Psychology of a Gamer: Memory

Psychology of a Gamer: a weekly feature on RGM that looks at how psychology might play into the inner-workings of games and gamers.

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Memory is a tricky thing. In my case, short-term memory seems to be the kicker. At work it is quite often the case that there is a lot remember and it can be tricky to keep on top of things, meaning I’ve had to take to writing things down more. And as gamers we all know the importance of memory, whether it be in the form of RAM, terabytes, memory cards or remembering cheat codes or fatality combinations.

I have always found memory fascinating, when at university, studying cognitive neuropsychology I always was amazed at how easy it was for memory to be affected by a trauma or a genetic condition. As humans our brains degrade over our lifespan, for the most the part, meaning that more often than not we struggle to retain our memories as well as we could when we were younger. Whilst I’m in massive denial about my memory and
memory-008I’m always hopeful it will improve by using new memory techniques (i.e. writing stuff down) it’s safe to say that eventually I’ll forget things more easily. We are at our most cognitively exercised when we are in our late teens and twenties (scary thought I know), but we create more and more memories throughout our lives. So we are, genetically, less able to deal with the increase of experiences and memories we create over the years whilst we trundle around this sphere. Hopefully we will get to a point in our evolution where we can store more memories as we age rather than the reverse where we can store more when we’re younger but we have less life to remember.

It can certainly be embarrassing when we forget something we should have. I sometimes get angry with myself, becoming annoyed at my own ineptitude. My dissertation was based on an inability to recall something from memory whilst having a random sound played into a right-brained person’s left ear and was part of a new progression in researching memory. As we learn more and more about the way our brains work and how we retain memories, we will hopefully find ways and means around the decay of our cerebral matter. Alzheimer’s, dementia and amnesia could all be better understood and treated in the future.

Memory in gaming has similar problems. You would think that with the advancements in technology; virtual reality, motion control gaming, voice commands etc. we would have the simple concept of memory down. But alas this is often not the case. How often have you had a “game file corrupted” or found your data missing or incomplete? ece9e5ab8500e8e3a5601a95c7d5d7f2It happens, files get lost, glitches occur within a game. There are new advancements, obviously, cloud storage seems to be the newest thing, the ability to store your game saves, or downloaded games in the internet’s ether and then it is accessible on different consoles by just signing into your relevant account. When it works.

Some games have started to employ an ‘across game’ save system, one where your save file from one game carry over to the next game in the series, unlocking new features or carrying on your choices and situations into the next game. Mass Effect and any of the Telltale game series are a couple of examples that use it really effectively. In fact, it improves the game and increases your engagement if you are more invested in the series due to your persistent memories. But there’s nothing forcing you to start from square one.

As humans we are unable to control our memory capacity, we store an amazing amount of information, all the time, though we reportedly use 90% of our brain for memory storage, often subconsciously, which often crops up in our dreams. Luckily with gaming we have more of a say over what memories we store. With the inclusion achievements and trophies in the last generation, there is more of an imprint on our gaming memories. A memory we can’t get rid of once we have achieved a score/trophy in a game. But, we can copy, move and delete our gaming memories (saves) at our whim. Once we have completed a game and are done with it we can remove that save for other games. Though a remnant of our play remains on our gamer profile.

Is that a good thing though? I don’t know about you but occasionally I feel a little ashamed of a couple of games on my achievement list. I realise that this is not an issue for all you, but still, I am not a fan of having a Pro Evolution Soccer 6 achievement on my gamerscore permanently [you can only remove a game from your gamerscore if you haven’t earned an achievement on it] because my dick of a ex-housemate used to play on my Xbox. That and a couple of poor quality games (King Kong, for example) or one with easy achievements (Avatar).


Though I am a self-confessed achievement whore, I have played maybe only one or two games specifically because they have easy achievements. These stain your gamer memory like an embarrassing memory that occasionally haunts you at night, something you did when you were enamored or intoxicated. It’s a shame you can’t delete those embarrassing memories from your gamerscore……or the ones from your mind.

Such a shame….

2227239-remembermeDid you ever play Remember Me? A release late in the last console generation, a new intellectual property published by Capcom. Set in a futuristic Paris, Remember Me follows the story of Nillin, a memory hunter who can manipulate and extract people’s memories to change the perspectives and opinions of someone who has the ability to change the way this depressing vision of Paris is run. The core concept of this futuristic Neo-Paris is that painful and sad memories can be removed from your brain so as it doesn’t impact on your general well-being. This system is available to all, an addictive new procedure that is as dangerous as brain manipulation sounds. But that’s in the future right, if at all, right? Right?

Well, maybe not. What drew my attention to this area of interest was a newspaper article I read about how the removal of painful memories could be a reality. A discovery of a gene called Tet1, a gene responsible for the storage of new memories over old ones could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder by removing the memory that caused the disorder to occur. Sounds good in theory. Is this a dangerous practice though? I am sure many people will agree with me that our experiences define who we are and where we go in our lives. Part of our resilience as human beings is our ability to handle and deal with certain traumas and situations. We would never forget this traumatic events but could this assist us in the future? It could make us more cautious in certain situations or more aware of potential threats. Could the removal of a traumatic memory or event make us susceptible to it happening again? It stands to reason if we are creators of our own design then we would recreate a potential scenario, having not learned from an upsetting situation in the past, because it was removed. At the same time, someone in a deep state of depression, or what seems to be an incurable disorder may benefit from removing this event so that they can re-establish their life, if properly utilised. Though I would believe it is perhaps open to abuse.

I find it interesting that a game has preceded this research and the term “intellectual property” has never felt more apt. So with that argument in mind, I can’t remove an upsetting achievement from my gamerscore, but that in itself defines my gamer self. I have learnt from my previous transgressions with easy achievement games or poor quality games that I wouldn’t normally play. I won’t do it again, I have too much pride in my online persona, though it has a blip or two.

No one is perfect, no one has a perfect memory and no one’s life is perfect.

That’s why concepts in games like Remember Me are amazing yet scary. When the real world catches up, it could easily dehumanise us.


Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on the RGM Forums.

Have you checked out the other Psychology of a Gamer posts on RGM?

Psychology of a Gamer: Conditioning

Psychology of a Gamer: Peacocking/Penis Envy


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