Extended Reality XR – Computer Games and the Psychology of Escapism

The term Extended Reality is used to describe a virtual reality format that distills the benefits and fun of virtual reality into a single, compressed and easy-to-use program. A popular concept in this field is called Extensible Reality (XR). A common application for XR is called ARG (active storytelling). In the past, the term ARG was used to suggest software programs which led up to the release of a video game. Now, the term is used to indicate a format used to create virtual experiences.

Extended Reality XR creates the illusion of the player being in an alternate reality. This reality may not be linked to the physical reality we observe around us. For instance, an army soldier on a computer screen may assume that he or she is on a battlefield. Extended Reality XR is usually employed by the entertainment industry to create fictional video games, theatrical productions or viral videos.

Visualized environments in Extended Reality XR allow the use of virtually any element found in the real world. However, most elements in the real world are omitted. For example, an airplane simulator application would not display military aircraft combat actions or a nuclear weapons laboratory. In this sense, it seems to create a “what if” version of reality.

To illustrate the possibilities, let’s say you want to fly a remote-controlled airplane using a laser targeting system (based on laser scanning technology). In an Extended Reality XR program, the computer would have a depiction of the cockpit of the plane, but without any physical reference points. So, for instance, a virtual cockpit would include a camera feed with an array of computer-generated facial features. In this case, the pilot could control the movements of the aircraft by simply looking at the faces on the camera feed.

The science fiction aspect of ARG is supported by the reality that many forms of mental states can be simulated on a computer. In fact, many psychoanalysts believe that people are able to “program” their own psychological states. That means the person can create a new mental state whenever he wants to.

In a recent issue of Popular Mechanics, an article discussed how scientists are investigating the ability of computers to re-create traumatic brain injury scenes. This may seem like fiction, but it is true. The researchers are studying the possible use of a computer to “recreate” the brain injury as it was for the patient. As you know, these images are often fuzzy and are very difficult to make in a lab. In essence, the computer is playing the experience for the victim. In fact, the images are so similar to the original that many psychologists feel that the patient might actually recognize that he or she has been injured.

While we are discussing this field of psychology, let’s also consider the military applications of ARG. For decades, U.S. Special Operations forces have been training their members to operate under extreme time and weather conditions. They rely on the effectiveness of their training environment. During such extreme conditions, it is important that they are able to perform their best, which often means being completely unassisted by a computer. If the computer cannot assist them, they become confused and Frustrated. As one member stated, “If you’re not using your eyes, you don’t see what’s going on; if you’re not using your hands, you can’t catch what’s going on.”

We have seen this concept in action before when movies were created with special effects and computer graphics. It is even more evident now in video games and Internet applications. There is no doubt that ARG is here to stay. Whether it is used to trick the human mind into believing there is some other reality other than the one we actually live in, or whether it is used to give the illusion of the impossible, there is no denying that there is something to this seemingly strange new phenomenon.

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