I know a lot of video game geeks haunt these hallowed halls. And I need your help for a philosophical issue I’ve been thinking about. There are, like, no empirical data that tease out this issue.
One would think that the more one identifies with a fiction character, and the more agency one has in the fictional world, the emotional responses would be the greater. So in a game as opposed to a movie, where you control the actions of a character, the character has many more properties that are actually your own properties. You also have the agency to change outcomes in the fictional world when you play a game, but not when you watch a movie.
But here’s what I think is going on in video games. There is more total arousal of emotion in the game player than the movie watcher. The game player is much more mentally involved with what’s going on, much more apt to have tensed muscles and racing heart.
I think, however, the object of the emotions is much more likely to be your performance of the game, your success or failure, not the fictional world. You are excited about how you’re doing more than the events of the fictional world. But movies are different. You are much more likely to cry at the death of a film character than a video game character. You are more likely to get choked up or moved by a wedding in a movie than a game. You are more likely to feel embarrassed for a character who does something ridiculous. You are much more likely to reflect on the meaning of the events in the story after a movie than after a video game.
In short, I suspect that while you feel a lot more emotionally aroused while playing video games, what’s causing your emotions in that case is less the events of the fiction and more your success or failure. Whereas in a movie, the only thing that’s moving you emotionally are the fictional events.
But I’m not much of a gamer, so I could be wrong. So I thought I’d ask the experts.