Saturday, December 5, 2015

Empathy

I just finished reading an excellent article. It's about empathy: what it is, why it's important, how we came to have it, why it's declining in modern culture, how to cultivate it, and how it will improve your life.

It's kind of long, but I think it's well worth the read. The highlights:
  • Humans are empathic creatures. We evolved in a social environment, and we need that social interaction to feel happy and complete.
  • Empathy is declining. With the rise of technology, we are getting our social interaction more through our phones and computers than face-to-face, and this is reducing our ability to be empathic.
  • Empathy is important. The article suggests some ideas on how to improve your sense of empathy.
I won't rehash the whole article. You really should go read it. It has some videos embedded in it. They're good videos. Watch them too.

You may be wondering why I'm talking about social issues in a blog about games. There are two reasons:
  1. I believe strongly in the importance of equality for all people. I've been on the short end of the social power stick before, and I know how much it sucks to feel like that; to feel like you're not wanted, you're not accepted, you have no worth and no value, and the world would not care at all if you just didn't exist. I am aware that I had it so much better than many other people; I was not a minority (ethnically, gender-wise, religiously, etc). If I felt that badly being excluded, how must others feel in worse settings? So I feel it is important to work to end bigotry, discrimination, and exclusion.
  2. Games can help in improving empathy.
Let me be absolutely clear: I'm talking about what have been described as 'analogue games.' Not computer games. Games in which you're sitting at an actual physical table around which are seated other human beings. It doesn't matter if it's a board game, a card game, a roleplaying game, a miniatures-based war game, or any other type of in-person not-on-a-computer game (unless it's something like the original You Don't Know Jack, in which you're still playing with other people present in the room with you). These sorts of games promote the interaction that leads to empathy. Having a computer between you and the other player (that is, playing over a network, like XBox Live) doesn't help; you're not truly interacting with another person when all you have is his voice and a computer-generated character on a screen.

I talked about social issues a little bit back in my post about social bias in gaming. And this topic ties in very strongly with that. Direct physical in-person interaction will lead to a greater understanding of other people's points of view even more surely than playing different genders, orientations, ethnicities, etc. Especially when you're playing with people of different genders, orientations, ethnicities, etc.

This is a timely issue for me, as the Loot and XP board game cafe is set to open here in just a couple of weeks. Soon, people from around the city and even all over the central area of my current home state will be able to come together to play games with one another in a friendly, relaxed setting.

Sorry for the digression. Obvious plug is obvious.

Anyway, my point is this: playing games makes the world a better place, as long as you're doing it in a way that promotes empathy (which means stupid debates like gamergate are harmful to the end goal of improving the world; don't do it). So go play more games.

Really. Play more games.

And with that, I bid you

Game on!

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