Don’t hate the player, hate the game

Author - A.Grankin, Created - 17.02.2010, Views - 25166, Comments - 2

If Pacman had affected us as kids we'd be

 running around in dark rooms, munching

pills and listening to repetitive music.”

            - Marcus Brigstocke, English comedian and satirist (Brigstocke, 2006).

Throughout their history, video games have always been controversial. The effect of video games on our society, as well as the individuals who play them, is that of great sociological research. Video games have been blamed for everything from anti-social behaviour to school shootings. Addiction, mature content, and the public’s views of them continue to be studied and researched in hopes of answering a few key questions. Is it possible to get addicted to video games? If so, is there a distinction between true addiction and excessive use? Can violent or sexual content promote real-life criminal or unethical behaviour? Are there any educational uses for video games? An in-depth analysis will be provided in order to shine some light on these issues, as well as uncover just how much video games affect the people who play them, and their relationship with society. For the purpose of answering these questions, this paper will focus on the topics of addiction, violence and the beneficial purposes video games serve.

Addiction

Many argue that video games can be extremely addictive. In fact, comparisons have been drawn between video games and drugs. Cover (2006) argues that due to the “pleasurable, enjoyable and gratifying” (para. 5) experience that both games and drugs can provide, there is potential for addiction. It is important to note that the context in which addiction is perceived by society is that of physical or mental dependency. Even though one might believe they have an addiction to video games, it is not, as of yet, officially classified as “addiction” by the American Medical Association (Tanner, 2007). The following will analyze the links between drugs and video games, potential causes for addiction and the social stigma that players experience as a result of being deemed “addicted”.

Video games and drugs

It is a well-known fact that some drugs cause physical dependency, withdrawal from which can produce physical pain. Cover (2006) argues that this is not the case with video games, as they require the player to actively choose to participate in the activity rather than be physically dependent on doing so. Mileham (2008) challenges the view that video games are not physically addictive citing a 1998 study in which participants had PET scans, a nuclear medicine imaging technique, while playing video games. The study showed that the players had dopamine spikes during the gaming session equivalent to an intravenous injection of amphetamines or a dose of Ritalin. Mileham (2008) argues that with repeated use the brain becomes accustomed to the pleasurable experience; a bigger and bigger release of dopamine will be required to gain satisfaction. From this idea a parallel can be drawn to drug use, where the user will require higher doses of the drug to achieve a high. Mileham furthers this view by using Griffiths’s (Griffiths, 2000 as cited in Mileham, 2008) six core components of addiction and identifying how they relate to video games.

  1. Salience relates to how important video games are to an individual’s life. Does he or she focus their thoughts, emotions and feelings on video games almost exclusively?
  2. Mood modification is seen as a way for players to escape, gain satisfaction or use video games as a coping mechanism. The criticism here is that players can become too reliant on games for these things instead of merely using them as a form of entertainment.
  3. Tolerance is the player’s need for more time spent playing, more frequently. This can be seen as a direct comparison to drug use where, as stated before, increased doses or frequency of use is needed in order to achieve satisfaction.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms are another link between games and drug addiction. The effects of withdrawing from video games can range from indifference to violent behaviour, depending on the player’s involvement in the game. Keith Bakker, the director of The Wild Horses Center, Europe’s first gaming addiction clinic, states that anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems, dreaming about games, nightmares and shaking are all symptoms of gaming withdrawal (Coughlan, 2006).
  5. Inner and social conflict can also arise out of video game use. This relates to how much time a person spends playing games as opposed to hanging out with friends and family, engaging in other hobbies, sports or schoolwork. Preference of games over social engagements is probably the most socially recognizable sign that addiction is taking place.
  6. The final core component of addiction is relapse, which is the tendency to go back to playing a particular video game after quitting or giving up on it.

Cover (2006) holds a different position on this issue. Cover (2006) argues that because video game players choose to engage in the activity and derive satisfaction from doing so, rather than needing to do so, video games cannot be labeled “addictive” the same way drugs are. Therefore, by saying that someone is “addicted” to video games, a powerful stigma is created and that individual is seen as dependent, rather than excessively involved. Griffiths (2005) supports this view by stating that while some potential for addiction exists, “the prevalence of true addiction, rather than excessive use, is very low” (pp. 122-123).  Now that we have discussed the subject of whether video games are physically addictive or not, we must next turn to what exactly it is that makes games addictive. The major factors of games that make them so influential and potentially addictive are discussed next.

Immersion and Interaction

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are considered to be the most addictive video game genre (Khan, 2007). The socializing aspect plays a role in drawing people into the game and keeping them interested. The name of the genre itself suggests a large number of participants and the massive size of the fantasy world that awaits the player. Watson (2003) states that supporters of the genre even go as far as calling it a “great social advancement” (p. 48). In fact, many people have befriended others within the game and spend larger amounts of time socializing online than they do in real life. Popular online community games such as Habbo Hotel attract millions of users monthly. (Vella, 2008). Real life romances have spawned out of online meetings in such games, some even going as far as marriage (Market Wire, 2003).

It should come as no surprise that not all online friendships or relationships end well. Being tricked and having all his virtual money and possessions stolen by an online friend eventually led to the breakdown and suicide of Shawn Woolley, a 21-year-old Everquest player. His mother, Elizabeth Woolley, has since set up On-Line Gamers Anonymous, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support to addicted players. A user on the website by the username RayOfLight has posted a personal story of addiction on the website’s forums, “I am an addict of an online game . . . I have been playing this game for almost 3 years. I've dumped about $4,000 in it, maybe more.. you lose track after the years start passing by” (RayOfLight, 2009). However tragic some of these stories might be, not everyone believes that addiction is entirely the game’s fault. 

Some sociologists challenge the view that it is the game’s fault that certain people become addicted to, experience harm from, or even die as a result of playing a video game. For example, Yee (2006) states that many high school and college students die during football practices. These deaths are dealt with in a different way by the media and society. Questions regarding proper nutrition, coaching choices and parental involvement arise, but at no point does the suggestion that football is addictive or caused death is made. Yee argues that because of the greater social exposure and acceptance of playing the game of football, the suggestion that the sport itself is responsible for causing death is naïve and simplistic. Because video games do not generally have positive social connotations, the opposite holds true for them.

Besides socializing, what other factors influence people’s decision to continue playing games? Watson (2003) argues that there are factors at work outside the game itself that create potential for addiction. A game’s title can be analyzed for meaning and the expectations it holds of what is to come once the player enters the game. Watson (2003) uses Everquest as an example. The title of the game suggests that the “QUEST” is “nEVER" ending, and that a lot of time will need to be put into the game. Games like this rely on the player completing missions in order to level up. These mission, as they get harder, require more time and dedication. Many games also require the player to pay a monthly fee in order to continue playing the game. Watson (2003) argues that by doing so, one’s investment in the game goes “far beyond shrinkwrapped software's point of sale” (p.48). Replayability and immersiveness are also cited as being major influences on continuing to play games. Because people can choose the games they play, they tend to pick games that have a certain personal interest to them, be it racing, flying, shooting, etc. Progressing in the game, more often than not involves having to replay a certain part until it is beaten. If the person is interested in the game, they will take the time to replay a particular level as many times as needed in order to progress, rather than giving up and not playing. Depending on the game, leveling up can take weeks or even months. In MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft, players join “guilds” or teams, and complete mission together. Because now the player is not only responsible for their own success, but also for the success of their guild, more and more time needs to be invested in order to succeed in the game. Because of the level of dedication required, many players become fully immersed in the game. Joi Ito, a Japanese activist and World of Warcraft player, talks about his experience, “We assemble in-game to mount epic six-hour raids that require some members to wake at 4 am and others to stay up all night . . . I have never been this addicted to anything before. My other hobbies are gone. My daily blogging regimen has taken a hit. And my social life revolves more and more around friends in the game” (Ito, 2004).

World of Warcraft has widely been regarded as one of the most addictive video games ever. In fact, a report from Sweden's Youth Care Foundation describes it as, “the most dangerous game on the market” (Sparks, 2009).  The claim was made after a teenager collapsed suffering from convulsions after a 24 hour-long game. Sven Rollenhagen, the author of the report adds, “It is the crack cocaine of the computer game world. Some will play it till they drop” (Sparks, 2009). While this is a strong comparison to make, it is misleading. The game features password-protected parental controls that allow the parents to set a limit on game time. By forcing the player to take a break after predetermined amounts of time, the game ensures that people play responsibly and within reason. The effectiveness of this approach remains undetermined, as many people continue to play for excessive amounts of time. Because the game can only be played online, there are events and interactions that occur even when the player is not logged in. For this reason, the game employs another tactic to encourage the player to take a break. Players can check their characters into a virtual hotel before they log off, and as a result of their stay there the characters accumulate in-game money and various other rewards. There is a problem with this method. Earning rewards will help the player once they get back to the game, so it becomes more alluring for them to keep coming back to playing. While this method helps protect the player from binge playing, it attracts them to constantly keep coming back to the game. These addiction tactics have been criticized by people who believe that video game companies do not care about the safety and health of the players they are selling their games to. Keith Bakker argues that players do not realize that playing a game with no clear end can be very futile, “These games can be designed to keep the players going, there's no pay-off, it's like climbing a mountain with no top” (Coughlan, 2006).

Attachment

Another potentially addictive factor is the active nature of playing a game. Compared to watching television, which can be seen as a passive experience, a video game requires the player to pay full attention to their character, control them, and plan for any problems they might encounter. Many games allow the player to customize the character to their liking, and games such as Tony Hawk’s Underground even let the player’s face be uploaded into the game so they can play as a virtual version of themselves. By putting a personal touch on the game, the player becomes more attached to their character, and will be more likely to spend more time trying to make their character succeed. For games where such personalization is not available, such as text-based games, the developers usually include the option of having an avatar – a customizable picture or graphic that gets assigned to your unique username. By putting a piece of themselves in the game the players feel more comfortable interacting, competing and socializing with other players. A Beijing gamer named Sylvia, interviewed for a BBC survey, reinforces the idea that games are emotionally involving, “It's like watching a movie, but you are participating in it. I really took the emotions on” (BBC News, 2005). 

Personalization and interactivity are very effective when it comes to attracting the player to the game. Cover (2006) argues for this by stating, “…successful gameplay requires the training to act as if one with the character” (para. 18). Lewis, et al. (2009) support this view by stating that because most games, especially role-playing games, are character centered, attachment to the character that the player is controlling can occur on several levels. Interaction, identification, suspension of disbelief, control, and responsibility for their character can cause the player to oftentimes forget about real world troubles, and live through the virtual character with whom they share a bond. Recently, video game addiction has come into the public spotlight after Brandon Crisp, a 15-year-old boy from Ontario, ran away from home and was subsequently found dead after having had his Xbox 360 taken away by his parents (Nurwisah, 2009). He was an avid Call of Duty 4 player, and his obsession with the game was the catalyst that caused the argument with his parents, which eventually led to him leaving home. Although a rare occurrence, this story shows that extreme immersion leading to death is a possibility. While addiction and its factors are potent issues, they are not the only problems gamers have to deal with as a result of their choice to play video games. A further look needs to be taken at how much video games affect the players’ lives and why they chose to play them in the first place.

Social consequences

Because of the little exposure and education on the subject, video games are generally viewed in a negative light by society. Those who play them are stereotyped as being loners, nerds, etc. The social consequences of playing video games are an important issue that deserves a closer look.  Many are quick to jump on the bandwagon and condemn both the games and the people who play them for dedicating their time to the wrong activity. Sports, hanging out with friends and schoolwork are believed to be normal activities by society, while video games are seen as a waste of time. Derrida (1995, as cited in Cover, 2006) states that much like a drug addict who “cuts himself off from the world, in exile from reality, far from objective reality and the real life of the city and the community” (para. 6), the fantasy worlds in video games are also viewed as an escape from reality. Cover (2006) argues that much like the drug, the digital world is seen as an “unnatural, unreal, dangerous substance” (para. 6). Does this stigma propel a further lapse into the game world as a means of avoiding facing real-life?

BBC has conducted a survey of several people’s perspectives on their lives as gamers. Players from around the world input their opinion on this issue. Brandon Hipsher, a US gamer, claims that gaming helps him escape from whatever is bothering him at that time. Li Yang, a software engineer from China, states, “I feel that without gaming, I have nothing interesting to do” (BBC News, 2005). Games can help attain a level of power or popularity that would be nearly impossible for some in real life. Virtual money and possessions, experience level and status can all be achieved in the game without having to rely on one’s looks, wealth and other factors that play an important role is real-life interactions. Naveed Khan, a London gamer, confirms this view, “Those who do well achieve a celebrity-like status in the game with other players who are online too. It's a real power trip” (BBC News, 2005). It seems that as unreal and otherworldly the video game realm might seem, the interactions and social hierarchies formed in it can be as real as those in real life.

Having covered the subject of addiction, it is important to discuss other ways in which video games can affect players. As we have already discussed, social withdrawal is a serious issue for those who play games. Due to the high amount of controversy and social attention that violent video games have attracted, their effects will be discussed next.

Violence

While addiction is an important aspect of video games, there is one other aspect that has garnered just as much, if not more media and public attention. Violence is so spread out throughout video games that at times it seems as though it is instrumental to their success as an entertainment medium. The following section will analyze the history of violence in video games, the effects it has, if any, on the players, and society’s reaction to violent video games.

There is no doubt that throughout the years games have gotten progressively more violent. Rapidly advancing technology, which allows for almost photo realistic imagery, plays an important role in the nature of the violence in video games. To see the contrast in the amount and detail of violent content one can refer to the classic first person shooter Doom, and its more recent sequel, Doom 3. Doom, originally released in 1993, contained high amounts of violence, but due to the game’s poor graphics the images of gore more often than not resembled exploding tomatoes, as Picture 1 illustrates.

Picture 1 Picture 1

While primitive looking, the violent content in the game has generated a lot of controversy. Doom has been widely criticized by various individuals and organizations. David Grossman of The Killology Research Group, an advocacy group devoted to research into the effect video games have on people, has gone as far as calling Doom a “mass murder simulator” (Irvene & Kincaid, 1999). There are several examples of this. First, the game has been criticized for acting as virtual shooting training grounds for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who committed the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Harris was an avid designer of Doom levels, and Klebold would often join him to play against each other. In a video recorded shortly before the shooting, Harris says, “It's going to be like fucking Doom. Tick, tick, tick, tick... Haa! That fucking shotgun is straight out of Doom!” (Gibbs, et al., 1999). While there is no way of telling just how much the game has influenced their actions, that quote has sparked a lot of public interest into video game violence and its effect on the player.  Second, Marine Doom, a modification of the original game, was used by U.S. Marines to prepare marines for warfare, and reinforce team combat skills. The original Doom became an object of public attention, mainly because it was one of the first video games to rely on excessive violence as being one of the main factors of the game. Even though Doom 3 has much better graphics, and an increased level of violence, the game has failed to garner nearly as much public attention. Instead, it has mainly attracted the attention of game critics who praised it as being a technological breakthrough for video games. Doom 3, released in 2003, has an unprecedented level of graphics never before seen in a video game. Picture 2 clearly showcases the game’s advanced detail and realism. It is interesting to note that, surprisingly, as game graphics have become better and better, the sales of video games have increased over the past few decades. In contrast to that, however, the rate of violent crime in the US has continued to fall, reaching its lowest level ever in 2005. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006).

Picture 2 Picture 2

But is it gore that players really crave from video games? A recent study says it is the challenging aspects of a game that attracts gamers, not gore (Wylie, 2009). The study involved 2,670 frequent video game players who had to play Half-Life 2, a violent first person shooter, and a modified version of the game in which robots were used as enemies instead of aliens. After dying, the robots were peacefully teleported back to their base to respawn. as opposed to the aliens who continued to engage in bloody battles with the player. The study found that violence did not particularly add to the gaming experience; in fact, extreme violence could even diminish enjoyment of the game, and furthermore, detract people from buying it. Andrew Przybylski, the lead author of the study, claims that violent content is preferred only by a small group of people who generally report being more aggressive (Wylie, 2009). This means that the average player would chose a game rich in storyline and character development over a highly graphic “gore-fest”.

A game does not necessarily have to contain blood and gore in order to be violent. Flatout, a popular racing game that has a highly fine-tuned physics engine allowing for realistic crash simulations, is a perfect example of this. While, as in almost all racing games, the main point of the game is to finish the race first, the game makes heavy use of driver-centered violence, sometimes to the point where it gets tempting for the player to crash their vehicle just to see what will happen to the driver. The game achieves this by ensuring that every time the player hits an obstacle or another vehicle, the driver is sent flying through the windshield at incredible speeds. There is no blood, gore, or dismemberment, only unrealistic bending of the limbs. The game managed to turn car crashes, a seemingly serious and violent occurrence, into in-game comic relief. By implementing this option for virtual sadism, the game developer has successfully set their game apart from the competition. Even if a player is only interested in playing the game for its racing component, there is no way of getting around the violence, as even the slightest bump is enough to send the driver flying through the windshield for what seems to be hundreds of feet. This begs the question, are there any options for those who want to enjoy violent games for the challenge they provide as opposed to the violent content that is entrenched in them? Ways of doing so, as well as supporting examples are discussed next.

Boesveld (2009) reports that parents are coming up with innovative ways to ensure that their kids play such games responsibly. Hugh Spencer allows his 13-year-old son to play the violent game Call of Duty as long as he follows certain rules outlined in the Geneva Conventions. Evan, his son, is not allowed to shoot those who surrender or continue to shoot at the enemies that are already down. His father hopes that in the process his son will not only learn to objectively think about his choices in the game, but also learn to make ethical decisions in real life. However effective this might be, it seems that game developers are always one step ahead. In the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, one of the game’s sequels, the player can choose the “Last Stand” perk, which allows the character to continue to shoot at their enemies for a short period of time after the player is down. This poses both an ethical and a strategic dilemma for kids like Evan – do you do nothing and get shot at or do you disobey your moral judgment and fire back? The perk is a popular choice for players of the game as it allows them to score extra points before they have to die and respawn. It is worth mentioning that in the most recent title in the franchise, Call of Duty 5: World at War, a new “Medic” perk has become available. This perk, if chosen, allows the player to seek out and revive wounded soldiers before they run out of health and have to respawn. Although an interesting addition by the game’s developer, due to the game’s recency the social ramifications of this perk are yet to be assessed.

Aside from creative thinking, the most common way to help parents chose age-appropriate games for their children is through the ESRB ratings located in the bottom right corner of the game’s box. The Entertainment Software Rating Board was formed after a public outcry in the early 90’s regarding the fact that violent games could be freely sold to children. In order to avoid outright censorship by the government, the entertainment industry came up with its own rating board. Kearney and Pivec (2007) note that while most retail outlets are encouraged not to sell such games to minors, it is not illegal for them to do so. While some stores still go as far as asking for ID from customers who appear to be underage, it is not hard for a child to buy a game that is rated “M for Mature” (17 and older). Because game ratings are suggestions rather than restrictions, some parents are not opposed to buying their child games with such ratings. They feel that their child does not need to be 17; he or she just needs to be mature. In essence, as long as the parents believe that their child’s maturity trumps the age requirements, then he or she should be able to play the game. Many parents do not take the time to educate themselves about the type of content that is included in the games that they make available to their children. In fact, as Kearney and Pivec (2007) note, as much as 66% of parents know little or nothing about the games their children play.

Teenagers are not the only ones who play violent video games. Most games containing violent or otherwise mature content are actually targeted towards adults in their late 20’s. The reason for this is simple – profit. When violent video games were first starting to come out just over a decade ago, the typical gamer was a 16 to 19 year old male. Video game developers target these gamers who have now gotten older, have jobs, and assuming that they still play video games, have disposable income to spend on such games. While these adults are the target demographic for violent video games, as much as 95% of teenagers ages 13 to 17 play violent games too (Kearney and Pivec, 2007). Even though many gamers are not old enough to play M-rated games, they would not have a hard time acquiring the games should they really want to. Many believe that parents should be more restrictive as to what video games their children are allowed to play since, as Gentile & Gentile (2007) state, as much as 89% of all video games contain violence. Gentile & Gentile (2007) argue that because of the desensitizing effect violence has on the players and their parents, video games companies can use the violence as a social control tool. In order to sell more games, the video game industry can produce increasingly violent and graphic games, thus training people to “be accepting—emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally—of violent video games” (p. 128). This raises an interesting question. If games have an ability to train people, can they also be used for educational purposes? Having covered violent and otherwise mature aspects of video games, we must now analyze the benefits, if any, that the player gets from being exposed to such content. Educational, socializing and other beneficial uses for video games are discussed next.

For Better or For Worse

Aside from being an entertainment medium, video games can be, and are used for a wide array of purposes. The multiplayer portion of video games can bring people together from different countries and cultures. Making friends, casually socializing with others, and even romance are all possible outcomes when one decides to enter the digital world of video games. The educational, social and therapeutic uses of video games are only now starting to be studied and implemented. As the next section will show, video games have a substantial, but underappreciated power to benefit the player.

Education

Gentile & Gentile (2007) argue that video games possess the same seven characteristics as schoolteachers that make them exemplary educational devices. To support this claim, seven teaching dimensions that are employed by video games are presented.

  1. Video games set objectives at varying difficulty levels to the player. By matching the player’s skill level to the objectives needed to succeed to the next level, games produce a learning environment in which the player strives to become better at what he or she does in order to advance.
  2. Games require practice. In order to excel at something, the player, much like a student, needs to first learn a skill and then apply it to fully grasp the concept.
  3. Overlearning is the third dimension. By first learning, then practicing repeatedly, the player automatizes the skill to the point where new information can be processed and organized. This allows for a complex combination of skills or knowledge to be put together and mastered over time.
  4. Video games reward the player both intrinsically and extrinsically. Mastery of the objective can be extrinsically reinforced with upgraded items, health, etc. while allowing the player to advance to the next level or objective is an intrinsic reminder of achievement. Gentile & Gentile (2007) argue that this dimension is especially important because, “video games teach self-efficacy through increasing mastery … teachers often offer praise instead of encouraging self-discovery and mastery” (p. 129).
  5. Spiral curriculum is given as the fifth teaching dimension. Related to the fourth dimension, it means that levels of difficulty are contingent on the mastered competencies at earlier stages of the game. Thus, difficulty levels have prerequisites that push the player to advance at a constant rate.
  6. Massed and distributed practice ensures that players keep trying to succeed. Massed practice produces diminishing returns; by the time the player has completed a goal, certain skills and techniques used will be set in place. Distributed practice ensures that the next time the player plays the game, acquired skills will need to be quickly relearned while new ones are being presented. 
  7. Finally, knowledge and skills are practiced in several ways. Instead of narrowing a skill to a particular objective, various scenarios are presented to allow the player to implement and solidify the skill. As these dimensions show, video games have a strong basis for being valid teaching devices.

There are several examples of video games successfully being used for educational purposes. Schools use games like Contagion, which is a video game targeted at children ages 10 to 15, that educates players about preventative behaviour against diseases like AIDS and SARS. Pamoja Mtaani, which targets 15 to 19-year-olds, helps teach Kenyan youth about HIV and AIDS prevention (Majtenyi, 2009). The game accomplishes this by having the player control one of the five characters in the game through a series of real life scenarios where the player’s knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases is tested. By simulating real life settings that the Kenyan youth is familiar with, such Kenya’s capital and its neighbourhoods, the game achieves a high level of realism. This in turn forces the player to better consider their choices in the game and consequently in real life.

Video games have also been used for therapeutic purposes. Unreal Tournament, a violent first-person shooter, has successfully been used to treat claustrophobia. Half-Life, also a violent shooter, has been used to treat arachnophobia. The participants in a study using Half-Life had to play through several modified levels created using the in-game level editor. The participants, ten women and one man, were exposed to increasing numbers of fearful stimuli spiders. The post game analysis revealed dramatic improvements between test results conducted before and after the gaming session (Bouchard et al., 2006). Aside from the individual focused benefits video games provide, it is also important to consider their social applications.

Socialization

Because of their ever-growing exposure to children and adolescents, video games are often used as real-life socializing tools. Gentile & Gentile (2007) argue that children oftentimes turn to video games to establish a common interest with those in a group they would like to belong to. Boesveld (2009) furthers this view by stating that video games are becoming the “after-school past time of choice” (p. L1). More and more children rely on video games as a way of socializing with their friends by playing against each other in competitive games. Many friends who play the same game end up joining a clan or a guild together. A clan is a term for a team usually reserved for first person shooters, while guild, as discussed before, is mainly used in MMORPGs. By bringing in a real life friendship element into the game, the players increase the value of their experience. Both playing together as well as being able to plan their strategies while interacting face to face helps the players accomplish this. The socializing aspect of games does not merely stop at individual interactions. Video games often create followings of fans devoted to discussions about their favourite game. Online communities exist for virtually every major game ever made.  Level modding (the creation of in-game levels), walkthroughs, and general discussions are freely shared between anyone who wishes to join an online gaming community. Gatherings, Local Area Network parties, and even weekend-long events are occasionally held between members, constrained of course by the size, popularity, and funding available to the community. Digital Overload is the perfect example of this. Ctrl-Alt-Del is an online comic that follows the lives of two video game players. The owner of the website holds an annual gamer gathering to which fans of video games can bring their sleeping bags, computers, or consoles and play competitively against players of matched skill levels. Digital Overload, as the gathering is called, is an extremely popular event for gamers over 16 years of age, which has previously attracted over 600 attendees (Digital Overload, n.d.).

Conclusion

Video games have a special place in our society. Due to their interactive nature, the impact games have as an entertainment medium is unprecedented. The technology on which video games are based on is constantly advancing, becoming more sophisticated, and thus allowing for increasingly graphic and violent content. The controversy surrounding the effect of video games to induce or provoke real-life violent behaviour is a subject of continuous research and controversy. So far no concrete proof has been found that video games can induce someone to commit a violent act, but as the Columbine Massacre example shows, unfortunately games can sometimes inspire it. Video games have also been studied and criticized for their addictive nature. Although it is impossible to become physically addicted to a game like one would be to a drug, evidence shows that excessive use is definitely a problem among some gamers. There have been many cases of extreme immersion into the game causing detriment to the player’s health, social life, and in some rare cases, death. While generally regarded by critics as a waste of time, video games can, and are successfully being used for purposes beneficial to the player. Already widely used as a means of socialization, video games also seem to be an untapped resource for educational and therapeutic purposes. Additional research is required to fully understand video games’ effect on the player’s psyche. Further research will allow for the creation of games that are entertaining, educational and therapeutic all at the same time. A further inquest into the addictive nature of video games is also needed, but a greater emphasis should be placed on the distinction between the medical definition of addiction as opposed to excessive use. It is easy to blame a game for the actions of person who plays it, but not wise to do so. Perhaps future studies will shine more light on the subject of gaming, and expose it as the fun, entertaining way to pass time that it really is.

References:

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comments: (2)

    • well for me it actually depends what game your playing... for example MW2 is a great game and all but the people on your team...man they suck and same with the terrorists... they focus all their fire on the main player which is YOU...barely sometimes do they actually shoot at your teammates !
    • a game that attracts my attention are shooting games... i have a PS3 and i practically buy all the games that have shooting in them... i mostly own the call of duty games like cod mw2, cod black ops, cod modern warfare... lots! ya, ya i know that sometimes parents say there bad... but i think once your around 14 you can play those games...of coarse some children are too violent when it comes to that so their parents wont let them... teens around 14 should get a game they want... why prevent them if all your gonna get back is hate...but again it depends what game they're getting... i mean if your 13 and you get a game with gore, blood, even sexual content... that's probably not a good choice.