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.