I live in Australia, where we drive on the left side of the road and thus the driver’s seat is on the right. Yet, after playing countless open-world games like GTA and Watch Dogs set in America, my instinct in-game is to approach the left side of a car. I didn’t even notice I was doing it until I was caught out by Sleeping Dogs and its Hong Kong setting. Even then, I forgot about it until my recent foray with Mad Max, set as it is in a post-apocalyptic version of my homeland. To be honest, it was a little surprising to discover how deeply ingrained the habit is; I’ve put 30 hours into Mad Max and I still haven’t broken it.
This got me thinking: what other bad habits do video games teach, with respect to real-world behaviours? I’m talking about the subtle, subconscious ones, that is - roadie-running everywhere in Gears of War because it’s faster doesn’t count. For me, the ones that stuck out were:
Double-hinged doors: I don’t know about you, but virtually every hinged door I’ve walked through in real life opens one way and one way only. Rarely is it so in game land. Running full tilt at an unlocked door works the majority of the time, even when physical reality would suggest otherwise. It’s a convenience move, and one I’m glad exists, but I’m also grateful it hasn’t bled through into real life yet. I’d probably have a lot of broken noses otherwise.
Step. Away. Gordan.
Personal space: Usually the result of technical limitations, few games recognise when character get too close for comfort. Sure, when you bump into NPCs on the street in Assassin’s Creed, they stumble and complain about your brutish behaviour. But walk slowly up to a milling crowd, and you can breathe down a hapless bystander’s neck without them so much as flinching. First-person games tend to be even worse; I can’t remember how many times an NPC has blocked a doorway in Skyrim, unperturbed by my constant attempts to barge my way through.
Damn, I should have taken his shield and sword first...
Private Property: I couldn’t leave this one out. Decades of inventory management has conditioned me - and, I suspect, most gamers - to poke, prod, and pick up everything in sight. An unlocked chest behind the inn? Free loot! A farm full of ripe fruit? Instant health regen! Gold coins scattered across the desk of a friendly NPC? Well, they wouldn’t have left them out in the open if they didn’t want them to be taken! This mentality has become so deeply ingrained into the medium that I don’t spare a second’s thought before scooping up every highlighted object in proximity. Only when games like Skyrim specifically call out the illicit nature of grabbing everything that isn’t nailed down do I stop to consider just how absurd it is for a ‘hero’ to be such a kleptomaniac. Of course, as soon as the NPCs turn their backs, I forget my concerns and hoover up the riches.
Those are just a few of the funny inconsistencies that sprang to my mind. They’re rarely immersion-breaking, but they’re still worth thinking about especially as we approach the potential boom of Virtual Reality - any incongruities will be magnified exponentially once our bodies truly believe we’re somewhere else. In light of that, I’d like to hear from you. What bad habits have you picked up from games, and have any ever bled over into real life?