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How identity functions in games

As part of a new Gamasutra feature, Badgeville's Tony Ventrice takes a closer look at identity -- which can be "the opportunity to experiment with changing your persona".
As part of a new Gamasutra feature, Badgeville's Tony Ventrice takes a closer look at identity -- which can be "the opportunity to experiment with changing your persona." "In academics, the modern psychology of identity is largely based on the work of Erik Erikson, the man who, amongst other things, coined the term identity crisis," Ventrice writes. "While Erikson is best known for his model of identity evolving through the stages of life, much of the Neo-Eriksonian academic conversation centers on the idea of multiple 'selves': from the idea that the person you feel you are inside does not always match the personas you take on in social contexts, including the concepts of identity exploration (that people experiment with identities before committing to them), social identity (the idea that a portion of the self is defined by the ideal of a group), and the ideal self (the identity an individual aspires to)." In games, he argues, two different expressions of self are particularly relevant: role-playing ("the opportunity to experiment with changing your persona") and social purpose ("a need for acceptance; more than simply making connections or meeting expectations, it implies an innate desire to provide some value to others.") Game and gamification designers, he argues, can capitalize on these dynamics in their work. The full feature, which dives into identity much deeper, as well as a second topic -- story -- is live now on Gamasutra.

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