time and in memory. though subconsciously we are fully aware of the difference between the digital world and reality. so no, they do not shape our character on such a deep level and violent games do not damage mental health. 

  • I have a lot of memories of playing EverQuest that blur the lines. MMOs require a lot of investment, which means emotions run high, which in turn forge stronger memories. I remember clearly doing actions, I don't remember the UI or "game" aspects of the events… Just the events like stealthing through areas far higher than my level, raiding alternate planes with friends, and celebrating personal loot victories with them from both the real world and online. I've never really thought of those memories as being false as you mentioned, they're tied to emotions. They're even shared experiences, triumphs or failures achieved through my group giving it their all. Strange that anyone would thing to trivialize these experiences because the physical body isn't present.

  • Weird concept why wouldn't you have memories of the event? Game memories or Real? memories they're both the same it happened… Unless you had amnesia you will never truly forget those memories.

  • I remember being a werewolf in skyrim, being in the Soul Cairn, at one the towers, and I threw one of the seeker dudes off the tower and watched him fall off. It was humorous because I only knew he died when I couldn't see his health bar xD

  • If one controlled something, the action was effectively committed by them alone; not some other individual. The memory is real; whether from real life, video games, or even dreams. All memories are real because you picture it as though you were there. The experience caused you to think and go through the same mental processes as it would in real life. Some memories may be inaccurate but they aren't any less real.

  • I totally know what you mean about remembering things in games like they actually happened to you. Several times before I've had a dream that I was doing something in Minecraft. I don't mean that I dreamed about playing Minecraft; I dreamed that I am Steve. I have also experienced how memories can change over time. I was sure that I had memorized I quote that I read in a book once, and over a few years, the part of the quote that I thought I'd remember the best wasn't even close to what I remembered it being.

  • my memories of video games come mostly from minecraft, but are strong memories none the less. when i go around my verious worlds i have created i can vividly recall what i was doing at the time of play, for example one night while building onto a city of mine i was texting a friend who was having relationship troubles, now everytime i go by that part of town i was working on that text conversation comes to mine. these memories stretch all the way back to 2012 for me and im sure even further back for many others

  • i hope this wakes some boys up seeing the games do effect them how they act with girls online guys cant handle sports anymore boys always take it to far<3 

  • Well you don't really do what you see in video games, but you solve the problems for real and your brain gets the exercise. By the way my memories of playing video games are weird, I always remember the game with a much higher quality, especially graphic quality, some time ago I went back to ninja gaiden, and the first duck tales for nes I notices that the games were much more pixelated than I remembered.

  • My rebuttal to Sedona's opinion is that I have bought many games after watching youtubers play them, games I had little interest in prior to that

  • I 100% get the idea that he is trying to say, we do this, we have an emotional response.. Or a sort of an emotional response, and memory. 
    But i would argue, do we? 

    I don't think you could compare the emotions of, winning at your favourite game, or getting the winning touchdown, or scoring the last minute goal, or getting a whole in one. Those are just more intense, memorable experiences. 
    Compared even to something like E-Sports, where the stakes are far higher than a Mario Kart 64, 12 player tournament in my front room, playing for money. 

    Or going to a holiday destination.. BUT there again, perhaps thats just because those "real world" experiences are far more stimulating on your senses. You're walking in Time Square, you smell the sweet and salty pretzel stall, you feel the cold air, you see the bright lights, you hear the police car sirens and the hussle and bussle of the city. And i dunno, you might be eating one of those pretzels too. So you are stimulating all of those senses, which later on makes that memory far easier to recall than a video game, when you're there, pressing WSAD, and clicking a mouse. Or holding a controller. You are just as involved in that game, but not as stimulated.  

    Even if, as he says memories change all the time, and are determined on your current emotional state, or your past emotional state. And memory is just about the most fallible thing that we have. 

  • I just want to mention that Ghost in the Shell raised a similar question in 1989 (well it might have been raised earlier by someone else already, but that's the earliest date that I can remember).

  • What about if i play Minecraft, on a server with other people, and we build a cool house together? We are not playing out a story made by a game developer, we are having a shared creative experience with each other, that is uniquely your own, not influenced in any direct way by anything other than the very vague limitations of only being able to use blocks. Is that any less real than me sitting down with someone to build lego irl?

    And how far can we stretch that? In a skill based game, where you are actively controlling your avatar to affect the outcome of events, you winning or not. Is you having the skills to perform difficult movers not real? Even if the story of a game is not literally true, that does not mean you are not really doing something, as opposed to just watching a movie or a pretty picture? Or even if a game just gives you one real choice during the entire game, even if it does not change the outcome, did you not choose?

    Or even if you are just watching a movie or a picture, is the thoughts and emotions you experience from viewing something not real? Something made by a real person, that can change how you think of the world around you? A story that lets you into someone else's perspective, a concept made clear to you, or a weird guy in the comments… Just because there is an intermeding medium does not make it any less of a part of the world? Sometimes the fact that the story is thematically not literally true can help us see real concepts from a non biased and new perspektive?

  • Vivid gaming memory: when my first raptor, Dodo Murderer, died in Ark Survival. Truly a sad moment and I will never forget it :'(

  • There's this idea in Human Memory called "transactive memory," which is the memory of who knows what and who we can use as a resource to reliably check for information or whether our memory is correct. It's a little.. abstract, but recently, researchers have proposed that technology (especially google) have acted as a stand-in for other people in our transactive memory. For example, if I ask you to recall a statistic, if you used technology to sort/categorize it, you'll remember how to access it better than you will the memory itself (research on this topic is just in its early stages and there are a LOT of questions remaining).
    Anyway, I'm curious if this extends to video games, both for in-game characters and people you play with in multiplayer games. Could having characters that we view as complex people with distinct likes and dislikes be a stand-in for real-life people, and if so, what level of complexity do we need to reach to achieve that?