Did Somebody Say 'Video Games'?

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Here's something I'm sure every gamer has experienced before. You'll be sitting somewhere, maybe on the bus, the train, a park bench. Or maybe you're just casually walking along to work, down the street, anywhere where you're passing other people doing their own thing.

You don't notice these people for the most part. And then someone will say something that just makes your ears prick up immediately.

Final Fantasy. Esports. Overwatch.

It's always one thing, almost like a code phrase. Sometimes it's a sentence that sings through the hustle and bustle of daily life, cuts through the noise to find it's fellow people.

It's not even an active thought. As soon as you hear it, you know.

Those people are talking about video games.

The nosy paradise.

It's an experience every gamer I've spoken to has shared. It happens in all types of scenarios and environments, as a quick thread on my social feed revealed.

A friend suggested that pattern recognition could play a large factor. A common focus for teaching children, for instance, is developing their phonological awareness. It's a key component of early literacy, which helps kid recognise not just patterns like rhyming and alliteration, but just the capacity to identify, think about and manipulate the individual sounds in words.

Humans are good at picking up patterns through things that are familiar to them - like their favourite songs, TV shows or movies. And because gaming is the preferred form of entertainment for many, surpassing the amount of time they might spend watching TV, it's possible that developing strong memories and attachments to a game or franchise - particularly if you're growing up, when you're still discovering the things that you do and don't like - makes it easier to identify or recognise things that are related to that elsewhere.

I'm not a scientist, obviously. So there's undoubtedly a lot more at play. But what's fascinating is the magnetic nature, the way your brain can pick a conversation about World of Warcraft classes or spy one-quarter of a phone screen walking past and immediately know that person is playing Ragnarok, or watching a League of Legends OPL stream.

And it's the kind of thing that works within a gaming crowd as well. Take PAX Australia. It's our crowd. It's our people. But amongst that, you'll walk through the booths, the queues, the crowds, and you'll hear bits and pieces that immediately stand out. That person's talking about why they love Fallout: New Vegas. Someone's just mentioned one of the classes in Divinity: Original Sin. Someone's talking about Pokemon and mentioning a specific area and moveset - I know exactly which Pokemon they're talking about.

I mention this because it comes to mind when, courtesy of Channel Nine, pockets of Australia are having conversations about what they think games do. And gamers always balance that out by pointing the social nature of gaming, the improved critical thinking, increased hand-eye co-ordination, the way puzzles and complicated simulators can keep the brain active.

But perhaps the most tangible skill that gaming has given me? It's some kind of bizarre, selective, Spider-Man-esque superhearing. There's been times where I've struggled to hear or understand a person five feet away. But on the other side of the office, if someone's mentioning Dota or piping up about EVE Online and I haven't got noise cancelling headphones on?

I mean, don't get me wrong. Being able to quickly find my people can be incredibly handy. But as far as gaming superpowers go, I can think of a few cooler ones. At least I know I'm not going deaf, though.


Comments

    It happens to me a lot with anything I'm interested in, not just video games. The best example of the phenomena I find is with respect to language. If you're in a foreign country that speaks a non-English language or even watching a foreign film, you will immediately pick up someone speaking English, even if it's just loan words or names mixed in with the foreign language you'll immediately get a spike of recognition.

    Actually, that reminds me of a psychological phenomenon regarding your own name. The basic idea is that your name is a powerful switch and a test they commonly do is have you listen to and repeat words. At a random point, they will call your name at the same time another word is played and most of the time you will be unable to remember what it was because your brain instantly focuses in on your name being spoken.

      Certain schools of management drum into their adherents that if you want to influence someone or focus their attention to make sure you use their name as you speak them. "Well, [name], the reason we have to do this is..."
      (Of course, once the audience has recognized this behaviour, it sticks out like a sore thumb as a transparent attempt at manipulation, and causes irritation and resentment, instead.)

    I once sat on a bus overhearing two people behind me talking about their issue with modern open world games like Assassins Creed with endless amount of useless collectibles and side quests used to pad games out...

    Got off the bus, turned around and saw it was two construction workers in their 40s...

      Damn those old people who play games and understand how rubbish most AAA titles are!

    I get it with games as well as my professional field if someone is talking about either if it's appropriate I'll jump in, though usually its more with my profession rather than gaming.

      Heh. Yeah, I get that in the professional context. Be in an elevator or a food court and overhear other corporate-drag-clad folks discussing work things. It automatically becomes a half-raised eyebrow: 'They're talking about something in my field.' Heh. And the follow-up: 'They know more/less than I do.'

        In my case its usually "They know less" as they're making wide assumptions about how my field works on the back end rather than the front facing stuff.

    I love it when someone has a games ringtone too best one was the ff vii battle victory fanfare for texts!

    I was meant to be having a brunch with my folks in a nice little cafe in Sydney, instead I spent 20 minutes listening to two women at another table discuss Doctor Who and then onto Fantasy authors.

    This is a big, fascinating, natural phenomenon. If I hear any Japanese, even a Japanese word in an otherwise English sentence like karaoke, and I'm suddenly right there in the conversation.

    Haha totally!
    I have the same thing with Metal T shirts.
    I play and listen to a very niche genre of metal. I've met a bunch of people over the years, after striking up a conversation purely on the basis that they or I happen to be wearing a black shirt with spiky writing on it!

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