Why is Rockstar Games so successful

Game and network: Why are computer games so successful?

Vienna. 4.9 million Austrians regularly play video games. This was not only found by the Austrian Association for Entertainment Software (ÖVUS) in a 2017 study. A look at various game fairs such as "Game City" in the Vienna City Hall reveals the vast number of people in Austria who like to immerse themselves in digital worlds, even without scientific research. But why do people play video games?

One of the reasons is "identification", explains the German communication scientist Carsten Wünsch from the Otto Friedrich University in Bamberg. In many games, a lively and authentic-looking parallel world is created.

Similar to a good novel, the player identifies with a convincing title with the main character. This is favored by the high level of graphic realism that the games now offer. Diving into this virtual world is called "immersion" and creates - sometimes coupled with millions of other players via the Internet - an intense gaming experience. In the classic "Grand Theft Auto V" by developer "Rockstar North", for example, you can find yourself in the fictional US state of San Andreas, which is modeled on California.

"That can happen in half an hour"

How quickly the player can empathize with the virtual figure depends "a lot on the resemblance to the person I identify with," explains Carsten Wünsch. These can be character or external similarities, but also shared or similar experiences.

"In a very gripping game that can happen after half an hour." And the more often you see the virtual figure and play with this avatar, the more intense the identification with it becomes, explains the communication scientist.

This possibility of identification also harbors addiction potential. For example with young people who are downright obsessed with their game character and flee into the virtual world to escape their problems - the "Wiener Zeitung" reported.

In theory, there should be another danger as well. "Grand Theft Auto V" is the most successful game of all time, it has sold nearly 100 million copies worldwide. In the title you play three criminal geniuses with a relaxed trigger finger who can destroy an entire city and terrify it. They can fall back on a huge arsenal of weapons, there are hardly any limits to the destructiveness. So are the millions of gamers all would-be gangsters and psychopaths?

Break with reality

Media scientists Andreas Jahn-Sudmann and Arne Schröder describe it is precisely the break with reality that makes this so attractive. The fascination of violence as an "audiovisual spectacle" works because it "illustrates the effectiveness of playful action".

Because the adventure takes place in a place where there are no consequences, the use of playful violence is particularly inviting, say Schröder and Jahn-Sudmann. The players want to let their imagination run wild and find out which socially accepted norms they can violate - because their virtual actions have no consequences on reality.

Curiosity and the "symbolic drive removal"

So the player asks himself: What if I shoot a police officer, steal a car or rob a bank? This curiosity and voyeurism, in addition to the "symbolic drive discharge", are the great stimuli in the use of playful violence, explain the two media scholars.

Computer games like "GTA 5" differ from films with depictions of violence in their interactivity. The media consumer not only sees a police officer shot, a car stolen and a bank robbed. He performs this action through his own virtual self. This makes the player the controller of what is happening - and can thereby cover the virtual world with mischief himself.