Perception of Mastery blamed on Video Games

I’m not that well read. I have read a bit, but I would not be able to quote where the things I have learned, the patterns I have created, the ideas I have had, originated from.

I have found most of the time I perceive a pattern and later find that someone has defined it and named it (my first recollection was being told “Oh that is Mazlo’s Heirarchy”). It is good to find this confirmation that the feeling you had has actually been defined through research. One day I aim to actually do my own research to confirm (or bust) one of my own myths. In the meantime I will note them down and see if I can cite something along those lines.

The reason I am telling you this is that I had one of those moments the other day and now I’m trying to find if anyone else has looked at it in a similar way.

The hypothesis is that peoples perception of being competent of a skill is being based more on being successful than the amount of times they have done it. I am guilty of this myself. You deliver a project and you then believe that you are a competent project manager. You build a website and now you are  web developer. Hitting at 100. 1:1 success ratio. “Ok what’s next?” – sound familiar?

The parallel I drew with this was with the introduction of video games. The playing of first and second generation video games follows a similar linear progression. You complete a level and move onto the next one. You are not necessarily better. Have you just been successful or perhaps just not failed.

Not failing is not the same as success.

Now you put that behind you and focus on the next level. Has the addition of linear gaming patterns to our culture transferred across into a professional approach where once you have done something once, you finish that ‘level’ and move on? Is it a perception of competence or even a perception of mastery?

There is a notion that mastery comes more from failure than success.

Just because you got it right the first time, doesn’t mean you will get it right every time.

So perhaps the person who plays the game over and over, trying different tactics, trying different levels of difficulty, playing different characters, gains a much broader understanding of what it takes to succeed. Knows the possibilities and the winning combinations. Has a higher competency than someone who gets through a level the first time.

For a person who is conditioned to perform only when they succeed the first time, how do they cope with highly complex problems that are not solvable? Will they stick with it or will they change games?

Of course the basis of recreational gaming has now shifted. Gaming is no longer the domain of the arcade, the PC or even the console. It’s now on my phone and with me wherever I go. And it’s no longer linear. I’m now motivated to go back and perfect each level of a game (three stars/orbs/widgets) if I want to unlock a level or win something special.

How can we now translate that back into our professional lives where we strive to do the same type of thing multiple times to achieve a higher level of competency rather that having a perception of mastery.

Does this make sense to you? Where should I look to see if anyone has been down this rabbit hole?




4 thoughts on “Perception of Mastery blamed on Video Games

  1. My thoughts are that games merely capitalise on this tendency towards inductive thinking that most people intuitively do. When a behaviour is confirmed through success, people forget that they haven’t eliminated other options. Those with engineering and scientific backgrounds tend to be be better at not falling into this trap, as their education trains them to avoid this situation. Students of the humanities and law tend to think inductively. What is less obvious is that many computer games actually require deductive logic in order to succeed, but if you don’t know this, you may not realise it.

  2. Well said Cory. One of the relevant theories I keep in mind here is the Dunning-Kreuger effect – We overestimate the value of what we know and underestimate the importance of what we don’t

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