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Welcome! I am teaching law at St. Petersburg State University and engaged in legal practice with the international law firm Dentons. Major part of my research is connected to virtual worlds and massive multiplayer online games (a broad field which includes Internet law, video game law, virtual law and game studies). My legal practice is focused on providing support to computer game companies. This interest derives from my passion for computer games which I consider as one of the most important cultural artifacts ever created. Please note that this blog conveys my private opinion which is not necessarily shared by any organisations I am associated with. For more formal and detailed introduction please visit my website arkhipov.info which serves more as a 'business card'.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Games In The Maslow's Hierarchy

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, is famous for his "pyramid" which is a schematic depiction of the hierarchy of human's needs.

The sequence starts at the bottom and ends at the top. Fulfilling of each step is necessary to achieve the next one. One can hardly be a good friend if this person is starving to death.  

Is there a place any place for games (including video games) at such a chart?

Borrowed from the Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Author: Factoryjoe. Quite long legal notice, but it looks more proper than before.

At the first glance, the answer is negative. The possible interpretation implied may be that games do not satisfy a specific need, but constitute just another form of activity throughout which the general goals may be attained.

This may be correct, but to certain extent. For instance, a way to sexual intimacy may include a lot of elements which may be described as a "game". The same may be true for the goal of respect of others. However, such an approach clearly omits the fact that a lot of people play games just for fun, at least today.

In fact, Dr. Maslow seems not to omit this fact, as the more detailed analysis shows that "playfulness" with the reference to "fun", "joy" and "amusement" is included into the self-actualization stage/level. For example, you may check the Dr. C. George Boeree article to verify this point.

I think that the conclusions drawn from the games being a part of self-actualization are at least twofold:

(A) The games cannot be reduced to any other form of activity and they form one of the needs of a human being. It is impossible to live a full life without doing anything which ensures that, on the one hand, you have fun, and, on the other hand, does not have any other effect than this. You may have fun in the relationship with the significant other, but if you use him/her just to have fun, you will have this part of your life most likely ruined.

(B) You can allow yourself to enjoy games only after the lower needs are satisfied. Usually it seems to come naturally. The most dedicated gamers, if they are mentally sane, will not think about games if they starve. And it is a verified fact that when you are just establishing a relationship with the significant other (i.e. providing conditions to satisfy a need), you can hardly think about anything else, including games.

This actually seems to support the idea expressed in one of my previous posts that if a life of a gamer appears to be poor, this is probably not due to the fact that this person does play video games itself, but because of the fact that he/she does NOT do anything else.

To summarize the post: a popular image of a gamer as a half hungry basement dweller depicts fears of the conservative part of the society, but nothing else. This should look as an abberation from the standpoint of gaming community as well. Games cannot substitute important parts of existence, but they can add value to life.