Ruwandi Perera is on a daring mission to save the ‘game like no other’ – and gain!

Anyone who has ever sped through an underground racetrack on Need for Speed driving a Lamborghini Murciélago knows the rush of the hot pursuit and adrenaline that blasts through the body when playing a video game.

The pumping in your veins as you defeat your opponent with Fatality in the fighting ring of Mortal Kombat offers a sense of accomplishment like no other in the real world.

Since the days of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, video games have been (nearly) every teenager’s dream and every (young-at-heart) adult’s escapade. From The Legend of Zelda to Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and all-time favourite Super Mario, games have lured players and transformed them into die-hard fanatics (at will, of course).

Although considered a vice, video gaming – which has extended to mobile games – is indeed one of the most effective media for communicating ideas. This includes storytelling, attitude modelling, advertising and even scholarly learning.

Being engaged in video games enables players to train themselves to pay greater attention to detail and have quicker reaction times. They help hand-eye coordination, and improve reflexes and decision-making speeds.

Video games encourage players to keep trying, even after failing, to reach the end goal. With quantified achievements, video gaming inculcates a competitive spirit in players that’s aligned to fair play – i.e. if you do what’s required, you win!

Aligning well with the inborn survival and competitive instincts of humans, video games present a fantasy world where players aspire to continuously reach higher towards the grand finale.

How is gaming so addictive?

The designing of video games is virtually scientific. And the intricate details embedded in the characters, backgrounds, weapons and the games themselves make them closely resemble the real world in a computer graphical sense.

Video-game terminology includes words like ‘lives,’ ‘hearts’ and ‘die.’ Players are given a ‘life,’ which they must extend with points – translated into strength, weapons, chances and other ammunition. Gamers know that the ultimate failure is death, which must be avoided at all costs to prevent having to go through the entire ordeal again.

Closely associated with elements of human survival, games (especially those that involve stories and personalised characters) tap into the deeply entrenched parts of the mind. This in turn creates a sense of accomplishment in the minds of players as they proceed in the game.

Being able to succeed in a made-up world creates a sense of belonging to the game – the same sentiment that distracts gamers from the real world around them.

Games are also far more effective than other media such as TV, radio and print due to their high degree of involvement.

Popular coffee brand Starbucks uses gamification tactics to entice customers to drink more coffee.

The company asks customers to register through an application, after which every purchase adds stars (graphically depicted by coffee cups that are filled). Players can advance from level one to three based on their loyalty and number of purchases. They’re then rewarded with physical benefits such as extra cups of coffee, birthday gifts and other customised offers.

Gaming is also used for internal organisational functions; from recruitment to performance appraisal and idea generation to training.

Not only typical organisations but even the United States Army is known to use gaming for recruitment purposes, where transportable ‘Virtual Army Experience’ units are placed in shopping malls and public areas to encourage potential recruits to play and then join the forces.

Multinational professional services firm Deloitte used gamification to request senior executives to complete their training curriculum by introducing badges, leaderboards and status symbols that players needed to accumulate to win.

While video games can be educational, useful and plain fun, they also go hand in hand with a few evils. Harmful physical repercussions of gaming include ill health (due to lack of motion) as well as excessive strain on eyes, wrists and thumbs.

The addictive nature of video games keeps players hooked for hours on end – sometimes even leading to death by starvation, immobility and other health-related issues. Some new games of the likes of Pokémon GO have been designed to combat these health hazards by requiring players to walk and move around to register higher scores.

You either love it or hate it. There’s rarely a middle ground in gaming, except if you’re one of those curious types. And with Sri Lanka taking to video games such as the locally produced combat game Kanchayudha, there’s no doubt that gaming is here to stay.