To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Persistence - Memory - Accountability
Date: July 2002

Topic: Persistence - Memory - Accountability

Games stay in players heads much longer that the designers realize.

Grand Theft Auto has captivating game play, good graphics and a dreadful and irresponsible message. The worrisome thing is that after playing the game for some 40 hours - almost the equivalent of a 3 point college course, I notice there were residual effects from the game. Driving with the players, who I admit were part of my family, I heard, "Hey there's the garbage truck you wanted" and "Let's take that Hummer", and "Too bad we can't just drive over the shoulder and get past this jam. If this were GTA we wouldn't be sitting here". These are comments from grown men. Sure, their fore brain functions are fully developed and so they just voiced the thoughts. But what about those 16 year olds that are just leaning to drive, whose inhibitions are not that fully developed? Tempting to play the game in real life. Tempting to drive with complete abandon but in life there are consequences.

Besides moving game play, static images have a long residual life. Games like Myst, Riven, Exile and even American McGee's Alice have striking landscapes and habitats that are vividly remembered. What exactly is it that gives this quality of persistence? Are beautiful ones remembered better? There even seems to be gender differences. Some data indicates that emotionally charged images make a stronger impression upon women, and that they are remembered with more accuracy and for a longer period or time than they were for men.[1]

While persistence gives a game an enduring identification, it also carries with it a degree of accountability. If you wanted one image to be remembered what would you choose?

[1] "Sex differences in the neural basis of emotional memories" T. Canli, J. Desmond, Z. Zhao and J. Gabrieli, Department of Psychology and Radiology, Stanford University, 12/01.