Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Innovation and Marketing in the Video Game Industry

Within this book, the marketing of video games is explored, with references to violent video games and how the institutions make games in order to appeal to their audiences. However, the book also cites the fact that video game companies have become ensnared in a "performance trap" that causes them to lose sight of the customer. This book aids with my investigation as it looks at how companies strategically attract their audiences to their games and how violent games are successful.

Important quotes on video gaming:-

"Video games not only consume a large portion of our free time, they influence cultural trends, drive microprocessor development and help pilots and soldiers". pg 6

"Now with the Ninetendo Wii and DS , they are helping people stay fit , facilitating rehabilitation and creating new learning opportunities" pg 7

"Advances in video game graphics in the 1990s have certainly led to more realistic story lines and images" pg 7

These quotes show the effectiveness of games in society as they can be positive, yet may be damaging due to their content

Violent video games make children more violent?

" Kids not only watch realistic characters spurting blood and pulling heads, spinal cords and beating hearts out of bodies, but they are creating mayhem and are rewarded with extra points for doing so." pg 7 ( Lieberman 1993)

"The video game manufacturers should recognise they've gone too far and agree to stop making games that portray extreme violence or sexual activity" pg 7 ( Lieberman 1993)

These quotes suggest that a need for regulating games should be imposed, as children can play games ans can be easily impressionable due to the content. Though, parents may feel a need to enforce the regulation on games which are too explicit, as they may potentially ' corrupt' children and make them more violent.

The ESRB and the video game regulation debate

In 1994, the video game industry responded by creating the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a semi- independent review board responsible for providing an age recommendation for video games as well as content warnings, such as language, sexual themes and violence. pg 7

A series of school shootings were linked to violent video games, culminating in the April 20, 1999 massacre of 13 people at Columbine High School in the state of Colorado (US) by two video game enthusiasts. pg 8

The public outcry on regulating video games reached a peak with the 2004 introduction of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which featured corrupt cops, racism, drive-by shootings, pipe beatings and explicit sex. An earlier version of the game awarded points to players who made drug deals, killed police officers and solicited and murdered prostitutes. pg 8

Rather than limiting sales, controversies often fueled demand for such games, as teens and older children flocked to stores to purchase mature rated games. pg 8

In effect, violent video games' ability to be liberal often leads players to play games for a longer period of time, due to the availability of special items and points for completing missions. Though, the audience may still play such violent games, as the controversy surrounding them may lead the audience to experience playing games where your player can kill and commit immoral acts.

Video games and link to violent behaviour and the positive effects of video games

"An Australian study showed that "only children predisposed to aggression and more reactive to their environments changed their behaviour after playing violent video games, whereas normal individuals were unaffected". (Sydney Morning Herald 2007).

In his best selling book, Everything Bad Is Good for You , science editor Steven Johnson (2006) explained how playing video games can actually have benefits.

"... children learned specific problem- solving skills, even from games with apparently trivial themes" pg 8

"... puzzle games such as Brain Age and Brain Academy , were believed by some to have a therapeutic affect on individuals suffering from certain neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease". pg 8

"A different problem was childhood obesity and diabetes, which according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), had reached epidemic levels in the United States, partly owing to video games and computer use". pg 8

On the contrary, video games have benefits, as they teach players vital skills such as problem solving and also carrying health benefits. Though, the continual playing of these video games lead to the audience being unhealthy, as they tend to cause addiction due to the content and availability of points and rewards.

The need to address health concerns of video games

Game developers addressed health concerns due to the complaints that playing games for a longer time caused health problems. The success of the Nintendo Wii revolutionised the gaming landscape, as players could interact with each other and also be healthy by exercising and moving around.

"Game developers addressed such helath concerns by creating games with a strong physical component" pg 9

"On the Nintendo Wii , a new motion sensing controller had gamers swinging virtual tennis rackets, tossing virtual balls and wielding virtual swords, instead of sitting sedentary in front of the screen." pg 9 dq=video%20game%20marketing&pg=PA2#v=onepage&q&f=false

Contemporary marketing and video games

In regards to marketing, teenage boys account for much of video game market and are active consumers of video games. Interestingly, the book 'Contemporary Marketing' looks at the audience and how violent video games affect them. Yet, this chapter from the book looks at the pros and cons of the sales of video games and the ability to regualte the games in terms of age

Important quotes from the book:

"But adults- including the parents of children and teenagers- account for 35 per cent of video game players" pg 137

"Eighty percent of these parents view video gaming as family entertainment instead of watching a movie of playing a game of Monopoly" pg 137

"Playing a violent video game is more harmful than watching a television show"

"If you are actively involved in the learning, you remember things better"

"... violence is part of mainstream entertainment and should be examined just as closely".

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Worldwide video game console sales over past 4 years

This table shows the sales of the three main consoles over the past 4 years. Clealry, the table shows that the Nintendo Wii was the most successful console which sold over the 4 years. This may be down to the fact that the Wii is more commercial and successful, with the range of advertising across platforms such as broadcast . Also, much of the Wii's success is down to the fact that it caters for the family and has games which are suitbale also for all age groups such as Mario Kart which is successful amongst all audiences.

Fastest selling video games

This table includes the best selling games over the past 4 years, with the exception of a few games such as Gears of War (2004) which was one of the highest selling games in that year. Generally, this table shows that platforms such as the PS3, Xbox 360 were successful and were sold the most.

Title Units sold System Date
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 4.7 million PS3 / Xbox 360/PC November 10, 2009
Halo 3 3.30 million Xbox 360 September 25, 2007
Grand Theft Auto IV 2.85 million (1.85m for X360, 1.0m for PS3) Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 NPD April 2008
Super Smash Bros. Brawl 2.7 million Wii NPD March 2008
Halo 2 2.4 million (one day) Xbox NPD November 2004
Madden NFL 09 2.3 million PS3, X360, Wii, PS2, NDS NPD August 2008
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 2.06 million PS2 October 26, 2004
Call of Duty 4 2.04 million (1.57m 360, 444K PS3) Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3/PC NPD November 2007
Call of Duty: World at War ~2.0 million X360 / PS3/PC NPD November 2008
Madden NFL 08 2.0 million 8 consoles, including PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / Wii NPD August 2007
Madden NFL 07 2.0 million (one week) 8 consoles August 2006
Pokemon Diamond and Pearl 1.757 million Nintendo DS NPD June 2007
Gears of War 2 1.56 X360 NPD November 2008
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City greater than 1.5 million PlayStation 2 October 27, 2002
Resident Evil 5 ~1.5 million PS3 / X360 NPD March 2009
Pokemon Gold and Silver 1,4 million (one week) Game Boy Color October 15, 2000
Assassin's Creed 1.357 million (980K X360, 377K PS3) Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 NPD November 2007
Guitar Hero III 1.172m PS2, PS3, 360, Wii NPD October 2007
Mario Kart Wii 1.12 million Wii NPD April 2008
Super Mario Galaxy 1.12 million Wii NPD November 2007
God of war III 1.1 Million PlayStation 3 NPD March 2010
Gears of War 1 million Xbox 360 NPD December 2006
Metal Gear Solid 4 1 million (including bundled units) PlayStation 3

NPD June 2008

Information on video game sales

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA)know known as UKIE (United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment) said that consumers spent £4.03bn on video game hardware and software.

Sales of software for its PlayStation 3 console role by 145%, selling 10.4 million units - more than double the 4.2m games sold in 2007.

The emergence of the Nintendo Wii enabled interaction amongst family members, with the console aimed at families, with games such as Wii Sports encouraging family members to play amongst each other.

"Videogaming is increasingly bringing families together with the introduction of so many outstanding family-based console titles.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Video Game Marketing

In regards to the marketing of video games, institutions such as Activision, Eidos, Rockstar Games and Bethesda Studios are part of a successful industry which generates billions every year. Though what is most interesting is that generally these institutions are focused on selling games which are more violent.

To some extent, this may be down to the fact that the gaming institutions are trying respond to current events and conflict which tends to be rife within society. Interestingly, the decline in deference and lack of austerity in the 1960s seemed to make it politically correct or even 'acceptable' to convey violence and foul language in the media.

However, video games seem to have challenged social ideas , with games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas depicting graphic sexual scenes. Therefore , games have adapted and become more provocative in that sense.

By making games more violent, gaming institutions can channel into the audience by the way the behave. Typically, these games are targeted at a male audience, as they are biologically more aggressive and tend to engage in physical activities. Notably, games such as Fallout 3 :New Vegas and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves entice the audience to purchase and play these games, as the violent content and ability to be involved in the game makes them likely to play it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Research paper on video game controvesy

This paper focuses on video games and the effectiveness of regulating video games , in order to reduce violence in children. In addition, this paper looks at the links between the video games and the audience and whether they do cause violence and contrasting links which suggest that they don't cause violence in children.

Important quotes from the paper:

"one military expert described video games as “firearms trainers at best, murder simulators at worst.” pg 402

"Early critics voiced concern that video games turned children into brainless zombies".pg 402

".... children are turning not only into brainless zombies, but brainless zombies with a disturbing penchant for gross violence". pg 402

" The Violent Video Game Act, which imposes criminal liability upon retail sellers, is an incomplete solution". pg 404

"It fails to remedy all of the market failures that allow exposure of violent and sexual video games to children". pg 404

"Because of this first-person perspective, players interact with the virtual environments in a more personal way, often mentally inserting themselves into the action." pg 406

"Some critics observe that the digital characters in first-person shooter games lack an identifiable personality; this homogenization of the virtual characters allows players to further project themselves into the virtual action". pg 406

"Nevertheless, the creation of the ESRB did not halt violent video games or the concerns surrounding them". pg 407

"With the release of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, the turmoil rose to its current pitch". pg 407

"Even before the GTA: San Andreas controversy, politicians called for government regulation in order to ensure that children could not obtain age-inappropriate games because they believed that violent video games increased violence in children". pg 408

"...the studies do not necessarily provide conclusive results because psychologists cannot perform pure clinical experiments, only observational studies, which do not lend themselves to qualitative results." pg 410

"This more pronounced effect is to be expected as younger children are more susceptible to developmental stimuli than older individuals". pg 411

"... authors of carefully written psychological articles tread cautiously between the words “link” and “cause,” refusing to say that violent video games “cause” violence". pg 413

"Statistical data illustrate that violence in children has, in fact, decreased during the time video games have been played." pg 414

"The media sensationalizes the effects that violent video games had on the event in order to create entertaining stories for the evening news". pg 415

"The public reacts by searching for similar links between video games and violence, and, because they want to find a link, they “find” it in other places". pg 416

"The media picks up and runs these newly discovered stories about the “epidemic” of video game violence, even though very few links are authentic or newsworthy". pg 416

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Violent Videogames are harmless for most kids

Within this article, the contrasting view of violent video games being beneficial is cited. In contrast to the other article which say that violent video games are a concern, this specific article suggests that violent video games are useful, as they can teach the audience skills which could be transferable in their everyday life.

Violent videogames can increase aggression and hostility in some players but they can also benefit others by 'honing their visual/spatial skills and improving social networking ability, scientists said'.

In a special issue of the journal Review of General Psychology published by the American Psychological Association, researchers said the 'games can also help to control diabetes and pain and work as a tool to complement psychotherapy'.

"Violent video games are like peanut butter," said Christopher J. Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University. "They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems."

He added that studies have revealed that violent games have not created a generation of problem youngsters.

"Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests," Ferguson, a guest editor for the journal, explained.

Patrick Markey, of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, found in a study of 118 teenagers that certain personality traits can predict which children will be negatively influenced by videogame.

If someone is easily upset, depressed and emotional or is indifferent to the feelings of other people, breaks rules and fails to keep promises, they may be more likely to be hostile after playing violent videogames.

"These results suggest that it is the simultaneous combination of these personality traits which yield a more powerful predictor of violent video games," Markey said. "Those who are negatively affected have pre-existing dispositions, which make them susceptible to such violent media."

But on a more positive note Pamela Kato, of University Medical Center in Utrecht in the Netherlands, showed in her research that specially tailored games can help to prevent asthma attacks, and ease pain management and diabetes treatment.

T. Atilla Ceranoglu, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, discovered in a research review that videogames can also be used in psychological assessment of children and teenagers.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney)

Guardian article on whether video games are becoming more violent

In this article, popular child specialist, Jo Frost investigates into video games and how they affect children. Frost alongside Dr Doug Gentile conducted an experiment to find out whether video games make the children more violent or not.

Supernanny takes on violent video games

She orchestrated an experiment in which 40 boys were asked to play games for 20 minutes – half played a football sim, the other half "a first-person war game". They then had to view some violent news footage. Throughout, each participant had their heart rate monitored. At the end, the figures showed that the boys who played the violent game retained slower heart rates during the news footage.

"Shockingly, just 20 minutes of violent gameplay was enough to densensitise the boys."

But are we to draw from this that those boys may suffer long-term desensitisation? Frost's melodramatic reaction to the findings, and the lack of any sort of qualifying analysis, would seem to lead us in that direction. But that would of course represent a massive oversimplification, a confusion of short-term physiological and cognitive effects with long-term psychological impact. With the biological stress response recently engaged, surely it's no surprise that in the few minutes after violent gameplay, test subjects react differently to violent stimuli?

So really, what does this all say about the long-term effects of exposure to violent video games? I would suggest very, very little. That's why, there is absolutely no conclusive data in this area, despite dozens of similar research undertakings around the world, and despite Dr Tanya Byron's exhaustive analysis for the government's Digital Britain report.

Late in the same programme, the boys were interviewed by Dr Gentile who, during the course of each chat, knocked a jar full of pencils on to the floor, in order to test the subjects' capacity for empathy. Of those who played the violent game, only 40% helped to pick up the pencils, half the number of the other group. So should we understand that players of violent video games are less empathetic?

Not necessarily. There are many criteria at play here – the unnatural laboratory conditions; the unspoken expectations and subliminal pressure applied (knowingly or otherwise) by an interviewer looking for a certain response; and, of course, the fact that the boys were being filmed in an adult, school-like environment admitting that they enjoyed playing games like Call of Duty – 18-certificate games. Is it possible that the guilt response outplayed empathy for these boys? Furthermore, the programme seemed to be suggesting that it was just the 20 minutes of supervised play that made the boys less empathetic, yet they were clearly being questioned about previous gaming activities, which included violent games. The parameters of the whole experiment were shrouded in hyperbolic drama.

This methodology, and the conclusions reached, will be hugely familiar to anyone who's been following this sort of research over the past 10 years; the results are unsurprising – and utterly inconclusive. Cognitive neuroscience is a complex field; it is perhaps not something to be prodded and poked at during a piece of reality TV voyeurism masquerading as documentary material.

Here are the factors that must always be taken into consideration. Correlation isn't validation. As Henry T Jenkins pointed out, video game violence could well be a risk factor with anti-social behaviour, but only ever alongside much more immediate and pressing influences – such as, you know, family life. Also, there's the underlying question of causality – do violent games make people violent, or do they attract people with a propensity for violence?

Finally, the underlying statistical nugget that haunts this whole debate: violent video games have been around for 30 years. If just 20 minutes of exposure is enough to turn normal boys into desensitised monsters, our streets should be filled with violence. They're not. Violent crime has plunged during that period. And of the violence that does take place, how much more would be prevented by restrictions in the sale of alcohol rather than of violent games? Police would scoff at the very question.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Violence in the media: a reference handbook

This extract from a book by Nancy Signorielli looks at the violence in the media, especially across the main platforms of television and films. However, this book also looks at violence in video games and the effect on the audience and the link between violence and the audience.

Important quotes from the extract on 'Violence in Video games':

"Today, most children play real-time, first- person shooter (FPS) games in which "the players view the world through the eyes of the video game character that they control".

This quote suggests that more people tend to play first person shooter games as the players themselves are involved in the action from first hand.

"The potential effects (and theoretical perspectives) of video games on aggression are similar to those of television violence."

In effect, the aggression generated from playing violent video games is similar to violence on platforms such as television and films, where action is instantaneous. Though, on television, the violence is similar, as children's shows such as Power Rangers are typically based around a conflict and the stereotypical binary opposition of good vs evil.

"... A recent meta analysis found that the overall effect of video game playing on aggression is considerably smaller than the effects of television violence, there is cause for concern because children are the primary users of this medium"

The fact that these games are aimed at children is potentially damaging, as children are easily influenced by what they see and could reenact this violence, as seen in television with wrestling and shows where violence is active.

" ... those who play video games become intentionally and actively involved in the action."

This quote suggests that violent video games are a concern, as their design and graphics are so real , that the player is actively involved in the game, as evident in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, where the player has to complete missions in order to progress to the next level.

"... parents are even less likely to actively participate in video game playing and be relatively unaware of the kind of images seen in these games".

This quotation shows that violent video games are a concern, as parents don't understand or have any knowledge of what their children see when they are playing these games. In effect, parents may be unaware of the content of the games and the game ratings, as their children are mindlessly shooting people and are prone to expletives which may influence them. The fact that these games are more advanced may lead parents to be detached and unable to enjoy the games.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Playing video games: Motives, Responses and Consequences

This post features quotes from the book 'Playing video games: Motives, Responses and Consequences by Peter Vorderer and Jennings Bryant. This book gives an insight into aspects of video games such as communication, psychology, and technology. Also, the book examines the psychological and mediated aspects of playing video games.

"It has been argued that the aggressive content in video games could allow players to release their stress and aggression in a non destructive way, and, in fact, would have the effect of relaxing them".
pg 349

This quote gives a positive look at video games, as they are not a concern , as they are an outlet for people to release their anger or stress. In this way, the audience can use violent games in effective ways to evoke their anger.

"In psychoanalytic theory , sexuality and aggression serve as the two major drives. Both drives arrogate for release that may happen in reality or in fantasy, the latter called symbolic catharsis". pg 349

In many ways, violent video games are a concern, as they enable audience to have sexual and aggressive gratifications out of playing the game. Therefore, this quote shows how these games enable gamers to purge their sexual and aggressive thoughts after playing the game.

"We do know that playing violent video games show physiological effects that are different compared to playing less violent games or no games at all and that those effects may be even greater for children who already show aggressive tendencies". pg 352

This clearly suggests that violent video games are a concern, as they do result in the players developing aggressive thoughts. Though, these games are especially focused on the teenage audience, who could be injected with the belief that violence is normal. In addition, this quotation alludes to the fact that less violent games such as Need for Speed don't increase aggression in the audience, as the content is more interactive, as players can control cars, yet violent games increase aggression especially in teenagers, as they are prone to the ideologies of violence endorsed by the games.

"Violent media, for instance, may increase aggression by teaching observers how to behave aggressively, by priming aggressive cognitions, by increasing arousal and by creating an aggressive affective state." pg 354

On the whole, the violence in the media, across platforms such as broadcast and in films may enable the audience to become violent, as games such as Smack down vs RAW teaches audience complex and aggressive wrestling moves, which, may result in audiences copying these moves and potentially injuring or killing someone.

"It is believed that the unpleasant physiological arousal usually associated with violence inhibits thinking about violence, disregarding violence, or behaving violently: however , as a result of continuous exposure to violent depictions, individuals are no longer expected to have such reactions". pg 351

This quotation implies that the audience gradually become desensitized by playing violent video games on a constant basis. In effect, this may be damaging and a serious concern, as the teenage audience may be aroused by the content in games , but may not find violence as a serious concern.

"Regardless of the genre, video game playing requires some combination of cognitive and motor skills... the demands placed on the players can be taxing indeed. But for many teens, the demands are welcomed because they are the byproduct of what the games appealing in the first place: the opportunity to interact with the content". pg 170

In contrast, this quote relates to the hypothesis, as video games have some effective points, as they teach the audience vital motor and psychological skills. Though, the audience tend to play these games due to the graphics , as they are able to kill people and think on their feet in hostile situations.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Violent video games and desensitisation

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor

Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 28, 2006

"...exposure to violent video games can desensitize individuals to real-life violence. According to the investigators, this is first documented finding that video-games can alter physiological responses typically aroused by real violence".

The article alludes to preivous research into aggression and how teenage audiences are desenstized from real lifer violence.

"Past research revealed that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and aggressive behaviors, and decreases helpful behaviors".

"More than 85 percent of video games contain some violence, and approximately half of video games include serious violent actions".

Nicholas Carnagey, an Iowa State psychology instructor and research assistant, and ISU Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson collaborated on the study with Brad Bushman, a former Iowa State psychology professor now at the University of Michigan, and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.

They authored a paper titled “The Effects of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence,” which was published in the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. In this paper, the 'authors define desensitization to violence as “a reduction in emotion-related physiological reactivity to real violence.'

The methodology- Anderson and Bushman experiments

Their latest study tested 257 college students (124 men and 133 women) individually. After taking baseline physiological measurements on heart rate and galvanic skin response — and asking questions to control for their preference for violent video games and general aggression — participants played one of eight randomly assigned violent or non-violent video games for 20 minutes. The four violent video games were Carmageddon, Duke Nukem, Mortal Kombat or Future Cop; the non-violent games were Glider Pro, 3D Pinball, 3D Munch Man and Tetra Madness.

After playing a video game, a second set of five-minute heart rate and skin response measurements were taken. Participants were then asked to watch a 10-minute videotape of actual violent episodes taken from TV programs and commercially-released films in the following four contexts: courtroom outbursts, police confrontations, shootings and prison fights. Heart rate and skin response were monitored throughout the viewing.

The physical differences

When viewing real violence, participants who had played a violent video game experienced skin response measurements significantly lower than those who had played a non-violent video game. The participants in the violent video game group also had lower heart rates while viewing the real-life violence compared to the nonviolent video game group.

This shows how violent video games desensitise the audience to real violence, as they are unable to react to real life violence in the media.

“The results demonstrate that playing violent video games, even for just 20 minutes, can cause people to become less physiologically aroused by real violence,” said Carnagey.

“Participants randomly assigned to play a violent video game had relatively lower heart rates and galvanic skin responses while watching footage of people being beaten, stabbed and shot than did those randomly assigned to play nonviolent video games.

“... individuals who play violent video games habituate or ‘get used to’ all the violence and eventually become physiologically numb to it.”

This actively shows how violent video games seem to 'dumb down' audiences, as these games cause addiction and don't necessarily teach the audience new skills.

Participants in the violent versus non-violent games conditions did not differ in heart rate or skin response at the beginning of the study, or immediately after playing their assigned game. However, 'their physiological reactions to the scenes of real violence did differ significantly, a result of having just played a violent or a non-violent game'. The researchers also controlled for trait aggression and preference for violent video games.

The researchers’ conclusion

"...the existing video game rating system, the content of much entertainment media, and the marketing of those media combine to produce “a powerful desensitization intervention on a global level.”

“It (marketing of video game media) initially is packaged in ways that are not too threatening, with cute cartoon-like characters, a total absence of blood and gore, and other features that make the overall experience a pleasant one,” said Anderson. “That arouses positive emotional reactions that are incongruent with normal negative reactions to violence. Older children consume increasingly threatening and realistic violence, but the increases are gradual and always in a way that is fun.

“In short, the modern entertainment media landscape could accurately be described as an effective systematic violence desensitization tool,”

“Several features of violent video games suggest that they may have even more pronounced effects on users than violent TV programs and films,” said Carnagey.

In effect, this article believes that marketing and the content in the games manage to desensitise the audience, as the constant exposure to violence, inevitably leads to the audience being unable to differentiate between real violence and 'game violence'.

Video game violence is 'harmful to the brain' article- The Telegraph

Within this article from the Telegraph, scientists and audiences believe that violent video games do indeed cause harm to the brain. In effect, these games seem to alter the way the brain functions, as these games deprive the player of control and concentration .

Published at 12:01AM GMT 04 Dec 2006

Violent video games leave a harmful "fingerprint" on the brains of young teenagers, scientists have found.

Like the NBC article on video game effects, this article states that the game effects ' increased activity in the brain region that governs emotional arousal, and decreased activity in the part of the brain associated with control, focus and concentration'.

Europe's justice commissioner, Franco Frattini, called for 'tighter controls on violent computer games to safeguard children'.

" increasing number of games now displayed and even glorified extreme violence".

He has written to all European Union governments to urge them to take action and is calling for talks on the issue when Europe's home affairs ministers meet in Brussels later this month.

On an important not, this article signifies how violent video games are a serious concern, as children can easily access these games and can reenact the violence. Though, this issue has become a global concern, as the EU's justice minister feels that the children especially are desensitized to violence, as gaming institutions such as Infinity Ward condone violence and construct ideologies of violence and immoral values such as murder.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Psychological factors of playing violent video games and links to aggression in teenagers

This article focuses on whether violent video games do cause agression in teenagers. As well as this, this article tries to pinpoint the effects on the teenage audience who palay violent video games and the link to emotions. Within this article, scientists at the Indiana University School of Medicine try to monitor brain activity in correspondence to playing violent video games.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that:

"brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal – and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention".

The article states that children playing violent video games tended to be absorbed in game to such an extent, that they were unable to focus away from the game. In effect, the article shows how playing games tend to leave the audience with a strong desire to focus solely on the game.

Does this mean that your teenager will feel an uncontrollable urge to go on a shooting rampage after playing “Call of Duty?”

Vince Mathews, the principal investigator on the study, hesitates to make that leap. But he says he does think that:

"the study should encourage parents to look more closely at the types of games their kids are playing". “Based on our results, I think parents should be aware of the relationship between violent video-game playing and brain function.”

However, the article supports the ideas of Professor David Buckingham, who also states that parents should take an active role in monitoring the content in violent video games and seemingly portectingthier children against harmful content.

Vince Mathews and his colleagues conducted an experiment , where two action games were chosen - one violent the other not.

The first game was the high-octane but non-violent racing game “Need for Speed: Underground.” The other was the ultra-violent first-person shooter “Medal of Honor: Frontline.”

The team divided a group of 44 adolescents into two groups, and randomly assigned the kids to play one of the two games. Immediately after the play sessions, the children were given MRIs of their brains.

"The scans showed a negative effect on the brains of the teens who played “Medal of Honor” for 30 minutes. That same effect was not present in the kids who played “Need for Speed.”

The only difference? Violent content.

"What’s not clear is whether the activity picked up by the MRIs indicates a lingering — or worse, permanent — effect on the kids’ brains".

And it’s also not known what effect longer play times might have. The scope of this study was 30 minutes of play, and one brain scan per kid, although further research is in the works.

OK. But what about violent TV shows? Or violent films? Has anyone ever done a brain scan of kids that have just watched a violent movie?

John P. Murray, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, conducted a very similar experiment, employing the same technology used in Mathews’ study. His findings are similar.

Kids in his study experienced increased emotional arousal when watching short clips from the boxing movie “Rocky IV.”

So, why is everyone picking on video games? Probably because there’s a much smaller body of research on video games. They just haven’t been around as long as TV and movies, so the potential effects on children are a bigger unknown. That’s a scary thing for a parent.

Larry Ley, the director and coordinator of research for the Center for Successful Parenting, which funded Mathews’ study, says the purpose of the research was to help parents make informed decisions.

“There’s enough data that clearly indicates that [game violence] is a problem,” he says. “And it’s not just a problem for kids with behavior disorders.”

But not everyone is convinced that this latest research adds much to the debate – particularly the game development community. One such naysayer is Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association.

“We've seen other studies in this field that have made dramatic claims but turn out to be less persuasive when objectively analyzed.”

The ESA has a whole section of its Web site dedicated to the topic of video game violence, which would suggest that they get asked about it — a lot.

Increasingly 'parents are more accepting of video game violence, chalking it up to being a part of growing up'.

“I was dead-set against violent video games,” says Kelley Windfield mother of two. “But my husband told me I had to start loosening up.”

Laura Best, a mother of three from Clovis, California , says she looks for age-appropriate games for her 14 year-old son, Kyle. And although he doesn’t play a lot of games, he does tend to gravitate towards shooters like “Medal of Honor.” But she isn’t concerned that Kyle will become aggressive as a result.

“That’s like saying a soccer game or a football game will make a kid more aggressive,” she says. “It’s about self-control, and you’ve got to learn it.”

Larry Ley believes that parents should encourage thier children to engage inhealthier activities, instead of playing video games for a long period of time:

“Let’s quit using various Xboxes as babysitters instead of doing healthful activities,” says Ley, citing the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States.

On the whole, the article suggests that violent games seem to instill teenagers with a short term aggression, however results from investigations conclude that there are no long term effects of aggression from playing violent video games. Also, the article states that parents should take an active role in decideing what games thier children play. Though, there is evidence from parents which suggests that violent video games are not a concern, as Laura Best feels that violent video games don't have an impact on her child, as he will not reenact the violence in the game. Larry Ley seems to aleviate the growing concern of video games, as children ten to be 'glued' to playing video games, which results in obesity. Playing violent video games

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Critical Investigation Essay Plan

Why are video games becoming more violent? How is this a concern?


Insight into video games and the fact that they cause aggression and violence.

Look at brief history of violence in video games and how violence has been influencing the male audience

Brief look at the sales of video games on different formats and a link of top selling games

Link to popular violent video games- Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

1st Point

Violent video games have been proved to link to aggression- Anderson and Dill/ Copycat Theory

2nd Point

Video games which contain violence cause psychological problems in the audience- Dr Bruce Bartholow, Hypodermic Needle theory

3rd Point

Focus on the content in video games and how violent video games result in violent behaviour- Dr Cheryl Olsen

4th Point

: The fact that violent video games result in teenage and younger audiences being unable to distinguish real violence from game violence- Dr Bruce Bartholow

5th Point

Many parents and guardians have concerns on the impact violent video games have on their children, as the values and ideologies in the game contrast to reality and actively endorse violence- Reception Theory and Moral Panic

In accordance to my critical investigation essay, I will create a magazine article which focuses on the topic of violence in video games. As part of my research, I will purchase 2/3 gaming magazines and factual magazines such as TIME and Shortlist, which look at gaming and issues such as violent video games being a concern. Using inspiration from these magazines, my article will include two page spreads which will include stills from games such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 , Assassins Creed and other related games.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Related Theories for the Critical Investigation

Copycat (Modelling Theory)

This theory suggests that people will imitate what they see in the media. The powers of this approach is that it feeds off the types of concerns parents have about their child's media use.

In response to my investigation, this theory helps me understand how the audience seem to consume violent video games, as a result, they seem to become more violent and re enact scenes in the game, as evident in Smack down vs Raw (2008), where players often reenact the wrestling moves, as a result of playing these games.

Reception Theory and Ethnography

Audiences are seen as active producers of meaning , rather than consumers of media meanings. They make sense of media texts according to their social position. This theory measures the specific, personal and contextual responses of groups or individuals.

This theory will be used in my investigation, as it looks at audience responses to violent video games. Moreover, I will look at the oppositional readings of texts by parents, as they are active campaigners of violent video games.


If we are exposed to violence or sexuality, we will become less sensitive to real life violence. This theory looks at how violence and sex are in the media and how audiences witness it.

Most importantly, this theory is crucial in my investigation, as it looks at how children seem to play violent video games and don't seem to distinguish real life violence from video game violence.

Hypodermic Needle Theory

The media 'injects' messages directly into the minds of viewers/ listeners/ readers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anderson and Dill: Investigation into aggression and violent video games

From this article, I found that playing a violent video game can increase a person's aggressive thoughts. The research conducted by Anderson and Dill at the Iowa State University of Science and Technology concludes that players' aggressive feelings and behaviour after playing violent video games can be carried out in actual life. The research findings by Anderson and Dill suggest that "... a violent video game may be more harmful than violent television and movies because the video game is interactive, very engrossing and require the player to identify with the aggressor".

How Influential are Violent Video Games?

In one of their studies, Anderson and Dill discovered that "young men who are habitually aggressive may be especially vulnerable to the aggression-enhancing effects of repeated exposure to violent games." Therefore, people with anger and aggressive physical problems are susceptible to violent video games as they encourage and raise testosterone, due to the fact the games are more real and are intended to evoke aggressive feelings. "The other study reveals that even a brief exposure to violent video games can temporarily increase aggressive behavior in all types of participants." By playing for a short period of time, players are filled with a growing need to express their violence and channel their aggression through different ways.

Anderson and Dill's first study

The first study involved 227 college students who completed a measure of trait aggressiveness and reported their actual aggressive behaviors (delinquency) in the recent past. They also reported their video game playing habits. The study carried out by Anderson and Dill found that "students who reported playing more violent video games in junior and high school were engaged in more aggressive behaviour." To some extent, playing video games consistently did tend to instill a level of violent behaviour among teenagers, as they were desensitised to real violence. As well as this, the study also found that ".. amount of time spent playing video games in the past was associated with lower academic grades in college." Interestingly, playing violent video games on a regular basis or consistently does tend to result in lower grades, therefore this is a major concern, as teenagers will end up being uneducated and will not be able to find employment, due to playing video games regularly.

Anderson and Dill's second study

In the second study, 210 college students played either a violent or nonviolent video game. A short time later, the students who played the violent video game punished an opponent (received a noise blast with varying intensity) for a longer period of time than did students who had played the nonviolent video game.

In review of the study , Dr Anderson states how "Violent video games provide a forum for learning and practicing aggressive solutions to conflict situations." As a result , violent video games are more effective in teaching players how to react to situations in conflict, therefore they learn useful self defence skills in the real world. Also, the study states that "In the short run, playing a violent video game appears to affect aggression by priming aggressive thoughts. Longer-term effects are likely to be longer lasting as well, as the player learns and practices new aggression-related scripts that can become more and more accessible for use when real-life conflict situations arise." Effectively, as the player progresses onto the higher levels, they are educated on how to react to more realistic and dangerous situations. Here, the players' aggression levels rise, as they have to adapt to complex situations, which could potentially be useful in real life, therefore they are effective in that sense.

Yet, violent video games are still not received positively by some audiences, as the researchers conclude that "One major concern is the active nature of the learning environment of the video game." The constant exposure to violence fails to have an educational aspect, as games such as Grand Theft Auto rely on the player to carry out crime and killing. "This medium is potentially more dangerous than exposure to violent television and movies, which are known to have substantial effects on aggression and violence." In contrast to movies and television programmes which use violence to respond to public concern, violent video games are quite the opposite as they use violence as a means to channel aggression and to enable the audience to have complete freedom in terms of moral values.

New hypothesis question for critical invesitgation

Why are video games becoming more violent? How is this a concern?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Professor Bruce Bartholow: Violent Video Games and Desensitisation

Professor Bruce Bartholow from the University of Missouri investigates aggression and violent behaviour in the media. Though his focus on violent video game aggression is particularly insightful, as he tries to examine how the games result in violent behaviour.

In response to the profile from the profile, Charles Reineke explores the connection between violence in video games, such as Grand Theft Auto and the real world. To some extent, video games do have an impact in society, as criminals can find new motives of committing crime.

Important quotes from the profile:-

" There are very clear effects in scientific literature showing that, in the short term, playing a violent video game increases aggressive thoughts and behaviours, increases aggression-related emotion -- anger for example -- and decreases helpful behaviours." The challenge now, is to determine how violent gaming might affect players over the long term."

Professor Bartholow suggests that more research needs to be conducted into the long term effects of aggressive behaviour of violent video games, as they tend to deduce aggressive thoughts in the short term, though do not seem to instill a consistent pattern of aggression.

Though, the Professor's experiment on 39 undergraduate students being shown violent and non violent images was effective in giving an insight into how violent video games result in aggression. By being shown images such as man holding a gun in another man's mouth the levels of p300 (electrical impulses into responses to significant stimuli) manages to increase.

The study included a second, "competition" phase. When cued by a series of audible tones, the researchers told the subjects, "you and an unseen opponent must race to see who can click his computer mouse the fastest." The winner, they said, could blast his opponent's ears with a sudden noise. Nobody told the students that, in fact, there was no opponent.

In effect, his experiment concluded that "... Players of violent video games showed a significant diminution of p300 amplitude when viewing violent images. Though, the research findings also concluded that "... violent game players' p300 levels did not change when they encountered the neutral or negative, non-violent images".

Professor Bruce Bartholow also reviewed that "the subjects who showed the smallest p300 response to violent images also were the most aggressive in blasting the ears of their perceived opponents. The implication was clear: Over time, players of violent video games appeared to become desensitized to real-world violence.

On the whole, the research findings by Professor Bruce Bartholow suggests that the exposure to violent images seemingly desensitised the students, as they were seemingly used to seeing these images. The reason for this could be that the media's coverage of crime and death may desensitise events which are more dramatic or serious. Bartholow's research brought him acclaim , as his research in the New Scientist, was read by a representative in Britain's Parliament, who then queried the prime minister Tony Blair . "Is he [Tony Blair] aware of the new research published by the University of Missouri, which shows a link between violent video games and the greater propensity of people to act with violence ...?"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dr Cheryl Olson: Violent content in video games

This post contains a useful clip which focuses on the violent content of video games. The research and findings of Dr Cheryl Olson look into video games and how they affect a youth audience.

This clip from a US documentary takes an insight into video games and introduces the idea of whether video games are becoming more violent. In accordance, the documentary revolves around the research findings if Dr Cheryl Olson, professor at Harvard Medical School and co author of the novel , Grand Theft Childhood explores the connection of video games and the effects they have on a younger audience.

The clip opens with the deigetic sound of the gun shots from the game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare playing in the background. Alongside this, the close up shot of the hand is used to signify addiction. Though, the use of the voice over is significant in terms of the documentary, as he gives an insight into the possible relation between the youth audience and their involvement in video games. In many ways, the voice over is used as identification for an adult audience, as his tone of voice is worrying, which is stereotypical of parents, who worry about the well being of their child or children. The moral panic of video games is signified , through the voice over, as the parents fear for their children and the fact that they will become more violent in society, due to playing these games.

The low key lighting is used in the close up shot to connote how children are seemingly hypnotised or indoctrinated by video games, as the child is playing a first person shooter, which encourages violence in a war setting.

Generally in this clip, Dr Olson shows from her findings that "video games with violent content might desensitise children to violence in the real world". The use of Dr Olson's voice over along with the game play from the first person shooter, Call of Duty Modern Warfare supports findings , in that she suggests that watching gore or violence in video games and not seeing the consequences that violence might have in real life, and children less concerned about suffering and have empathy for victims. Therefore, violent games could be considered to be a concern, as the youth audience don't understand suffering and the true consequences of violence.

Interestingly, Dr Olson states how male players seem to laugh and to be used to criticising each other when playing violent video games. The fact that boys tend to be more aggressive is signified in the media, as they tend to watch horror films, play aggressive sports such as American Football , Rugby etc. Therefore, they are more likely to play violent games, especially in groups, as signified in a close up shot of three friends playing Call of Duty on the X Box. As a result, many gaming institutions such as 2K games and Mad Dog Games produce games such as Mafia 2 which challenge audience expectations and what parents thing is appropriate, which raises moral panic in society.

However, Dr Olson generalises how many people believe that the "violence present in video games and film is similar enough to real life violence". Therefore, 'being desensitised to one makes you less concerned about the other'. Hence, people are disillusioned with one specific concerns, that they seem to ignore the issue on across other platforms.

Whats more, Dr Olson and research into video games states that a "teenage audience tend to play video games which are more realistic". The sense of games being historical, with real life characters or historical figures seem to add that extra sense of realism in violent video games. As well as this, the graphics and the characters' emotions or behaviour seem to make the audience play these games. The violent video games, where you just go on killing people are less realistic, though the environment and people are real- not the action," as said by Olson.

Interestingly, Olson conducted a focus group with young teenage boys looked at the aesthetics of video game content. Her research findings concluded that boys tended to be more concerned with two aspects: language and love. They tended to shield their siblings from playing games where they was excessive swearing, as they would be more impressionable and would look bad for their parents. The other major concern was about love, as they believed that they should be exposed to those games then they were 15 or 18. These two things seem to be remarkable, as boys would do these things in real life. Yet, the boundary of fantasy versus reality is strong amongst boys.

In her findings, Olson reported that "... several boys were more upset by the television news than gory games". The fact that the reality in television is authentic seemingly shocks teenagers, as they wouldn't expect things in video games to happen in real life. Research conducted by psychiatrists and psychologists found that "homes where repeated violence occurred would often result in children in that home being number by violence. Though, the way a typical child acts and feels, if he sees a friend hurt, is very different from the way he acts whilst playing violent video games". This shows how there is a stark difference in the ways violence occurs in children when playing violent video games and in real life, serious situations.

On the whole, Dr Olson states that it is not entirely possible that a troubled child might be influenced by violent video game or film. Though, she states that more research needs to be done in order to analyse which children might be affected by these games. To a larger extent, Dr Olson states that parents should play an active part in preventing or allowing their children to play specific games, as their temperaments might not be accommodating to such violent games. Many teenagers look to their parents as positive role models, therefore they should transfer positive values onto their children, as the absence of positive role models could corrupt teenagers and lead them astray.