You are what you PLAY

by Elayne J. Kahn, PhD, and David A. Rudnitsky

Do Video Games Reveal Your Secret Personality?

Why are video games so popular? One reason is that they are willing to go all the way without an argument. A second reason is that they simplify and project a whole range of complex human behavior onto a two-dimensional screen. The most successful of the games touch upon our most fundamental feelings: aggression, survival, paranoia and often, pyromania. They reduce our perceptions into clearcut symbols that can be manipulated and controlled. What do your favorite video games reveal about your personality? Does loving Donkey Kong indicate that you want to climb the evolutionary ladder from ape to man and ultimately to woman? Does a yen for Fast Food mean you have an oral fixation? Does loving Ms. Pac-Man mean you have to worry about gender identity or that you like false eyelashes and lipstick? Find your favorite games below and discover what they reveal about your personality. We don’t promise that the analyses that are about to follow are the absolute truth, but we do think you’ll be able to find yourself somewhere in there and thus be warned so that you can change your favorite game before it is too late.

On the other hand, maybe you have no personality. Here’s your chance to get one.


Frogs are for people who can’t face reality. In this game you start off as frog—which should already give you some clues to your self-image. You must try to hop your way over a series of speeding cars and logs that move side-to-side across the screen. If you miss your footing, you tumble into the lake and drown. You’re a frog who can drown—that, also, should tell you something about your self-image. Basically, this game appeals to those who feel that life is an endless wet struggle to keep their heads above water. You’re always seeking to maintain your balance, but just when you find it, some new obstacle enters the scene and knocks you off your feet. Ain’t life grand?


Left rotate. Right rotate. Thrust. Meteors that come at over a thousand light years a second. Asteroids appeals to very sharp and instinctive sorts of people—those who can make split-second decisions and alter the course of their lives in the blink of an eye. Playing Asteroids demonstrates that you live almost entirely by your wits—without oxygen—reacting to situations instead of formulating an overall game plan. In fact, your life is such a crazy amalgam of abrupt behavior that many suspect your mind is in a perpetual state of hyperspace.


It’s you against hundreds of them, and you have to shoot them out of the sky before your walls of defense are eaten away by their laser blasts. What this game reveals is that you feel alone against the world. Despite all the obstacles or people you overcome, more always seem to appear to take their place, so that life becomes a never-ending onslaught and you begin to feel like Alice In Wonderland when the Queen tells her that you have to run as fast as you can simply to stay in one place. To you, life is a game you can’t win but, one you challenge head-on nevertheless.


Playing against the ultimate foe—a video cartridge programmed by a chess master—shows that you’re the type of person who likes to learn from those more experienced than you. You have humility. You have a thirst for knowledge. You don’t have a conventional chess board. You’re patient and willing to spend long hours mastering a career, hobby or skill. Though reserved and quiet, you’re not easily intimidated, even when playing against the computerized knowledge of Bobby Fisher.


Although it’s only a microchip you’re challenging, being obsessed with Pac-Man means that you’re a fighter, a scrambler, a dot with street smarts. In real life vanquishing your enemies is never enough; you would like to absorb them into your sphere so that they can feed your power. You never let up. Where many find only a perplexing maze and are hopelessly lost, you always seem to find—or eat—your way out.

Quickies: Here are some games we couldn’t fit below. Take them with a grain of salt.

*Berzerk—Antisociol tendencies
*Communist Mutants From Space—Paranoia
*Room of Doom—Claustrophobia
*Fire Fighter—Pyromania
*Fast Food—Oral Fixation
*KC Munchkin—Follower, Conformist
*Conan the Barbarian—Macho-type
*Take the Money and Run—Kleptomania
*Utopia—Eternal optimist


Even in this computer age, you are a traditionalist. You’re a person who requires a familiar point of reference before attempting something different. When taking a whack at solving a new problem, you seek to draw upon tried and true solutions, rather than organizing a new mode of thinking. However, this can prove limiting, especially in an expanding world where pat answers don’t seem to fit anymore.


This game represents the revenge of the female adolescent as she castrates all the obnoxious boys who have been attempting to back her into a corner. Women who play this game have emasculating qualities that result from insecurities about themselves and their feelings toward the opposite sex. Men, on the other hand, who manipulate the controls of Ms. Pac-Man have a mother fixation and identify all females as creatures who will eventually devour them.


This is a game for the man who wants his ideal woman to embody all the timeless blonde qualities of Fay Wray. In other words, he prefers them helpless, screaming and in trouble so that he can summon up all his macho wiles to rescue them. Donkey Kong appeals to the man who suffers from the damsel-in-distress syndrome, someone who usually falls for someone who has been battered around by one too many gorillas. As the game is played, the player surmounts tumbling barrels as he climbs up ladders rung by rung to save his beloved—which is only fitting since he intends to put her on a pedestal anyway.


This video variation of ping pong pits your skills against those of another human opponent. You have no bones to pick with technology, since you view computers as the servants of humanity, not the masters. Therefore, unlike the habitual player of Pac-Man and other similar games, you’re not driven to continually assert your superiority over a sophisticated collection of micro-circuits and transistors.

“You Are What You Play” is excerpted from Elayne Kahn and David Rudnitsky’s 1,001 Ways You Reveal Your Personality, which will be published by Signet in January 1983.

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