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Video games are games played on a personal computer or a dedicated device, such as a video game console. They range in complexity from simple watch-like devices with inexpensive LCD screens all the way up to full-immersion devices such as flight simulators and virtual reality pods, and cover every possible genre of gaming, including puzzles, action games, and major league sports fantasies. Video game consoles come in models intended to be used at home, like Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PlayStation 4, and Nintendo's Wii U, or handheld systems that can be played anywhere (as long as the battery isn't dead; fortunately today's handheld systems come with internal rechargeable batteries so they don't eat up AAs like older systems like the original Game Boy[1]), such as the Nintendo 3DS and Sony's PlayStation Vita.

The first "real" video game, a tennis game created in 1958,[2] used a dedicated analog computer as a control system and an oscilloscope for output.


[edit] Genres

Of course, not all games are the same, so they are neatly divided into several categories (some of them overlap with one another, and a game can even belong to several categories).

  • Action
    • Shooter
  • Action-Adventure
  • Adventure
  • Role-playing
  • Simulation
    • Sports
    • Driving
    • Goats
  • Strategy
  • Survival Horror
  • Massively multiplayer online (MMO)

[edit] New media are evil

Ahhh, the good old days!

Like any new technology that traditionally appeals primarily to youth, video games have spent the last thirty years and change being accused of corrupting the youth, joining comic books, pinball, television, radio, recorded music, comprehensive sex education, role playing games, atheism, liberalism, beer, The Gay Agenda(TM), and soy products[3] on a dubious list of moral panics created by people who forgot or maybe never knew what it was like to be a kid. Muddling the issue something fierce is the fact that video games are largely perceived as kid stuff, or at least non-artistic,[4] and therefore superficial and unworthy of serious attention. Making the issue worse, moral guardians (such as the infamous ex-attorney Jack Thompson) take the "kid stuff" concept to ridiculous extremes, failing to distinguish between games marketed to children and games marketed to adults, and making hysterical judgements on the effects of video games on players.

Liberty University prohibits students playing "A" or games with ratings pending. They also prohibit games with sexual content, alcohol/drug use, or strong language listed on the back. Games containing violence are the discretion of Resident Directors. The great Bob Jones university takes things a steep further and prohibits music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, since rock & roll is essentially Satan's voice.

Needless to say, moral guardians (especially of the religious persuasion) have a lot of power in many countries, and outright bans are more common than many people are comfortable with. In English-speaking countries, Australia has banned several games, and at one point Greece tried to outlaw all public video gaming in a massive overreaction to a political gambling scandal.[5] In gamer circles, Germany is notorious for its censorship laws regarding violent content in games.

[edit] Violence in gaming

There's no getting around one point — many video games are violent. Some violent games such as Mortal Kombat and God of War are very successful. The latter was particularly notorious in the early 2000s for offending various parenting sensibilities (it had, among other things, blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, monster-hacking, and general nudey themes) and the former effectively set off the entire panic itself. Games such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and Max Payne transpose graphic violence into gangster and police procedural settings, and first-person shooters (a genre dating to the 1980 arcade game Battlezone) gained a reputation from their 90s flagbearer Doom for immense amounts of gratuitous and often supernatural violence.[6]

Needless to say, like any other new media panic, the old media loves to feast on these things — one of the Columbine shooters, for example, was a modestly talented Doom level designer, so many people blamed their gaming rather than their social isolation or fascist political leanings for the slaughter. Pop psychologist "Dr." Phil McGraw has been known to do shows on the alleged danger of video games, as have police procedurals such as Criminal Minds and the Law and Order franchise. In the United States, the Entertainment Software Rating Board was organized to provide MPAA-like content ratings for video games, with this system also being used in Canada while Japan, Europe, and Australia have their own rating systems; however, the perception (by and large a post hoc ergo propter hoc confusing of causality and correlation) continues that excessive video game violence can cause bad behavior in youth, presumably on the assumption that video gamers have a somewhat tenuous grasp of reality. The fact that this has been said about role playing games, comics, and (in a recent case) horror novels without being borne out by studies on the subject really doesn't faze anyone involved in the moral outrage industry.

[edit] Whatsocking?!

There are also concerns over video game addiction, based on the assumption that video games cause people to become socially introverted, rather than being a release for people who already are. There is considerable unease in many nations over disproportionate time (and sometimes money[7][8]) some players spend gaming. In one extreme case a Korean baby died of malnutrition and neglect while her parents spent roughly 12 hours a day raising a "fantasy child" online.[9] Approximately 3% to 8% of gamers are "pathological players" associated with anxiety, depression, problems with social and family interaction, poor school and career achievement. Establishing which is cause and which is effect is difficult.[10]

MMORPGs and other subscription-based games sometimes take advantage of Skinnerian operant conditioning[11][12] to ensure a steady cashflow — but by and large the question of gaming addiction comes down to whether a game is interfering with normal life functions, and the related question of whether it's being used as a substitute for other interaction. The second is not an inherently bad thing; social gaming such as Second Life or MMORPGs often serves as a highly effective social outlet for people who find real world interaction is difficult or uncomfortable. The first, however, is potentially very destructive; unfortunately, people do confuse the two issues regularly.

To combat the negative aspect of video game addition, China enacted laws to force a time-limitation on Massive Multiplayer Online games, where players that have been playing for three continuous hours begin to receive reduced in-game abilities.[13] This is only effective in preventing monomania within a monomania, since players are free to switch to another game that does not assign active penalties.

[edit] Damn that coffee is hot

There are a good number of games that don't lack for sexual content, from the relatively mild partial nudity in The Sims to the explicit sexuality of the Hot Coffee scene in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.[14] Game developers and modders do things such as creating nude skins for female characters, or creating explicitly sexual third-party content, or even creating games like the highly controversial RapeLay, a literal rape simulator written and subsequently banned in Japan. Sex in video games has therefore long been a subject of both controversy and amusement. The game Mass Effect, despite being rated M (17+) by the ESRB, caused a moral panic in the conservative media because of one mild alien sex scene that would be just fine on an evening network television show; this culminated in a Fox News shitfest where feminist undertones were used to criticize it.[15]

[edit] Sexism in gaming

Speaking of feminist undertones, sexism has been a problem, both in games and in the gaming community itself (which in turn influences the content in the games due to consumer demand). Despite a substantial and growing number of female gamers,[16] there is still an overwhelming tendency for games to star male characters and neglect females, as well as an imbalance in the treatment of male and female archetypes.[17] This typically leads to tokenism, where there is one female character in a line-up of mostly male ones, or where the female character is an addition to the established male one (e.g. the pink Toad, named "Toadette" in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Ms. Pac-Man as an addition to the Pac-Man series). Female gamers themselves are seen as special and denoted as such with terms like "girl gamer" or the arguably worse "gamer girl" (we're all "gamer boys," you know). Various excesses of immature behaviour are normal in most gaming communities, but inaction in the face of blatant sexual harassment in official gaming events held by certain circles is especially notable,[18] making it very tough for female participants to maintain composure and dignity. It's been a huge source of outside ridicule[19] and an excuse to not take gamers seriously — one that even developers admit is self-inflicted.[20][21]

Many of the more vocal gamers are not happy to be faced with women's rights issues within the scope of their "light-hearted" medium and display behaviour ranging from rude to overtly violent[22] against any who raise these issues, as has been demonstrated by people like Anita Sarkeesian. She attracted a lot of attention for no good reason when she was starting her project to make videos discussing game tropes that are related to women. Further incidents like "Gamergate" (a misogynistic backlash against the increasing power to women) aren't making it any better, as they are retrogressing the industry to its anti-feminist roots.

In a more positive note, a study in 2015 found that video games don't cause sexist attitudes [23], showing that one must have been sexist to begin with. Another study suggests that playing video games helps rid of gender differences in spatial cognition.[24] However, according to Anita Sarkeesian, unlike violence in gaming sexism in games serves as a reinforcement to stereotypes as presentedt in her video series "Tropes vs Women," and in her vteo Women as Background Decoration: Part 1 she asserts that those denying that media is harmful this way are also the most likely to internalize stereotypes.

[edit] Racism in gaming

Racism is common in video game culture. Be it on Xbox Live where the N-word is thrown around as much as a frag grenade in an FPS or in the highly stereotyped characters of fighting games, video gaming culture has its own issues of racism on both the developer and consumer sides.

Western video games frequently face criticism for more or less portraying the same type of hero (heterosexual white males). Here's a fun chart that actually illustrates this point quite well.[25] This is so obvious that even large corporations like Ubisoft are developing videogames that openly try and break this trend as much as possible such as Far Cry 4.[26] Despite this, Far Cry 4 has been accused of racism against Asians [27]. This form of racism is based on exclusion, where minorities and people of color are either erased, stereotyped or objectified. For example, a study by the European Journal of Cultural Studies showed that Arabs and Muslims were frequently linked to terrorism in video games, promoting vicious stereotypes about both groups.[28] Despite claims to the contrary, black and Latino American gamers are statistically proven to buy more video games and play them more frequently than white American gamers, showing that this erasure isn't an issue of sales.[29]

Unlike television and movie media of the past, the racism in video games is generally formed from ignorance and erasure rather than outright malice. However, gaming culture itself makes it very hard to bring up the issues of racism. For example, when gamers playing the obviously racist video game "Ching-Chong Beautiful" complete with racial slurs against Asians and highly offensive portrayals of Asians said "Hey, this is pretty racist", other gamers told them to calm down because it was fun to play.[30]

Non-white gamers who comment on racism on video games are either brutally attacked through social media or are ignored. When black gamers asked Bioware why there weren't any black characters in Dragon Age, Bioware's response was incredibly an condescending and borderline bigoted strawman of what the gamers asked complete with the good ol' fashioned "Why aren't you asking if there aren't any vegetarians in Bioware" line of bad logic [31]. Many gamers make the claim that they themselves aren't racist for playing a game that is racist. This is also a nasty form of strawman as it tries to individualize an issue that is intrinsic to entire culture. (In other words, your individualism isn't relevant.)

While the subject matter of video games may be racist or exclusionary, video games as an activity isn't. Studies show that when people of different ethnicities and races play video games in teams, racism and prejudicial attitudes actually decrease [32]. Racism in Western video games is really a larger reflection of Western culture, as long as racism is in Western culture, there will be racism in our media.

[edit] Fanboyss

Fanboys, as extremely dedicated gamers of a particular console, game series, or genre are derogatorily called, frequently have their own moral mishaps that sometimes even make into the media. For example, in Novermber 17, 2006, Jeff Gerstmann received death threats after awarding the high-fantasy game Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess an 8.8 out of 10 ("Great"), which apparently wasn't enough for fans of the series. [33] Given that nearly none of the fanboys knew that any review is biased, an angry tirade of fanboys messaged threats to the reviewer, and a lockdown to the Gamespot building ensued, meaning that nobody in the building got in or got out due to fears of getting lynched in the street over an opinion. Gerstmann vowed never to review a Zelda game again.

However, if that wasn't enough fanboyism for a gaming website, Gamespot in December 19, 2013 made the same unapparent mistake of reviewing a Legend of Zelda game, this time done by reviewer Martin Gaston. Again, the building went on lockdown for Gatson nominating the game A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS Game of the Year, which, for batshit fanatics, was too much for a Zelda game given that it broke the formula of a top-view Zelda game which hadn't been used in a while. Gatson was one of the only employees interviewers could get a hold, considering all communication within the staff was limited:

I was advised not to even write a review for the game in the first place. They apparently did not want a repeat of the 8.8 event but nothing seemed to go wrong after the review went up. So when I placed my vote for A Link Between Worlds to be game of the year, I thought times had changed. I was wrong. I was dead fucking wrong. Video game fanatics are by definition, fanatics. Nintendo fans, Sony fans, Microsoft fans. They’re all insane for devoting themselves to something so trivial.
—Martin Gatson, while the building on lockdown had limited communication.
At least one death threat came every five minutes for these people. [34]

Of course, this isn't limited to just games, as the actual hardware used to play the games can be a subject of literal almost endless debate among video games players. In the first generations of video games this was the case in the Console Wars with the famous consoles Sega Genesis and Nintendo NES (later it was the SNES, triggering what was called the Bit Wars so called for who got from 16 to 32 to 64 bits of technology (ad infinitum, ad nauseaum) ), but in the latest years due to Sega having low profits and Nintendo having a truly narrow demographic it has switched to that of the Sony PS4 and the Microsoft Xbox One. Vicious attacks on both sides have ensued, but near its release the Xbox one had the greatest controversy due to its invasion of privacy, inflexibility in media, and its clunkiness in general.

[edit] Brain development

See the main article on this topic: Game brain
If Pacman had affected us as kids we'd be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music.
—Marcus Brigstocke

One study suggests that video games impacts the development of the brain by not stimulating the frontal lobe.[35] The researcher uses this to conclude that this will result in an increasingly violent society. Details of the research are vague and do not show much promise in terms of methodology, as the the scientists apparently compared 30-minutes of adding numbers non-stop with "playing Nintendo games."[36] Beyond the obvious ambiguity, this leads to issues of not considering the unstructured nature of most video games, and the wide range of video game types, both within and beyond Nintendo.

But anyway, there is recent research that games are (gasp) good for your brain![37] Scientists in Berlin have told adults to play Super Mario 64 (the DS version) 30 minutes a day for 2 months; after this, MRI scans show increased brain matter in areas involving spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills of the hands compared to the people who didn't play the game. Also, lead researchers of the study concluded that video games may be used even as therapeutic treatment.[38]

[edit] Miscellaneous moral mishegas

During the first surge of video game popularity in the late 70s and early 80s, there was a somewhat widespread belief that the use of multiple lives in a video game could lead players to not value their own lives (very much in the same spirit as the idea that video game players were allegedly detached enough that they wouldn't understand violence was wrong); in fact, one RW editor as a child remembers reading a letter to the editor in TV Guide from some Nervous Ninny claiming that video games should just give you only one life for the entire time you own the game, an idea later used in an annoying Flash game.

The ESRB has a very, very long list of advisories — while most deal with sexual and violent content, there are applications such as electronic cookbooks that include advisories for "alcohol references" and a few other similar sillies. However, the main rating is usually more than sufficient to determine the suitability of the product for your eight-year-old child.

[edit] stfu n00b

noob spawnkiller

i fucked ur mom lol

luckshot dumbass
Fuck you, you fucking spic ass faggot fag, HOLLA HOLLA GET DOLLAS
—Some kid [39]

Gamer talk makes comments on YouTube seem witty and perspicacious. This concern about video games — that they let the extremely stupid feel entirely okay about behaving extremely stupidly — is in fact an entirely valid concern and good reason to burn all video games in great bonfires, immediately!

[edit] Health issues

Another common concern about video games is health — most children consuming games are usually sitting in front of the computer, TV, and/or handheld game console and not being active.

Other known health issues include:

  • Dizziness and motion sickness (the most common)[40]
  • Back injuries and chair posture[41]
  • Blistering, bruising, or cuts[42]
  • Epileptic seizures[43]
  • Heart attacks[44]

Nintendo's current systems (as well as newer games on the now-discontinued GameCube and Game Boy Advance) display notifications related to health and safety when starting up for the reasons listed above. Notably, its 3DS has a parental control option to turn off the 3D effect (which works differently from 3D TV and movies; for example, it doesn't require special glasses) on settings for young children due to safety concerns. As noted on the boxes of 3DS games, the 3D effect is only enabled if the parental control settings are set for players seven years of age or older (likewise, turning parental controls off entirely leaves use of the 3D effect unrestricted). Up until the 3DS (including the original DS and the Wii), the notifications could not be turned off, but they only required a press of a button to get past and only appeared when the system was turned on, so it ends up less annoying than it sounds. The 3DS only displays the warning when the system is first set up (i.e. when it's fresh out of the box), but includes health and safety application on the system's main menu.

Sony's PlayStation Portable also has health and safety notifications along the lines of what Nintendo has. While general health warnings for Playstation 3 software is generally relegated to game manuals, the PS3 itself displays a warning about photosensitive epilepsy on startup while little white dots of light flash on screen. Microsoft didn't seem to have added any to its Xbox 360 system, however.

Avoiding video games to avoid health hazards won't help, since the only other option is to do nothing (which has hazards of its own), or to do something else (which also has hazards depending on the task). Regardless, health issues for non-excessive video gaming aren't any worse than other activities.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Oh, and how can one forget the god-awful Sega Nomad with its piss-poor battery life?
  2. The "ur-game" remains disputed to this day; "Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device" just isn't as catchy.
  3. No, really. There are people who think soy makes you gay. From WingNutDaily
  4. Roger Ebert and PZ Myers, the producers of BioShock, Myst, Rez and Shadow of the Colossus would like to have a word with you.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Law 3037/2002.
  6. BFG-9000: When you absolutely have to frag incinerate every mofo in the room, accept no substitutes.
  7. How Every Awful Video Game Thing Was Born
  8. Inside the Epic Online Space Battle That Cost Gamers $300,000, Wired (Though this was probably worth it.)
  9. Jail for couple whose baby died while they raised online child, CNN
  10. What makes video games addictive?, The Economist
  11. My favourite waste of time: why Candy Crush and Angry Birds are so compulsive, The Guardian
  12. This is the same thing that can cause both rats and people to become compulsive gamblers.
  13. Multiplayer Online Video Gaming (MMORPG) Playing In Excess: A Process Addiction?, East Carolina University
  14. Which, technically, was game content that had been removed from the game's plotline but which had been left in the shipping game's data files; the controversy was over the fact that modders had been able to relink the scene into the storyline.
  15. Author Faults a Game, and Gamers Flame Back, The New York Times
  16. Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry: 2012, Entertainment Software Association
  17. Video game industry haunted by lack of female characters, CBC
  18. Is pervasive sexism holding the professional fighting game community back?, Ars Technica
  19. This is how you look, everyone.
  20. Survey: poor work conditions and sexism give games industry a bad rap, Polygon
  21. Gaben!
  22. Flash Game Makes Players Beat Up 'Tropes vs Women' Creator, The Escapist
  35. Researchers: Video games hurt brain development, CNET
  36. Computer games 'cause brain damage', CNN
  37. Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills, NPR
  38. How video gaming can be beneficial for the brain, Max Planck Institute
  40. Video Games And Motion Sickness
  41. Office Chair, Posture, and Driving Ergonomics
  42. Interactive video games can cause a broad range of injuries, Science Daily
  43. Warning stated in practically any modern game manual. Related is the infamous Pokémon episode.
  44. Multiple anecdotal cases; this is generally a given risk for anyone who doesn't take some time out of their day to exercise.
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