Placebo Reality

Studies into the impact of playing video game – especially violent ones – are contradictory about whether the games are good or bad.

Like everything else, it really is down to the player – how much time spent gaming vs other activities.

When you immerse yourself in an experience of a different reality, whether it’s 6 hours of a video game or watching marathons of tv shows or movies with their sequels, your brain is in an alternate reality.

You’re aware that you are on the couch and that you are you watching or playing something – but your brain is responding to whatever stimulation you give it.

This is why action or horror movies can literally get you to the edge of your seat. This is why there was a national mourning when favorite tv shows – MASH and Cheers in particular – go off the air.

We like those realities and we respond emotionally because on some level in our brain, it’s real.

Suspension of disbelief is what allows us to accept the world the movie or game because it has clear rules that are consistent and thus we stay in the story.

But it’s not like anyone thinks that the movie or video game is real, it’s just that we accept that the experience of the entertainment is very real. Okay, yes, when I saw Rodger Rabbit in the theatre, I did get so enthralled that when the house lights came up, for just a moment, I was confused that there were no toons in the audience. But, hey that movie has amazing special effects.

I suspect this is why there’s a placebo effect in medicine. Not so funnily enough, there was an excellent episode of MASH that explored the placebo.

The MASH was out of pain killers and they had a full ward of wounded soldiers. They put sugar in capsules and dispensed them with a warning that it was a very power pain killer. The soldiers all accepted that claim and experienced a reduction in pain or they fell asleep.

Now, yes, that’s a tv show – a placebo reality explaining the placebo effect – but what it demonstrates is that with the proper preparation of the scene – in shows and real life – you can convince people of pretty much whatever you want.