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Wikipedia’s definition of a video game

I thought I’d finish up my posts by going back to the basics about what a video game actually is, and attempts to do (now that we’ve crammed all this information into a month’s time). So I looked up the wikipedia definition for what a video game is: is “an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device.” My research project explored the roles of psychology in video games, and a big part of that role ended up being about human interaction–it seems that even though we play games alone, we still need to feel like we have a social connection. Just thought I’d share.

Ok, Ok, I opened up to her!

Jane McGonigal and Reality is Broken… What a topic. When we read her book, I could barely stand her writing. Each section goes on about how there is just three steps and to wait because it gets better like my life… But I’m over all that criticism, because I’ve come to terms with the positive merits content as well as her optimism. Its really is good stuff, despite the beef I had (still kinda have) with her writing. But! She does cover massive gaming territory. Looking back and comparing her work to the other others we read, I can hardly believe it. She breaks down different platforms into insightful components that ended up being a great foundation for our new media studies.

FINAL PROJECT/ RESEARCH PAPER: Gaming Beyond Entertainment; Applying Psychology to Game Design

Amanda Jowsey

ENG 380

June 28, 2013

In order to know whether games serve a purpose beyond entertainment, one needs to understand the psychological components of them. Psychology determines an individual’s behavior; an individual’s behavior determines psychology. An individual spends a large majority of their time and resources on entertainment mediums, like video games; therefore, understanding the psychological factors driving video game appeal helps to explain the socio-cultural role something like a game may play—while being played. What is gaming’s effect on an individual’s psychology, or, psychology’s effect on game development and design? A game’s reliance on the principles of engagement, motivation, reinforcement, and attention makes it an ideal topic of exploration for psychologists, and game designers have begun to utilize their expertise to take game’s beyond entertainment into something more engaging than ever—especially in light of the new digital age.  Games can only achieve purpose beyond entertainment when application of psychological principles determines their design.

Tom Nichols, one of the growing numbers of psychologists in the video game industry explains that more and more video game designers ‘turn to psychologists to analyze product effectiveness.’ (qtd in Clay). With the ever expanding variety of gaming platforms, mobile gaming and social network gaming especially, more opportunities present themselves to psychologists to work in the gaming industry. Mike Ambinder, experimental psychologist states: ‘The application of psychological principles to game design is still in its infancy, so the opportunity is present to be at the forefront of a new discipline’ (qtd in Clay). Currently, the most common role for psychologists in the field is in user research—testing whether players “experience games the way companies intended [by understanding the game’s goals, and translating those goals into a testable question]” (Clay); measuring level of excitement or anxiety is a common focus. Game designers and experimental, cognitive, developmental, and educational psychologists want to harness the power of gaming more than ever now though, and rather than just measure an effect, they want to produce one.

If a game designer understands the psychologist’s perspective, they can then produce the player experience they want. Nicholas Yee, Social Scientist, applies psychological theories to online gaming environments specifically, by attempting to understand what users derive from the interactive and collaborative relationships they form within these virtual worlds.

MMORPGs (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games), for example, provide a solid basis for analysis, specifically through avatar interactions. Yee discusses the “relationship formation, role exploration, and skill transfer” elements integrated into MMORPGs, and explains how each component has its own psychological application. These components are necessary in promoting active player engagement and emotional investment in a virtual world. In MMORPGs, “users view the world in real time 3-D graphics,” using a “humanoid graphical representation of the user or player in the game to interact with the environment and each other…. Communication between users occurs through typed chat and animated gestures and expressions” (10). But why do we feel more comfortable interacting with strangers using these guises as vehicles for self-expression or social aid? The customization of avatars appeals to psychologists and sociologists everywhere. Avatars are fully customizable by skin tone, age, weight, height, musculature, cheek, jaw, and brow prominence, mouth and nose shape, eye color, hair color and style, lip fullness, facial hair, etc… – All things that we perceive psychologically to form stereotypes sociologically. Therefore, do avatars in MMORPGs reinforce psychologically and socially driven stereotypes– role related stereotypes specifically? Do they mirror or shape them?

What is it about role stereotypes specifically in these environments? MMORPGs offer “diverse professional alternatives” for avatars (21). Yee provides the example of Star-Wars Galaxies to explain: in the Star Wars game, a player can make their avatar a skilled musician, chef, hairstylist, pharmaceutical manufacturer, or politician. Social networking sites like Facebook now offer hundreds of this type of simulation game with role play as the format— Chefville, Farmville, Coasterville, Petville, Pet Society, Mall World, Cafe World—the names are self-explanatory, and the list goes on and on.

Role Exploration and Skill Transfer, as well as relationship formation and emotional investment in MMORPGs and social networking games allow users to explore new roles and identities. They can also shape an individual’s identity. MMORPGs are “highly social and structured environments [which] allow players to explore whether certain valuable skills learned in these virtual environments can transfer to the material world” (22). These games offer strategy skills like: motivating group members, dealing with negative attitudes and group conflicts, encouraging group loyalty and cooperation, which ultimately provides leadership experience (22). These games allow individuals to learn and interact with the world given to them by essentially developing, reinforcing, or enhancing, or altering real life skills. This is where the traditional use of video games extends beyond entertainment into sociocultural uses.

But what motivates our emotional investment in these MMORPG and social networking games? According to Yee, there are 5 factors that motivate a player’s emotional investment in these virtual environments: Relationship, Immersion, Escapism, and Achievement factors, as well as hyper-personal interactions (12). Relationship components drive social gaming—hence the term “social;” Human interaction is as strong a need as hunger or thirst. Sometimes we feel socially deprived because of our busy schedules and work-loads. Social gaming may satisfy that shortage in between our real life interactions. “Immersion” means that players “enjoy being in a fantasy world as much as they enjoy being somewhere else in the real world… they enjoy the story telling aspect, and enjoy creating avatars with histories that correspond with stories and lore of the world” (10-13). Escapism describes how players use virtual worlds to “temporarily avoid, forget about, and escape from real life stress and problems” (12). The achievement factor measures the player’s desire “to become powerful in the context of virtual environments” through playing to complete goals and accumulate power, status, skills, and virtual other resources.

The reason gaming socially online satisfies our social shortages, is because of what Yee describes as “Hyper-personal interactions: more intimate, more intense, more salient relationships;” Yee believes online virtual environments foster these relationships because of what the communication channel creates. “[Online communication] allows senders to optimize their self-presentation because interactants don’t have to respond in real time… [The receiver] forms an impression of the information the sender has optimized”(16). Participants can also “reallocate cognitive resources typically used to maintain socially acceptable non-verbal gestures used in face to face communications and focus on the structure and content of the message itself— which comes across as more personal and articulate…. Interactants respond to personal messages with equally personal and intimate messages; the idealized impressions and more personal interaction intensifies through reciprocity” (16)—the result: “hyper-personal relationships.”

Yee ultimately demonstrates that “our virtual identities and experiences are not separate from our identities and experiences in the material world. They co-evolve as they shape each other” (25); that the phenomenon of role-playing or simulation game popularity can only be understood through analysis of an individual’s psychological components, not necessarily the game’s theme or story line. When this happens, games move beyond entertainment to become new communication mediums, rich with social identities, interactions.

According to Science Daily, the desire to play video games or interact in MMORPG worlds “lies somewhere beyond mere role playing; it’s an actual desire to find our ideal selves” (Gayomali). Gayomali states that “observing thousands of gamers playing everything from The Sims to World of Warcraft,” researchers from the University of Essex determined that this “role-playing attraction” extends “back to childhood, when we used our imaginations to project ourselves as all sorts of things: an athlete, a rock star, a superhero– the list goes on.” Video games allow players to “adopt pieces of their protagonist’s identity, giving [them] a glimpse of a life [they] would secretly like to lead” (Gayomali). Gaming research essentially shows, according to Dr. Przybylski, leading researcher at University of Essex, that “people were not running away from themselves” while engaging in role-playing games, “but running toward their ideals.”

Writer John M. Grohol investigates the following question related to gaming and psychology—like Yee, focusing specifically on avatar interaction. He asks: “Do people represent themselves for who they are; do they take on different personality characteristics with their online persona?” A person’s choice of avatar—the “pictorial representation of themselves in an online environment— can be examined to find answers. Grohol references and summarizes a study done by Yee and Bailenson, in which “the effect of an altered self-representation on behavior” was observed (Grohol). “Participants who had more attractive avatars exhibited increased self-disclosure and were more willing to approach opposite gendered strangers after less than one minute of exposure to their altered avatar” (Grohol). Ultimately, the attractiveness of an avatar determined how intimate participants were willing to be with strangers (much like in real life). Height, for example, was a defining physical trait that impacted confidence level of players who used their avatar’s to interact with others. “Both the height and the attractiveness of an avatar in an online game were significant predictors of the player’s performance” (Grohol). These laboratory online settings were also extended to face-to-face interactions, and the same concepts apply. The major point here: “our virtual bodies can change how we interact with others”—in an avatar based online communication, as well as a face to face interaction (Grohol).

Emotional Investment and Social presence were also measured in Yee and Bailenson’s study. “Social Presence” measures how connected a player feels to their online environment. When visual and behavioral realism matched, (attractiveness matched expectations of attractiveness” [Grohol]) a participant’s sense of social presence increased. The study also found that attractiveness in avatars is naturally accompanied by height—not unlike the real world. The bottom line: Avatars can impact how a player behaves and interacts online, just like their physical body can determine the same in real life. Clearly psychology is at work here.

The label “Mirror Games” is used to describe the way “individuals shape their own minds through looking into the mirror of others”—also known as Social Mirroring. Social Mirroring occurs through various modes of communication, and two basic requirements must be filled for it to take place: the functional and the social (165).

The functional element refers to the “operation of representational devices with mirror like properties,” or, the mirrors inside of an individual. The social element refers to “discourses and practices for using and exploiting inside mirrors within social interaction.” Social Mirroring is “how individuals come to understand and appraise their own conduct” (166). By mirroring themselves in others, an individual comes to “perceive and understand him or herself by understanding how their conduct is perceived, received, and understood by others” (166). A social mirror and an actual mirror’s common ground is this: “both help the individual to perceive themselves in the same way others perceive them.” This “notion of social mirroring is widespread in the social sciences,” especially in the fields of Cognitive, Developmental, and Social psychology (168). Considering “the possible role of mirror like devices for self-recognition and social interaction;” in this context, a “mirror” metaphorically represents “close functional relationships between action perception and production” (168). Social mirroring contributes to self-formation and reformation; for this to occur, social mirrors within an individual’s environment must match “mirror-like representational devices operating inside their minds” (169).

These affirmations confirm the idea that video games mirror and shape our psychologies. Video games maintain all the qualities of “mirror games.” If social mirroring occurs through various modes of communication, and we consider an MMORPG, for example, as the mode of communication, then the two basic requirements for socially mirroring to take place are fulfilled by one thing: video games. Simulation games and virtual environments demonstrate the functional element, or the “operations of representational devices with mirror-like properties” (170). These games reflect certain socially realities, even though they distort it through computer generated graphics that are designed to enhance and extend beyond reality’s limits. They are “representational devices.” Any interactive component to gameplay: PvP zones, Avatars, simulation games, etc… fulfill the social requirement. These all provide he “possible role of mirror-like devices for self-recognition and social interaction” (171). The mirror, in this context, refers to the “close functional relation between action-perception and production” (175)” which works on the principles of Operant Conditioning. These “mirror games” contribute to self-formation like Operant Conditioning does in a social context.

Zynga—Facebook’s highest grossing gaming application developer— combines the fun of MMORPGs and social networking with simulation while utilizing the psychological principles of Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning is the learning process in which an action’s consequences or rewards determine the likelihood that the action will be repeated in the future. It is based on reinforcement and punishment as well as repetition. Positive stimuli equals reinforcement, and reinforcement increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated; negative stimuli equal punishment, and increases the likelihood that the behavior will not be repeated. Both learning outcomes are based on repetition of the negative or positive stimuli in response to an action (Gazzaniga, et al). When users are playing a game, like Coasterville, for example, virtual stars, coins, fireworks, and confetti overload the screen when the player accomplishes a goal or clicks an interactive item. This is positive reinforcement. These starts, coins, fireworks, and confetti are the positive stimuli. It triggers the player’s pleasure centers, provides reinforcement, and encourages them to keep clicking for more. Games work on punishment as well. In traditional console games, like Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country for example, when a player’s character ran off the edge of a cliff, they fell off into nothingness and died. The turn was over. The player had to restart the entire board. They were so disappointed. Yet it also encouraged the fact, because they wanted to keep playing, that they wouldn’t ever run off a cliff again—that next time they played that part of a level, they remembered not to go that way. Falling off the cliff—the negative stimuli— and ending a turn—the punishment— ultimately with repetition, encourages the player to play better, stronger, faster, smarter.

Zynga’s games, based on Operant Conditioning, are designed to provide players with early and immediate rewards which encourage longevity of play. With every new action, something more is unlocked, and the player’s progression is displayed in the form of virtual currency of various kinds, prompting additional action. The immediacy of feedback plays a major role in the success of a Zynga game’s playability. Rather than the game stopping and waiting for the player to activate it, like on traditional PC and console games, Facebook applications continue working while the player is away. For example, on Coasterville, players can still receive items and requests from friends while away, and they can see that a certain ride will take “14 hours” to build; once they’ve started to build it, they know that in that actual time frame, they can go back on to see the completed virtual results of their gaming progress overnight without doing anything at all. Also, once player’s parks have been established, expansion of it depends on the player returning to play. Of course by this point, they’re hooked. If players want to expand their park’s boundaries to fit another coaster now, they need x amount of supplies, but to get those supplies, they need to “order them” from the park’s vendors, and the “order” takes “2 hours” to arrive. It takes more and more. The initial, immediate rewards are highly stimulating, but it takes playing and doing more and more to achieve that same level of stimulation as game-play progresses.

Writer Dennis Scimeca reinforces what McGonigal discusses in our first reading, “Reality is Broken,” regarding Dr. Martin Seligman and his principles of Positive Psychology. During an interview at the “Games Beyond Entertainment” conference in Boston, Dr. Seligman confirms that video games can indeed “play a part in promoting human ‘flourishing’”(Scimeca). He breaks this flourishing down into five components: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement (PERMA). Each component has one thing in common: an individual does them for their own benefit. Each element is also “measurable, teachable, and game-able” (Scimeca). Now Seligman’s theories of positive psychology apply not only to video game design, but to socio-cultural uses as well.

The U.S Army now uses these principles in their training and therapy for example. “Three years ago the Chief of Staff of the Army, George Casey, called Seligman to ask what positive psychology could do to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, drug abuse, and divorce, all of which are common issues for soldiers” (Scimeca). These soldiers were trained in PERMA principles to teach “resilience and positive psychology” (Scimeca). This training allowed soldiers to focus on the strategy of developing and practicing coping skills for the extreme and emotionally overwhelming challenges assigned to them. McGonigal, although she did mention that games could go beyond entertainment to be utilized in this fashion, I would have liked to see a more in depth explanation of how exactly major U.S institutions and government branches, and this article more clearly confirmed her major claims. Although no current games actually teach PERMA principles, Seligman hopes to change that very soon.

“The Left digit Effect” demonstrates another one of the ways psychological manipulation may be used in video game design. Madigan explains the “left digit effect” in pricing, noting how $2.99 for example seems like less than $3.00: “The left digit disproportionately affects our perception of price.” In a 2005 study, subjects were asked to estimate how many items they could buy from a catalog with $73.00. They were first presented with prices ending in .00, then with prices ending with .99—“Across all conditions, subjects estimated they could afford to buy more when prices ended in .99” (Madigan). The left-to-right reading process makes the first number the most significant.”$59.99 is seemingly less than $60.00 because the leftmost 5 is coded as meaningfully less than the 6. The relatively slow moving, rational part of one’s brain catches up an instant later and recognizes that a penny’s difference means nothing; but the snap judgment has already been made and perceptions of price are now subtly biased”(Madigan). Madigan goes on to say that “as with most cognitive biases, we’re especially susceptible to the left digit effect when the rational part of our minds is busy or tired.” The left digit effect can be applied to more than just prices, however, and can happen regarding any number or measurement—including elements in video game worlds (“average scores, weapon stats, gigabytes of space,”—anything represented numerically.) For game designers trying to maximize player’s reward-satisfaction, without compromising the balance of ease and fun, the left digit effect can be a highly effective technique to adopt. It is also likely to be most effective “when player’s mental [or virtual] resources are depleted or directed elsewhere (combat, challenge, character creation process, or player and item stats).

If you’re designing an axe for your RPG that does 3.02 damage per second, it’s going to be seen as disproportionately better than a sword with a 2.99 DPs. Adding a skill point to reduce the cool-down timer on an ability from 5 seconds to 4.5 seconds is going to seem like a better use of the skill point than the previous time it was reduced from 5.5 to 5. And 3,000 experience points for a quest reward is going to be a lot better than 2,950 –more so than math alone would lead you to believe (Madigan).

The use of psychology in video game design is highly underestimated and underutilized. There are so many psychological facets, like the left brain effect, that can be applied to game play. It’s all about learning and reinforcement. It’s all about perception.

“Deep Learning and emotion in Serious Games” further validates Psychology’s role in game design and game play. The authors present the concept of “serious games,” or educational and therapy-related games. These oxymoronically worded games, they say, are “designed with the explicit goal of helping students learn about important subject matter, problem-solving strategies, and cognitive and social skills” (83). These games successfully integrate gameplay with curriculum, and “the learning of difficult content” via these game platforms becomes “enjoyable and engaging” for the student; strenuous mental activity becomes transformed into play (83). In order to understand how this is achieved, however, game designers must investigate the principles of psychology to fuse those principles with those inherent to game design.

The art or science of teaching, education, and instructional methods with games must undergo further analysis and far more utilization however; as of now, very few games exist with this integration in mind. Those that do exist, however, incorporate “behavioral, cognitive, and social task analysis between game features and the desired learning objectives” (84). To support their belief in the power of “serious games,” the authors introduce several psychological principles that are crucial for understanding how games play on the user’s mind, for example: Principles of instructional design are mapped onto particular features of games; the mapping of game features can be linked to the four levels of evaluating training (student reaction, leaning, behavioral transfer, and systematic results); these features are also linkable to a specific learning model that has five major branches of cognitive demand—these branches are: content understanding, problem solving, self-regulation, communication, and collaborative teamwork (83). Ideally, Graesser, and his co-authors believe that these games would increase enjoyment, interest in the topic at work, and the “Flow” experience McGonigal made familiar to us—“Such engagement in the game would be expected to facilitate learning by virtue of time spent on task, motivation, and self-regulated activities, so long as the focus is on instructional curriculum rather than exogenous game components” (83).

Several taxonomies of games exist: 1st person shooter, action-adventure, strategy, puzzle, trivia, simulation, role-playing, and MMORPGs. Each genre corresponds to “specific behavioral, cognitive, or social skills acquired as a function of increasing playing time, practice, tests, and challenges. These skills span perception-attention-motor skills, working memory management, memory for content, reasoning, planning, problem-solving, and social interaction” (84). Deeper levels of learning involve the following: analysis of causal mechanisms, logical explanations, creation and defense of arguments, management of limited resources, tradeoffs of processes in complex system, and a way to resolve conflicts (84). More shallow levels include: perceptual learning, motor skills, definitions of words, properties of objects, and memorization of facts.

What makes games successful psychologically? What is their psychological impact? How can game designers more effectively utilize psychological responses in their execution? What aspects of psychology specifically correspond to the components of games? Is all media and entertainment simply a crafted manipulation of our psyches? Do we care if it is? Does understanding our own psychologies serve as a handy defense against unfair or unwanted manipulation? These thoughts apply not only to gamers and game designers, but to students, parents, teenagers, doctors, lawyers, everyone. Name one person that hasn’t played a game. We’ve all been psychologically manipulated somehow, but most of the time, we love it!


Clay, Rebecca A. “Video Game Design and Development.” American Psychological Association (2013):

14. Web. 21, June 2013.

Gayomali, Chris. “Psychology: We Play Video Games to Chase our ‘Ideal Selves.” Time Tech. Time.com, 4

Aug. 2011. Web. 22 June. 2013.

Gazzaniga, Michael, Todd Heatherton, and Diane Halpern. “Psychological Science.” New York:

W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 3-46. Print.

Graesser, Arthur., et al. Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects. New York: Routledge, 2009. 83-90.


Grohol, John M. “The Proteus Effect: How our Avatar Changes Online Behavior.” Psych

Central. Psychcentral.com. 27 June. 2013. Web. 22 June. 2013.

Madigan, Jaime. “The Left Digit Effect: Why Game Prices end in .99.” The Psychology of Video Games:

Examining the Intersection of Psychology and Video Games. 3 June 2013. Web. 26 June 2013. <http://www.psychologyofgames.com/&gt;

Morganti, F, A. Carassa, and G. Riva. “Enacting Intersubjectivity: A Cognitive and Social

Perspective on the Study of Interactions.” Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2008. 165-174. Print.

Scimeca, Dennis. “Games Beyond Entertainment: Applying Positive Psychology To Games.”

Gamasutra. Gamasutra.com. 18 May 2011. Web. 25 June 2013. <http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/124918/Games_Beyond_Entertainment_Applying_Positive_Psychology_To_Games.php&gt;

Yee, Nicholas. “Avatars at Work and Play: Collaboration and Interaction in Shared Virtual

Environments.” The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games: Motivations, Emotional Investment, Relationships, and Problematic Usage. the  Netherlands: Springer, 2006. 187-207. Web. 22 June. 2013.

Research Paper

Violence and Video Games: How do they correlate?



Violent video games have built a reputation as a cause for violent activity in the last 15 years. From the Columbine shooting to the Newtown shooting, every time a violent headline grabs the national media’s attention, violent media and video games in particular take a large portion of blame. Political leaders and members of the media blame violent games for spurring the suspect to commit acts of violence against other human beings.

In the scientific world, the last two decades have been full of attempts to quantify just how much of an effect violent video games have on violent behavior. The issue with this is that video game companies or anti-violence groups – that are determined to prove video games cause these violent outbursts – have funded many of these studies.

This paper will outline the major arguments on both sides, as well as what many researchers who straddle the invisible line have found while examining research papers. It is expected that when adjusted for publication bias and methodological faults, the vast majority of research papers will not just discount violent video games’ role as a producer of more violent people, but findings will actually lean towards video games helping to reduce violent behavior in most people.

In order to be involved in the debate regarding violent video games and their correlation to violent behavior one does not have to be a video game player. Because this issue has taken the forefront on the national scene in the past decade, many people who are not involved in the video game industry and don’t play video games have blamed video games for violent tragedies. Research into this topic has been conducted for the past two decades as researchers try to get a handle on how violent video games effect people’s behaviors, especially young men.

The rise in popularity of video games and the emergence of school shootings as a more regular event have spurred more researchers to dedicate time to the challenge of attributing or discrediting video games to these violent outbursts. However, many researchers in the field are concerned that these studies are poorly done and are producing inaccurate results. In 2008, Ferguson and Kilburn compiled a list of 25 articles published from 1998-2008 and examined their methods and results. They adjusted the results to account for uncontrolled variables such as personality, genes and sex. They also looked at some of the methods other researchers used and the ways in which those researchers measured their results. They found that almost half of the articles examined did not use a standardized scale to measure aggression, and in some cases simply relied on the word of individuals to measure their subject’s tendencies for violence and aggressive behavior.

Another paper that Ferguson was a part of examined the effect of violent media and video games on three groups of young men: Mexican-Americans, English and Croatian. The study examined not just aggression but also depression in these young men after they were exposed to violent media and violent video games. It is important that every control is accounted for in these studies. Studying specific groups of young people controls for a lot of variables other researchers do not. The control of outside variables makes the results much more consistent and easier to analyze. This also makes the data more reliable and it will stand up to peer review.

The consensus between researchers who are not being funded by either side of the argument is that the research findings that seriously prove video games do or do not cause violent behavior are skewed for a few reasons. The first is a lack of control for third variables. Many researchers have not controlled for variables such as gender, personality and genetics. This has been such a hot button topic among the research community, that there have been research articles devoted to analyzing data from other research articles. These articles then make an attempt to hash through that data and control for poor research methods, methodological problems and publication bias. Publication bias is one of the biggest issues, as the research that is being funded by a side with a stake in this argument tends to produce skewed results. The public then sees these results as the funders attempt to give their side an edge in the argument and sway public opinion.

Once adjusted to fix these issues, researchers found that violent video games’ effects on violent behavior is so small it’s hard to consider it a factor at all. The small influence they could find, however, tipped in favor of violent video games alleviating violent behavior.

There are three theories involved with violent media’s relation with the violent tendencies. The first is called the “aggression theory.” The premise behind the aggression theory is based on psychological theory called the “General Aggression Model” (GAM). GAM theorizes that violent video games increase aggression. The idea is that gamers develop mental scripts based on their video game experiences, which essentially program them to be more aggressive. Instead of relying on typical social cues, they begin to act like they are in a video. Since they play violent video games, these cues dictate that they take aggressive action instead of more socially acceptable actions. GAM suggests that more exposure to violent video games over time continues to increase violent tendencies, but the researchers state that most experiments done involving GAM are done over a short period of time.

The second theory is called the “incapacitation theory.” This is based on the simple principle of time use that people who play video games and spend time indoors simply don’t have as much time to commit to other things. This theory dictates that while there is a short run decrease in violence and aggression as the individual spends time indoors, there is room for a long run increase those behaviors as they lose interest in or complete the violent game that took up their time. One of the consequences of this theory is that while it takes away from time that could be used for aggressive acts, it also takes away from time those individuals could be spending in school or studying. Thus, this concept works both ways, both preventing violent acts in some capacity for a short period of time, but also decreasing the gamer’s productivity and possibly their aggressive tendencies.

The final theory is not one accepted in the scientific community, but one that gamers believe to be true. It is called the “catharsis theory” and states that violent video games act as a release for the gamer, thus limiting the violent acts they will commit in the real world. Many gamers have claimed this is the effect violent video games have on them. There is little scientific support for this theory although Denzler, Foster and Liberman state that aggression in video games can reduce further aggression when it fulfills a goal. The researchers are quick to say these results do not justify violent media, as this is more focused on the actual fulfillment of the goal and not the violence. Another possible accreditation for this theory is that internet gaming has been found to be associated with dopamine release which serves to sate the player. There have also been studies that have found video games can act as a form of self-medication for children with ADHD.

These three theories illustrate just how complicated results on this topic have been and how torn the research community is. Many reputable researchers have conveyed their lack of faith in the way research in this field has been conducted and that many of the results found thus far are not reliable because of the lack of consistency in research methods.

One of the ideas discussed in the New Media class, particularly in regards to Jane McGonigal and Reality is Broken, is that video games are popular because they offer a better version of reality. The idea is that reality is sluggish and video games offer a fast paced alternative that includes much more instant gratification through completing tasks. McGonigal discusses how executives in many companies take video game breaks that last as long as an hour to play and make them feel more productive. Denzler, Foster and Liberman expand on this point in their research paper How Goal Fulfillment Decreases Aggression.

The ideas in this paper align almost exactly with McGonigal’s concepts of why video games are useful and how they can help better society. Denzler, Foster and Liberman find that people remember tasks where they did not complete the goal much more vividly then when they had completed the goal. They attribute this finding to the fact that once a goal is completed you no longer need to think about it, but if you fail to reach your goal, it is still something you wish to accomplish and thus still holds your attention. Denzler, Foster and Liberman are sure to point out the differences in their findings and the idea behind the catharsis theory. The main difference is the achievement of the goal in their study has nothing to do with any violence that might or might not be involved. Their findings support that regardless of the kind of goal a person is striving toward, the successful achievement of that goal limits their aggression. They even find that completing a goal that may have started as a goal of aggression (they give the examples of restoring justice, equity or self esteem) through non-violent means reduces aggression.

The importance of controlling for outside variables has already been discussed, but not all researchers have failed at addressing these outside variables. Christopher J. Fergusona, John Colwell, Boris Mlacˇic´, Goran Milas and Igor Mikloušic´ do just that in their paper Personality and media influences on violence and depression in a cross-national sample of young adults: Data from Mexican–Americans, English and Croatians. By controlling for the nationality of the subjects, the researchers controlled for factors like society and the environment around the subjects, which make it easier to prove the data to be reliable.

They found that the correlations between media violence acts were very small, but theorized that these correlations could be understood through personality variables in the subjects. Because the correlation relies so heavily on individual traits such as agreeableness and aggressiveness, they state that a linear relationship between media violence and violent acts is unlikely. These findings are consistent with most unbiased findings on this topic. When Ferguson and Kilburn analyzed findings from 1998-2008 and adjusted results to control for outside variables, their findings were similar. They even go as far as saying: “why the belief of media violence effects persists despite the inherent weaknesses of the research is somewhat of an open question.”

Although research has proven that media violence does not affect the violent behavior of individuals as strongly as might be assumed, on an individual basis there are factors that could cause media violence to make an individual more violent.

Despite the media and politicians blaming violent behavior on exposure to violent media and video games, the scientific world has found little evidence of this. Through the examination and adjustment of past research results, where researchers adjusted for publication bias and methodological errors, they found little to no correlation between violent video games and violent behavior. Researchers that looked at violent crimes in correlation to the release of violent games actually found that there was a decrease in violent crimes. This can be accredited to the incapacitation theory, which states that when those that usually commit violent crimes spend their time doing other things, there is less time to commit acts of aggression. And finally, a separate group of researchers found that a integral aspect of video games, goal achievement, causes a decrease in aggressive behavior. All of these research papers make it clear that there is no direct correlation between violent video games and violent and aggressive acts. One of these papers even theorizes that because the biggest contributor to violent behavior is personality traits, which most research papers neglect to study, it continues to perpetuate the thought process that violent video games cause violent behavior.


  1. Carey, Benedict. “Shooting in the Dark.” The New York Times 11 Feb. 2013: n. pag. Print.


  1. Cunningham, Scott, Engelstätter, Benjamin and Ward, Michael R., Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime (April 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1804959 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1804959


  1. Denzler, Marcus, Jens Förster, and Nira Liberman. “How Goal-fulfillment Decreases Aggression.” Www.socolab.com. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 6 Sept. 2008. Web. 28 June 2013.


  1. Ferguson, Christopher J., and John Kilburn. “The Public Health Risks of Media Violence: A Meta-Analytic Review.” The Journal of Pediatrics 154.5 (2009): 759-63. Print.


  1. Ferguson, Christopher J., John Colwell, Boris Mlacˇic, Goran Milas, and Igor Mikloušic. “Personality and Media Influences on Violence and Depression in a Cross-national Sample of Young Adults: Data from Mexican–Americans, English and Croatians.” Computers in Human Behaivor (2011): n. pag. Print.


  1. Vitelli, Romeo. “Can Video Games Cause Violence?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 June 2013. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201304/can-video-games-cause-violence&gt;.



Is Halliday Responsible?

Throughout Ready Player One, I kept wondering if Halliday’s gigantic fortune was the cause of the problem? Halliday and OG were said to have some of the largest sums of money in the novel’s world. If his hundreds of billions were to be pumped back into the world, could it have made a difference? Art3mis certainly thinks so. Wade is not so optimistic. It is hard to tell. Halliday was a genius, but he also was detached from the world. He did not care what happened to humanity nearly as much as he cared about the 1980s. Even if Halliday wasn’t the  problem, the distribution of wealth, coupled with the irresponsible use of resources, monetary and natural ones, were the problem.

Clash of Clans Review

Clash of Clans
Currently my favorite game right now is Clash of Clans. I have been playing this game since Thanksgiving and that new game feeling has yet to wear off. This game is very similar to computer games like Civilization, where you have to create your own village, or clan if you will. The major difference is that it is much simpler than Civilization. In Clash of Clans everything is about war. You start off with one builder and one town hall. You use the builder to create building to improve your town and make it stronger. Early on you need to learn how to collect resources. There are four types of resources in the game, and each can only be used for specific things. The first, and most universal resource is called a gem. Gems are the way the creators of the game make money. Because Clash of Clans is a free app from the app store, anyone with an apple product can download it. Every free game has something you can buy with real money to give you the upper hand in the game. In Clash of Clans, those are gems. They can be used in a number of ways. The way I like to use them it to speed up buildings that are being built or upgraded. I will explain this in greater detail later. Another use for gems is to exchange them for other resources. There are only two ways to get gems, the first I already mentioned, by paying for them, the other is to harvest them by removing rocks, bushes and trees. The second type of resource is gold. This is a very important resource because gold is used to create and upgrade your town hall and defensive structures. Defensive structures are things like walls, cannons, archer towers, and mortars. These structures protect your town from raiders. Gold is easier to get than gems. One of the first buildings you will create are gold mines. Over time these mines with harvest the gold from the ground for you, all you have to do is tap on the mine and your villagers will transport the gold from the mines to your collector for you. That way can be time consuming and tedious. There is one other way to get gold, besides trading gems for it, and that is by raiding. I will explain that later as well. The third resource you need is called elixir. Elixir is used to build and upgrade your offensive structures. These structures include your army, spells, army camps, and barracks. Just like with gold, elixir can either be harvested from the ground through mines, or by raiding other people’s villages. The last, and harder to get resources is dark elixir. This resource can only be harvested with a special mine, but it can also be stolen in raids. Dark elixir is used on special troops, that is how you create them and upgrade them. The next thing you nee to know about the game is that everything is time based. everything you build takes one builder, a predetermined cost (in any of the three resources), and a predetermined amount of time. For example, in order to upgrade your town hall from level 8 to level 9 you need to pay one builder 3 million in gold and it will take him ten days to finish the job. Everything from building structures, to building troops, to harvesting resources takes a certain amount of time. And the time changes as you level up. Raiding is one of the most important aspects of the game. The idea is to build up a strong army, using the elixir you already have. An army consists of several different creatures, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. each one costs a different amount of elixir to create and time to complete. Once you have an army created you can raid. There are two different places you can raid each with different rules. The first, and probably the easiest is in the single player. In single player you can attack the computer, and by attacking you can steal all the resources they have. In multiplayer you can attack other villages and steal resources from them. Now obviously if you can raid other people’s bases and steal their resources, the same can be done to you. If that does happen to you, you get the option of of revenging whoever attacked you. There is one last thing you need to know about raiding and that is what cups, or trophies are. Cups are how you are judged compared to other players in the game. Every time you win a battle, either someone invades you and you win or you destroy someone else’s base, you win trophies. Every time you lose, either at your base or someone else’s, you lose trophies. Typically the game tries to get people with similar trophy level to attack one another. You win a battle, it you are attacking, by doing one of two things. The first it to destroy your opponents town hall, if you do that, you win no matter what. The second is to destroy fifty percent of the structures on your opponents base. The basic concept of this game is to have the best base. One of my favorite features in the game is the ability to join a clan. Once you rebuild the clan castle it gives you the option to join into a clan of your choice, or create your own clan. the purpose of the clan is so people can donate troops to one another to be used for invading and protecting your base. This game is extremely fun. one of my favorite things about it is the fact that you don’t have to sit there and play it for hours. You can play for short amounts of time and come back to it later, because everything is based off of time. Everyone can play it, as long as you have apple device.

Ready Reader 1

First off, I’d like to say I really enjoyed the book. It was a fast paced and fun. And that’s not even unrelated to my post. The novel incorporated a lot of the concepts we discussed throughout the course and put them into play as literature. In that sense, it took a different, but not less related approach to understanding and representing videogames. Where the other texts we read were theory based social science/ philosophical works, the novel lives as art. Ready Player One delivered an art as art. While the others were definitely more important to scholarship, Ready Player One helped keep gaming fun

Research Paper: The Hypergendered World of Gaming

Emma Pezzimenti

Prof. Reid

ENG 280

28 June 2013

The Hypergendered World of Gaming

Games, Gamers and Sexism

Over the many decades of its existence, the gaming community has become increasingly diverse. Though our stereotype of the gamer often remains the young, white and male socially awkward nerd, women currently make up forty-five percent of gamers and adult women gamers outnumber young boy gamers (“Industry Facts”). Yet the stereotype of gaming being a boys’ club persists, both within the gaming community and amongst game designers and publishers. Like most popular media, video games are typically designed for and marketed towards men despite the diversity within the community consuming such media. Professors Jesse Fox and Jeremy N. Bailenson and Facebook Media Solutions Managers Liz Tricase note in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that in video games “men outnumber women and that female representations are overwhelmingly stereotypical (e.g., kidnapped princesses in need of rescue) and often sexualized” (Bailenson, Fox & Tricase, 930). The question of how gender functions in games and within the gaming community is a salient one. The question is unique due to the nature of video games; not only is the format’s interactivity important to consider, but so is the fact that its representations are frequently embellished and hypermasculine on a level that rivals superhero comics and action movies. By utilizing Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity, video gaming can be understood as an important locus for the repetition of gender. When critically examined, the functioning of gender in and around video games can be used to understand the implications of video game representation and community behavior. If video games are to continue to maintain a place in mainstream media, or even grow in importance, it is vital that sexist undercurrents in games and the gaming community be examined and deconstructed.

To situate gender within gaming, we first must situate gender. Judith Butler’s theory of gender as performed “drag” is useful for the analysis at hand. As Butler writes in “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,”

Drag is not the putting on of a gender that belongs properly to some other group, i.e. an act of expropriation or appropriation that assumes that gender is the rightful property of sex, that “masculine” belongs to “male” and “feminine” belongs to “female.” There is no “proper” gender, a gender proper to one sex rather than another, which is in some sense that sex’s cultural property (Butler 312).

Butler continues, noting that “gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.” “Heterosexualized genders” are produced by the repetition and imitation of a “phantasmatic ideal of heterosexual identity” (Butler 313). Hashed out, Butler is claiming that there is no kernel of gendered truth within the ‘I’, but rather that all gender is functionally an imitation of an ideal heterosexualized gender. Gender is performed, and as such is constantly in a state of being repeated, futilely attempting to attain the heterosexualized ideal but only succeeding at repeating an unstable imitation of the phantasmatic ideal.

It is easy to map Butler’s logic on to the functioning of gender in games and gaming. Gaming is a literal performance, especially in games such as role playing games (RPGs), massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and open world games which typically afford greater flexibility in characterization and action. In video games, roles are typically highly gendered in a way that could easily be described as embellished. Common tropes such as the grizzled soldier or damsel in distress reinforce gendered demarcations and stereotypes. The literal performance of these roles opens space for a greater reification of gendered stereotypes than might be offered by media that is simply watched or read. By looking at gendered game play in video games as a locus of gender performativity, we can understand the ways in which video games can both reinforce gender or provide a point of resistance which can be used to disrupt sexism operative in gaming. To do this I will look at sociological examinations of video games which critique both games and the gaming community. This will lay out both the abstract and concrete ways in which gender functions in gaming and open the door for possibilities about what can be done in regards to such functioning.

To first examine games themselves, the popular multiplayer computer game League of Legends is a good point of departure. League has been reported to attract around 12 million players per day (“League of Legends the World’s ‘most Played Video Game’”), making it one of the world’s most popular video games. As such it provides a useful case subject for an examination of typical portrayals of men and women. League of Legends‘ game play centers around controlling a single character as part of a team of three or five players on one of four different maps. The roster of 100+ unique champions contains a large amount of both men and women (and a few monsters, though they are universally coded as male), and the difference in their characterization is striking. As previously mentioned, games typically have sexist portrayals of women, and they exist in spades in League. Women are generally thin, well endowed and wear skimpy clothing. Examples include Nidalee, a busty woman who wears nothing but a top that resembles a cut-off bustier, a loin cloth, gauntlets and boots and Katarina, whose skin tight outfit displays gratuitous cleavage. It is particularly egregious when compared to male characters who, while sometimes scantly clad (the topless Tryndamere comes to mind), are often fully clothed or armored and are portrayed as robust and powerful. They are granted a Subject position by virtue of their strength, while the women’s frailer, more sexualized bodies are ready made for objectification.

Concern over this is not simply a nitpick, as it has cultural and personal implications. On a cultural level, it encourages sexism in the gaming community, as will be elaborated upon later. On the level of the subject, however, these sorts of images can negatively influence the thinking and behavior of individuals. As Bailenson, Fox and Tricase note, “users may embody characters in virtual worlds and experience the virtual body as their own, which has been shown to have stronger effects than passively watching them” (Bailenson, Fox & Tricase 931). In a game with minimal story line and characterization such as League of Legends this is less of a concern. However, many games carry the same problematic representations as League, but with stronger feelings of embodiment. These can have pernicious effects as Bailenson, Fox and Tricase explore. Drawing on a variety of sources, they note that “Sexually explicit and objectifying depictions of women have been linked to self-objectification, rape myth acceptance (i.e., false beliefs about rape that blame the victim), acceptance of interpersonal violence and violence against women, and aggression.” (931) The Proteus effect is operative when people embody sexualized avatars. Bailenson et al. define it as such:

The Proteus effect occurs when a user’s self-representation is modified in a meaningful way that is often dissimilar to the physical self. The user then embodies the self-representation, observes him or herself behaving in this virtual form, and draws inferences regarding his or her internal beliefs or attitudes based on these observations. After embodiment occurs, the user’s behavior then conforms to the modified self-representation regardless of the true physical self (932).

This can lead to self-objectification in women, and in turn “disordered eating, depression, body preoccupation and decreased cognitive performance,” and both men and women can display increased acceptance of rape myths when exposed to media that sexualizes women (932). Ultimately they conclude that “it appears that users of sexualized avatars may be at risk for developing negative attitudes towards women and the self outside of the virtual environment” (935) and “that women can be affected negatively by the avatars they wear” (936). With Butler in mind, this makes perfect sense. People do gender as they do gaming, and given that games display hypermasculine and hyperfeminine ideals as typified by League of Legends, it sensibly follows that people will be influenced by the extreme doing of gender that video games permit.

It is also important to consider the inner workings of the gaming community. We have seen that games are frequently sexist and can negatively affect gamers. How do the people comprising the game community position themselves in relation to games and each other, however? It is important to observe both men and women who game, and how they experience the games and the gaming community.

The gaming community does not traditionally have the most feminist of images, as has been described. Though “the technologies of the new gaming public put on an air of openness and inclusiveness” (Salter & Blodgett, 401) Penny Arcade’s “Dickwolves” incident displays the way in which this is not quite true. In “Hypermasculinity & Dickwolves: The Contentious Role of Women in the New Gaming Public”, professors Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett examine this incident. Penny Arcade, a popular web comic centering around gaming, had a controversial comic spoofing MMORPGs that made light of rape. A number of people were offended by the banal treatment of a serious topic and instead of acknowledging the problem, the creators of Penny Arcade responded with a sardonic follow up “apology” comic, making “explicitly hostile mockery of the readers’ right to be offended” (406). The conflict was further stoked by the creation of Dickwolves t-shirts for sale at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). As Salter and Blodgett describe, “Penny Arcade’s creation of Dickwolves merchandise shifted the conflict from cyberspace to branded physical space” (407), making the hostility even more palpable. In response, blogger and video game project manager Courtney Stanton made a protest shirt design, emblazoned with a phoenix, the proceeds of which went to charities which support rape survivors. Analyzing the situation, Salter and Blodgett note that “women within the hardcore gaming public are given tightly bound roles to play and punished for stepping outside of them” (411). Salter and Blodgett identify a border war over who is or is not a true gamer has erupted in gaming, with women and femininity often ending up casualties as “boundaries act to alienate, separate , and redefine in groups and out groups within gaming” (412).

It is thus clear that not only is there sexism within games, but also within the gaming community itself. This presumably has a recursive effect, with sexist gamers encouraging sexist games with foster sexism. It is clear that women are capable of resistance and speaking out, despite efforts to silence. How though do women gamers experience gaming itself, though? And what other opportunities are there for resistance? Academics Dmitri Williams, Mia Consalvo, Scott Caplan and Nick Yee examine the behavior of gamers, both women and men, in “Looking for Gender: Gender Roles and Behaviors Among Online Gamers.” They address the problem by utilizing gender role theory. The hypothesis is, to put it simply, that “at young girls look to their mothers as role models, and are socialized to behave like them when the mothers encourage this imitation. They thus become nurturing and social. In contrast, young males are discouraged from cleaving to their mothers and pushed away” (Williams, Consalvo, Caplan & Yee, 702). In other words, same sex identification in childhood leads to the fostering of gender roles. Young girls, identifying with the mother, become inculcated in feminine gender roles, while boys push away from the mother and end up identifying with masculine gender roles. This can explain the origin of the entrenched gendered “drag” which we all contain.

Unsurprisingly, women and men’s experiences of gaming are slightly different. Williams et al.‘s study of the popular MMORPG Everquest II found that “males were much more motivated by achievement than female players… In addition, the analysis revealed that females were slightly more socially motivated than male players” (710-711). Surprisingly, however, women had more hardcore players than men. As they concluded, “adult women do indeed play online games, including casual and persistent games, and for large numbers of hours weekly. And although women are the minority of players, they are more committed to the game and play for more hours than their male counterparts” (717). However, “females underreported their time [playing] at a rate nearly three times that of the males” (717), so just as women proved themselves to be frequent and competent gamers, they quite possibly often felt compelled to disassociate themselves with a pass time that is largely considered masculine.

This is where the possibility for resistance lies. In her essay, Butler quotes philosopher Michel Foucault, noting along with him that “discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy” (quoted in Butler, 308). Gaming can likewise be utilized as a stumbling-block against the discourses within it that enforce heterosexist gender roles. By playing in a way that values women, such as playing for social reasons rather than for achievement, the meaning created through gaming can in a way be hacked so as to value transgressions of the typical gaming order. Finding or creating spaces for femininity, or for other marginalized positions, can be used as a political tool to reform gaming.

This is what Bonnie A. Nardi notes when she discusses the experience of finding space for herself and others, as a women, in World of Warcraft (or WoW), another popular MMO. In My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft, Nardi calls WoW a “Boys’ Tree House” and identifies the social space as one that “was maintained as one in which males set the rhetorical tone” (Nardi 152-153). However, she also found a feminine elements in the game, both created by players and embedded in the game itself. One example of the former is the way in which a fellow player, Mrs. Pain, “accommodated to ‘rudeness’ [sexist and homophobic profanity and language] by cultivating an in-game social network and through the resource of her maturity” (155). By creating alternate spaces, Mrs. Pain was able to cope with the patriarchal rhetoric in the game. Nardi also found aspects of femininity directly in game play. She explains, “Rather than being expressive of stereotypical masculinist sensibilities, WoW was more nuanced, introducing elements appealing to women (and many men) in both game activities and the presentation of the game space” (167). Through things such as the counter-protests in the “Dickwolf” debacle, the creation of alternate spaces within games, and the encouragement by consumers of game designers to make games more egalitarian, gaming can advance to a more nuanced and equal level.

Gaming is a relatively new media form, so it is unsurprising that it still has a ways to go before it manages to carve out the same potential for alternate, egalitarian spaces present in other media such as film or literature. As shown, gaming’s hypergendered nature provides a unique location for both the reification of gendered roles and their resistance. Just as sexualized avatars can reinforce sexism, so can pro-rape survivor protests, the pro-woman management of game spaces and the woman friendly games provide the opportunity for just the opposite. Because, as Salter and Blodgett identified, negotiations over gamer identity are entrenched in negotiations over women’s place in gaming, it will be a complicated mess to untangle. There is, however, always room for Foucauldian stumbling-blocks. As games and gaming evolve as a form, their content and the behavior of the community have the potential to evolve with them. In the mean time, we can only do our best to help gaming level up and reach its full potential as a media form.



  • Bailenson, Jeremy N., Jesse Fox, and Liz Tricase. “The Embodiment of Sexualized Virtual Selves: The Proteus Effect and Experiences of Self-objectification via Avatars.” Computers in Human Behavior 29 (2012): 930-38. Web. 28 June 2013.
  • Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. Ed. Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina. Barale, and David M. Halperin. New York: Routledge, 1993. 307-20. Print.
  • “Industry Facts.” The Entertainment Software Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2013.
  • MacManus, Christopher. “League of Legends the World’s ‘most Played Video Game'” CNET News. CBS Interactive, 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 June 2013.
  • Nardi, Bonnie A. My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010. Print.
  • Salter, Anastasia, and Bridget Blodgett. “Hypermasculinity & Dickwolves: The Contentious Role of Women in the New Gaming Public.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56.3 (2012): 401-16. Web. 28 June 2013.
  • Williams, Dmitri, Mia Consalvo, Scott Caplan, and Nick Yee. “Looking for Gender: Gender Roles and Behaviors Among Online Gamers.” Journal of Communication 59.4 (2009): 700-25. Web. 28 June 2013.

Research Paper

research paper final


Final Paper

Violence has always been a hot topic, no matter the relevance. But violence with regards to video games has been a sore spot in society for as long as they have existed. There are countless positive uses for video games, many happen to be violent, but many people tend to focus on the negatives. These negative seem to have an awfully large impact on society though. The impact I am speaking of is the effects of video games on young minds today. Ever since I was little I was told to not to play any video games with violence in it, but what my parents don’t know won’t hurt them. This moral dilemma of whether to restrict children from playing adult games had been rooted in our culture for years. But is there any scientific proof to back up the fact that violent video games leads to a more violent society? Most recent results point to no.
But before we get to actual statistics, I feel it is important to talk about some recent history within the topic. Recently, on June 27, 2011, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision on the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association ruling that established that video games were covered under the First Amendment and established that video game content could not be regulated by governments. This ruling created enormous freedom for the creators of video games because of this protection under the First Amendment. Just like any book or movie, video games can contain any information the creators want without fear of prosecution from the government, with the exception of libel, slander, etc. But this doesn’t exclude violent video games from everything. Just because we have the right to create and play these games doesn’t mean we can do so without any restrictions if the society feels it is necessary. The Educational Software Rating Board, or ESRB, was created “as a voluntary system where video games could be rated according to violence or other inappropriate material.   Rating video games according to age-appropriate categories was intended to prevent underage children from playing games considered too intense for them” (Vitelli). Anyone who has played video games in the past has come into contact with these ratings, whether you have realized it or not. These ratings are usually located on the back of your game, on the bottom right hand side. There are several ratings that vary depending on the game you are playing. C is a game intended for early childhood. An E rating means the game is generally suitable for all ages. This includes most of your sports video games. E 10+ is to signify content suitable for everyone above the age of 10. A T rating generally means the game is for players 13 years old and up. M stands for mature and generally is targeted for players 17 and up. This section is usually where most of your shooters are located because of intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. The last rating category is A, which stands for adults only, ages 18 and up. This is the highest rating and usually includes the worst content. While this isn’t a restriction on inappropriate material in video games, it is an attempt to limit the amount of violence children are exposed to. It helps buy giving parents the necessary information needed to decide if a particular game is inappropriate for their child.
Now you may ask why is all of this debate necessary? To some these reasons may seem like common sense, but none the less they must be evaluated. Karen Dill states in her article “I think the reason is that children are vulnerable and, by definition, immature. They haven’t fully learned to make decisions that are healthy for them. And, by extension, we’ve decided as a culture on a group of things that are unhealthy for children. These include alcohol, tobacco and X-rated movies” (Dill). While many people may say that she is just stating the obvious by defining what a child is, she makes a valid point. Children are immature, and therefore don’t understand the consequences of their actions. It is also proven that at young ages children tend to have a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy, of the world within a video game. This problem seems to be relevant up until the brain is done developing. The problem this poses is that they see what is acceptable inside the game, and can potentially allow it to cross over into reality, where it would be obviously unacceptable for the child to carry a gun or drive a car. The second part to her statement made even more sense to me. There are already so many restrictions to what children under the age of 21 can do, why is there so much opposition about keeping them from doing the same things they aren’t allowed to watch in movies? If certain movies require parental consent, shouldn’t similar video games? I feel the main problem here is that game developers and marketers know that children account for a major part of the demographic who buy their games and they don’t want to lose money. This poses an enormous problem because not many people can successfully beat large companies in court.
Aside from the position taken above, there seem to be many supporters of violent video games. Now don’t misunderstand what they are trying to say, they are not lobbying to allow children to play violent video games, but what they do want to prove is that violent video games don’t have the same affect most people believe they do on the general public. Patrick Markey made several good points in his article. He points out that often times horrible events happen, and they drastically change lives forever. As a result of these events people what to know everything they can. Why did this happen? How can we prevent this from happening again? And so on. People need a reason, they need something or someone to blame. Patrick believes that video games tend to get a bad rap because of this, and unrightfully so.
He also goes into detail and sheds a little light on some of the studied done on people who play violent video games. “The average experimental study in this area involves having one group of people play a violent video game while another group plays a non-violent video game. After a short game play session (usually around 15 minutes) participants’ aggressive thoughts or behaviors are assessed. Using such a methodology, researchers have found that individuals who play violent video games are more likely to expose others to loud irritating noises, report feeling more hostile on a questionnaire, give longer prison sentences to hypothetical criminals and even give hot sauce to people who do not like spicy food” (Markey). These experiments do prove that violent video games do lead to a more hostile and aggressive, temperament but even Patrick states himself that “Although these various outcomes are related to unfriendly thoughts and behaviors, it is quite a leap to imply that the desire to expose others to loud noises or hot sauce is similar to the violent events which occurred at Sandy Hook” (Markey). I agree, that after playing violent video games you may be more prone to aggressive behavior, but it would be quite a stretch to say that it would lead someone to use violence in pubic. This raises a question though, what are the long term effects? The study depicts your immediate behavior after playing a violent game, but what about down the road? And what about if you play more than fifteen minutes? What if you play everyday for multiple hours? Does that affect your long term health?
Along with the benefits that come from this testing, many people are calling for different types of testing because flaws in how the tests actually work. The biggest complaint is that people claim that this test does not directly measure real world violence. From what I understand, this complaint is based more within the violent acts within the games themselves. How can you correlate the idea that playing games like Call of Duty will lead kids to grow up and think it’s ok to shoot up their neighborhood? While the game does depict you using guns and aiming at people, shooting in a war where you have to in order t survive is a bit of a stretch from randomly shooting up a residential area for no particular reason. My only problem with this assessment is that how can you get any study to accurately correlate the effects of violent video games to real world violence. You can ask someone after they have been playing a game if they want to go commit a random act of violence. my overall opinion is that being introduced to violence at a young age is only one factor that leads to violent behavior if the child isn’t taught that such behavior is unacceptable. While video games probably aren’t the best things for a young and developing mind, there are many other factors that attribute to violence.
Lets look at one last statistic. The five biggest video game markets in the world are the US, Japan, China, South Korea, and the United Kingdoms in that order. They bring in $13.3 billion, $7 billion, $6.8 billion, $5 billion, and $3 billion respectively. Now lets look at the deaths per 100,000 by firearms. The US has 10.2, Japan has 0.07, China has 0.19, South Korea has 0.13, and the UK has 0.25. Several things thing can be taken away from this statistic, but one of the first ones that should be looked at is how easy it is for someone to obtain a gun in this country. This should be extremely evident after we learned that the Sandy Hook shooter was denied a gun but still managed to find one. Now I know my topic is about video games and violence and not about gun control, but my point is that while violent video games may not be the best thing for children, its shouldn’t be looked at as anything more than one possible factor in a long list. More definitive research must be done before we can say if violent video games are a major source of violence.

Carey, Benedict. “Shooting in the Dark.” The New York Times. N.p., 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.

 Dill, Karen, PhD. “How Fantasy Becomes Reality.” Sex Is Too Obscene for Kids, but Violence Isn’t? Brown v. Entertainment Merchants. Psychology Today, 27 June 2011. Web. 28 June 2013.

 Markey, Patrick. “In Defense of Violent Video Games.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.

 Tassi, Paul. “The Numbers Behind Video Games and Gun Deaths in America.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 June 2013.

 Vitelli, Romeo, Phd. “Media Spotlight.” Can Video Games Cause Violence? Psychology Today, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.