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Video games are electronic games played on a personal computer (PC), a portable device (smart/dumbphone and tablet), or a dedicated device (console). The devices range in complexity from watch-like devices with inexpensive LCD screens all the way up to full-immersion devices such as flight simulators and virtual reality pods, and the games themselves 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 Switch, or handheld systems that can be played anywhere [note 1], such as Nintendo's 3DS and Switch (again), along with Sony's PlayStation Vita.

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

Moral panics[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Moral panic
Ahhh, the good old days!

Like most new technologies, video games have spent the last thirty years being accused of corrupting the youth, joining comic books, television, radio, recorded music, role playing games and comprehensive sex education on a dubious list of moral panics created by people who forgot or maybe never knew what it was like to be a kid.

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.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has a very, very long list of advisories — while most deal with sex 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.

Moral guardians[edit]

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. (Well, shit.) Games containing violence are at the discretion of Resident Directors. Bob Jones University takes things a step further and prohibits music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, since rock & roll is essentially the voice of Satan.

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.[1] In gamer circles, Germany is notorious for its censorship laws regarding violent content in games, as well as for banning or censoring any game with Nazi-references in it.


There are a good number of games that feature varying degrees of 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.[note 3] Game developers and modders also add their own sexual content, such as nude skins for characters, explicitly sexual third-party content, or even entire NSFW 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.[2]


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 it into the mainstream media. For example, on November 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.[3] Given that nearly none of the fanboys knew that any review is an opinion and therefore biased, multitudes of angry Zelda fans messaged threats to the reviewer, and the Gamespot building was locked down in response, meaning that nobody could enter or leave the building due to fears of being lynched in the street over an opinion. Gerstmann vowed never to review a Zelda game again.

However, if that wasn't enough fanboyism for one gaming website, Gamespot on 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 that broke the formula of a top-view Zelda game which hadn't been used in a while. Gatson was one of the few employees that interviewers could get a hold of, 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.[4]

Of course, this isn't limited to just games, as the actual hardware used to play the games became a subject of nearly endless debate among video games players. In the transition between the third and fourth generations of video games, the Console Wars began between users of the famous consoles Sega Genesis and Nintendo NES (later it was the SNES, triggering the "Bit Wars" over 16- vs. 32- vs. 64-bit technology, ad infinitum, ad nauseaum), but more recently, due to Sega having left the console market in 2001 and Nintendo having a truly narrow demographic, it has switched to the Sony Playstation 4 versus 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 supposed invasion of privacy, which requires an online connection every 24 hours; as a result of the controversy Microsoft dropped its plans for DRM shortly before launch. Along for the ride are PC fanboys who detest consoles in general, many referring to themselves as the "PC master race" and to the console players as "console peasants".

Impact on attitudes[edit]

If Pacman had affected us as kids we'd be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music.
—Marcus Brigstocke

Video games have mixed impacts on players' attitudes towards violence, sexism, and racism.


During the first surge of video game popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, 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).

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 1990s flagbearer Doom for immense amounts of gratuitous and often supernatural violence.[note 4]

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 "Doctor" 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, in response to the 1993 congressional hearings on video games (where Joe Lieberman "famously blamed video games for violence"),[5] the Entertainment Software Rating Board was organized to provide MPAA-like content ratings for video games; Canada uses the same system, 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.

However, there is psychological research that validates concerns regarding violent video games and an increase in aggressive behavior in children. The American Psychological Association has found that children playing video games in a general category do not show an increase in violent or aggressive behavior. They did find that children who played violent titles saw an increase in aggressive behavior.[6] The APA has called on the industry to design video games that include increased parental control over the amount of violence the games contain.[7]

In the wake of the 2018 Florida school shootings, the old, outdated canard of video games being responsible for the deaths of children was brought up again by then-Kentucky governor Matt Bevin and several other Republican governors.[8] Donald Trump has blamed both violent video games and violent movies and has called for an age regulation system for them, even when both already have an age-rating system.[9] A meeting was scheduled with the Trump administration and members of the video game industry, but with absolutely no psychologists nor scientists (i.e. the people who are qualified to talk about the links between violence and video games) in attendance.[10] During the March 8, 2018, meeting with the video game executives, Trump showed a cherry-picked montage video of violent video games in order to cause shock about the content in such games. The video is currently unlisted, though other channels have picked it up and reposted it.[11] Trump has relied on blaming on video games again after the El Paso and Dayton shootings in 2019, demonstrating that his earlier important meetings discussing video game violence in 2018 were totally effective and that minds were changed.[12]


See the main article on this topic: Sexism
Primary character by gender, race.[13]

Sexism has long 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,[14] 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.[13][15]

Female gamers themselves are seen as special and denoted as such with terms like "girl gamer" or the arguably worse "gamer girl" in online multiplayer video games. That issue may devolve into harassment where the female player gets insulted or griefed (Gaming term for people who target their allies in multiplayer games). [16]

Various excesses of immature behaviour (i.e., nativism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism) are normal in most gaming communities.[17] 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, such as the "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian" game,[18] which manages to do both of those with a heaping spoonful of immaturity thrown in.

The issue has been a major source of outside ridicule[19] and an excuse not to take gamers seriously. This wound is one that even developers admit is self-inflicted.[20][21] Inaction in the face of blatant sexual harassment in official gaming events is especially notable.[22] Further incidents like Gamergate don't make it any better, as they not only intimidate female players and developers, but also make games appear more the playground of immature misogynists than a true art form.

There have been several scientific studies which examine the possible link between video games and sexism:

  • Deskins 2015 ("The Effects of Video Games on Sexism Attitudes in Males"), sampling "117 undergraduate participants (41 men, 76 women)", found evidence that playing violent video games correlated with finding "screen shots of a series of sexist chat messages sent to female gamers" to be amusing (though this doesn't prove causation):

The relationship between amusement and offensiveness ratings were also examined for how much participants reported playing violent video games. [....] As can be seen in Table 1, a correlation of amusement with violent video game play was also (r(117)= .184 and p= .047). That correlation showed that as people who reported playing more VVGs they also reported finding the images more amusing. [....] In order to examine the suspected differences of Hostile sexism, gender and whether or not participants played Violent Video Games (VVGs) or not, a 2(Hostile sexism split: above, below median) X 2(gender: women, men) x 2(Violent Video Games played: yes, no) analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used for the mean amusement scores. That ANOVA indicated a marginal main effect for VVGs, F(1, 109) = 3.436,p = .067. That effect occurred because individuals who play VVGs reported more amusement across the images (M = .988) than did individuals who do not play VVGs (M = .635).[23]

  • Breuer et al. 2015 ("Sexist Games = Sexist Gamers? A Longitudinal Study on the Relationship Between Video Game Use and Sexist Attitudes"), sampling 4,500 self-identified "active gamers" (in the first wave of the 3-wave longitudinal study), found no evidence that video games increase or decrease sexist attitudes:

The current study addressed this issue by examining the influence of video game exposure on sexist beliefs and attitudes over a 3 year period. However, no evidence for a cultivation effect on sexist attitudes was found. [....] Although the findings from the present study are certainly not conclusive, the absence of any longitudinal links between video game use and sexist attitudes at least suggests two things. First, similar to what has been suggested for aggression,38 it is likely that there are factors, such as personal experience and family and peer influences, that affect the development, proliferation, prevention, or reduction of sexist attitudes more strongly than (fictional) media content. Second, general and broad cultivation effects of video games are somewhat unlikely, as players differ in the games they play, and the interactivity of the medium also causes the experience of the same game to differ between players.[24]

  • The abstract of Fox et al. 2015 ("Lifetime Video Game Consumption, Interpersonal Aggression, Hostile Sexism, and Rape Myth Acceptance: A Cultivation Perspective") reads:

In this study, we conducted a survey (N = 351) of male and female adults and used structural equation modeling to analyze relationships among video game consumption, trait interpersonal aggression, ambivalent sexism, and first-order (percentage of false rape accusations) and second-order cultivation effects (RMA). We found support for the hypothesized cultivation model, indicating a relationship between video game consumption and RMA via interpersonal aggression and hostile sexism. Although these findings cannot be interpreted causally, we discuss the implications of these associations and future directions for research.[25]

Studies have also been conducted which examine the idea that objectifying people (i.e. perceiving people as objects, such as when a woman is nothing more than background decoration), and women specifically, dehumanizes them and makes it easier to cause harm to them:

  • Loughnan et al. 2010 ("Objectification leads to depersonalization: The denial of mind and moral concern to objectified others"), sampling two groups (A:) eighty-six people (54 female, 32 male) and (B:) eighty people participating as part of a course requirement (40 female, 40 male), found that objectification did indeed lead to dehumanization:

In two studies we have demonstrated that objectification influences depersonalization, specifically the attribution of mind and moral status. As objectification increased, mind attribution decreased and moral status was withdrawn. Although this emerged as a main effect in almost all analyses, Study 2 revealed the important qualifying role of target gender. [....] A particularly worrying original finding of this research is that objectification diminishes a second aspect of personhood, perceived moral status. Whether this reduction precipitates less moral treatment of objectified others is an important question for future research. Study 2 demonstrated that the objectified are assigned more pain tablets, a finding which may indicate that they are seen as less sensitive to pain or that we care less about their suffering. Feminist theorists have argued that objectification plays an important role in facilitating violence against women (Dworkin, 2000).[26]

  • The abstract of Heflick et al. 2011 ("From women to objects: Appearance focus, target gender, and perceptions of warmth, morality and competence") reads:

Research on perceptions of humanness and the stereotype content model suggests that humanness is linked to perceptions of warmth, morality and competence. Merging these insights with objectification theory, we hypothesized that focusing on a woman's, but not a man's, appearance should induce objectification, and thus reduce perceptions of these characteristics. In three studies, females, but not males, were perceived as less competent (Studies 2 and 3) and less warm and moral (Studies 1, 2 and 3) when participants were instructed to focus on their appearance. These findings support our position and help rule out stereotype activation as an alternative explanation to dehumanization. Further, they generalized to targets of different races, familiarity, physical attractiveness and occupational status.[27]

Interestingly, another study found that male gamers who were better at Halo tended to be significantly nicer to female gamers, and bad gamers were meaner. In other words, online misogynists are literally losers.[28]

The conclusion of a 2017 paper by Ferguson & Donnellan sums up the issue quite succinctly:

"[There is] an increasing body of literature that suggests there may be little link between sexism in games and sexism in real life. However, this perspective does not mean that moral concerns about sexism in games are unimportant. Our concern is that claims about the power of scientific evidence to support moral agendas may backfire, especially when the evidence is equivocal."[29]

Riot Games lawsuit[edit]

Riot Games, a studio famous for the online multiplayer game League of LegendsWikipedia, is undergoing a lawsuit filed by Jessica Negron regarding gender discrimination in the workplace in 2018.[30] The allegations range from an illegal wage gap between genders to sexual objectification of female employees, including an alleged "Riot Games Hottest Women Employees" email chain, as well as requiring female workers to tolerate it. In terms of hiring, female applicants were generally excluded for not being a "core gamer" (heavens knows what that actually means). Negron's former supervisor told her that, "diversity should not be a focal point of the design of Riot Games' products because gaming culture is the last remaining safe-haven for white teen boys." Translation: this the last place where we can act like discriminatory, bigoted assholes. Negron alleges that she had took a managerial position at Riot Games and had no increase in pay and was even discouraged from seeking higher positions, despite her male employee receiving a promotion for doing the same job. Riot Game's response to the lawsuit was a rather generic non-response of "While we do not discuss the details of ongoing litigation, we can say that we take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly. We remain committed to a deep and comprehensive evolution of our culture to ensure Riot is a place where all Rioters thrive."


See the main article on this topic: Racism
Characters by race.[13]
Characters by age.[13]

Racism is common in video game culture. Be it on Xbox Live where the N-word is thrown around as much as frag grenades 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) all the time. Here's a fun image that actually illustrates this point quite well.[31] 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.[32] Despite this, Far Cry 4 has been accused of racism against Asians.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

Unlike television and movie media of the past, the racism in video games generally results from ignorance and erasure rather than outright malice. However, as with sexism, 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.[36]

Non-white gamers who comment on racism on video games are often brutally attacked through social media or are ignored. For instance, when black gamers asked Bioware why there weren't any black characters in Dragon Age, Bioware's response was an incredibly 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.[37] 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 an entire culture. (In other words, your individualism isn't relevant.)

While the subject matter of video games may be racist or exclusionary, video gaming 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.[38] 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.

Health issues[edit]

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)[39]
  • Back injuries and chair posture[40]
  • Blistering, bruising, or cuts[41]
  • Epileptic seizures[note 5]
  • Heart attacks[note 6]

Some see[Who?] it as a case of correlation does not equal causation—suggesting that video games are the cause of developmental, attention and social issues in individuals does not address the actual problems that an individual might have, such as more sedentary lifestyles.


Nintendo's systems (as well as newer games on the now-discontinued GameCube and Game Boy Advance) used to display notifications related to health and safety when starting up for the reasons listed above. However, since the 3DS and Wii U, they do not show the warning every time; the Switch never shows any warning mandatorily. 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.

Brain development[edit]

"Game brain" is the theory that playing video games for a long period of time affects a player's frontal lobe, inhibiting creative and emotional development (among other things). A relatively new theory, it is generally disregarded by science.

One study by Prof. Ryuta Kawashima suggested that video games impacts the development of the brain by not stimulating the frontal lobe, which the researcher concludes will result in an increasingly violent society.[42] Details of the research are vague and do not show much promise in terms of methodology, as the study compared 30 minutes of adding numbers non-stop with playing a Nintendo game.[43] 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. The researcher appears to be using beta wave activity as a proxy for frontal lobe activation. A more robust way of collecting this data would be to use an actual fMRI scan. Lack of frontal lobe activation also does not automatically mean that less attention and conscious activity are inherently associated with video games. Individuals who have practiced at a specific task for enough time generally show less activation as the task is "farmed out" to unconscious mental processes.[44][note 7]

Some recent research, conversely, seems to indicate that games are (gasp) good for your brain![45] Scientists in Berlin have told adults to play Nintendo's Super Mario 64 DS 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.[46]


Concerns have also been raised by medical professionals, psychologists and politicians regarding 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 the disproportionate time (and sometimes money[47][48]) 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.[49] 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.[50]

MMORPGs and other subscription-based games sometimes take advantage of Skinnerian operant conditioning[51][note 8] 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 difficult or uncomfortable. The first, however, is potentially very destructive; unfortunately, people do confuse the two issues regularly.

There has been controversy over the classification of video game addiction as a mental disorder. Despite recognition by the World Health Organization in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), "[t]he American Psychiatric Association (APA) did not include video game addiction in its most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published in 2013. At that time, the APA said there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether gaming disorder is a unique mental health condition, but recommended further research in the area."[52] To combat the negative aspects of video game addiction, the government of China enacted laws to force a time-limitation on Massive Multiplayer Online games, where players that had been playing for three continuous hours or more began to receive in-game penalties, such as loss of currency.[53] This was only effective at preventing monomania within a monomania, since players were free to switch to another game that did not assign active penalties. However, more recent legislation introduced in 2021 has "barred online gamers under the age of 18 from playing on weekdays and limited their play to just three hours [on] most weekends",[54] while Chinese state media have begun comparing online gaming to opium[55][56] (although they're hardly the first to make such an absurd comparison; in 1993, US Senator Fritz Hollings referred to television as "a narcotic").[57]

Since China was the "first country to label online addiction a disorder"[58] in 2008, numerous treatment camps have sprung up across the country. Their methods range from solitary confinement and beatings to electroshock therapy (although the latter was officially banned by the Chinese Ministry of Health in 2009).[59][60] "Several young people have reportedly died at the camps, according to state-sanctioned media in China. [...] [S]upervisors at a camp in China's Henan province reportedly beat a 19-year-old girl to death when she failed to ask permission to use the bathroom, The Beijing News reported. Other reported deaths at Internet addiction camps across the country include a 14-year-old boy struck with a baton and pipe for being unable to do push-ups, according to the Los Angeles Times, and a 15-year-old beaten less than a day after arriving at camp."[61] An 18-year-old teenager died due to the abuse they received at a facility in Anhui;[62] the owner was later sent to prison.[63] Although these facilities claim a high success rate ("[o]fficials at the Daxing treatment center said that 70 percent of their patients overcame Internet addiction"),[64] the evidence is dubious at best. ""For a treatment to work, it needs to last," Jenny Taitz, a clinical psychologist at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York, told ABC News. "And the very nature of a camp is that you can only stay there temporarily." [...] "I'm a clinician who bases my entire practice on evidence-based treatment, and I've never heard of a boot camp treatment in my scouring of evidence-based research," Taitz said."[61]

Societal issues[edit]


Apart from actual gambling games (slot machines, casino games, etc.), there are some disturbing trends in the gaming industry regarding the practice of loot boxes. A loot box is a prize pack that can be acquired in-game that gives random rewards. The examples we will focus on are available for purchase with real-world cash, which can compel people to gamble on these boxes. In 2007, a Chinese free-to-play massively multiplayer game invented the modern loot box, where you would earn the boxes but have to pay for keys to open them. The most notable first hits in the West to include this are free-to-play mobile games, but over the next decade or so the concept would evolve to include pay-to-play games, such as the traditionally single-player series came with Mass Effect 3. This game contains a player-vs-enemy (PvE) multiplayer element. Multiplayer characters and weapons must be obtained or enhanced with loot boxes which when completing multiplayer games enhanced the single-player experience.

The issue came to a head with the success of 2016's Overwatch from Blizzard Entertainment (one half of the Activision Blizzard conglomerate), a pay-to-play game with cosmetic loot boxes occasionally handed out for free or available for purchase. This change caught on like wildfire within the industry with many major titles for 2017 now adopting both cosmetic- and power-based loot boxes. Previous games in some series that relied almost exclusively on acquiring items through leveling up were now being fed through loot boxes while consumers were upset about game balance. In 2017, with the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2, Electronic Arts was set to tie multiplayer powers and progression that would devastate game balance (including some power-ups that allowed abilities to be used twice as often) to these crates until the rights holders (Disney) stepped in and told them to stop. For a while. this system continued, with in-game credits being required for purchasing crates, meaning that players still had to grind upwards of 40 hours to unlock and upgrade one hero (Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, etc.). Post-launch, this has become a catalyst for political figures to get involved in games once again, as the system is psychologically exploitative and could prey on unsuspecting children who just want to play Star Wars (the game is rated for teenagers, meaning its easy to buy anywhere with no age restrictions). Thankfully, EA changed the progression to a more conventional system where playing a character gave points that could be used to upgrade said character.

Selected other titles with these elements:

  • Halo 5: GuardiansWikipedia - (Microsoft Studios, 343 Industries) Certain modes (all labeled as Warzone) in the game have one-use or permanent cards to gain a tangible advantage that can be earned or bought with real currency. Stated in other terms, a fresh player starts with an unscoped assault rifle and a handgun, whereas tangible upgrades to these exist including scopes, bigger magazines with other guns (marksman rifles, SMGs, etc.), and all game vehicles (from the ATV to the tank) being locked behind these crates. On the other side, Arena matches puts all players on equal footing regardless of unlocks and give rewards much like Warzone. So you could play Arena to unlock goodies for Warzone then switch when comfortable. Another argument would be that the game is designed in a way that the average player will acquire three to four bronze packs, or one silver pack per play session, meaning a player will have cards to use next time.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of WarWikipedia (Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, Monolith Productions) - Some critics have noticed that the true ending to the game is locked off from players unless they repetitively grind for a very long time or bunker down and buy the crates. As of July 2018, it is now impossible to buy lootcrates as the "marketplace" has been removed from the game, and the true ending was made easier to achieve.
  • Payday 2Wikipedia (Independent, Overkill Software) - A pay-to-play title on Steam added locked loot crates safes (with $2.49 keys drills) that contained random cosmetics. Related, a previous pack that had been on sale for $20 that provided unique masks as part of an investment pack that would provide items down the road was just revealed to be a unique safe. The backlash was so heated that community moderators threatened to quit their jobs, the review rating tanked, and bad press all around with the player base seeming to tumble out of control overnight. The only way the developer would fix this was to buy the game (as in the intellectual property of the game) from their publisher 505 Games to go independent for $30 million and a cut of the eventual sequel, Payday 3. The safes were not removed, but the drills from all future safes came at no cost.
  • Call of Duty: WWIIWikipedia (Activision-Blizzard, Infinity Ward) - You can earn progress by watching other people open loot boxes. Compulsory behavior training? It's simply common knowledge that our troops during the D-Day invasion in World War II had randomly spawning crates fall from the sky open up, reveal cards, and they gather around that crate to see what they got.
  • Forza Motorsport 7Wikipedia (Microsoft Studios, Turn 10 Studios) - All of your unlockable cars, car mods, suits, etc. that were once part of the game in previous entries can now be obtained only through lootboxes-er I mean, "Prize Crates"! As of November 2018, this system was removed in favor of a "buy what you want" model instead of random chance.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare RemasteredWikipedia (Activision-Blizzard, Infinity Ward) - A beloved classic remastered and available by purchasing a deluxe edition of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare or eventually standalone for $40. Originally the game featured no microtransactions or loot boxes. Then new guns were put in as microtransactions and loot boxes were added anyway, and the DLC was sold again rather than being free! You can get the original cheaper than all of this.

Compared to a similar item, Trading Card Games (TCGs, like Magic: The Gathering) generally have well known odds of what you would be getting into. The typical Magic booster contains 15 cards consisting of one land, ten common rarities, three uncommon rarities, and one rare card. Cross-packs a mythic rare comes in about one in eight packs while a foil card comes in one in 70 cards (or one in five boosters). These statistics are easily available from Wizards of the Coast (and printed on packs), so no matter what you bought you knew a bit about what you were getting into. In addition, since these are physical items, a secondary market for them exists. If you, for example, bought a booster with a card you have no use in playing or collecting you can then resell it quite easily or make other use of it, notably, a bookmark. When compared to video games and loot boxes, the rarity odds are often not published anywhere unless required by law or developer agreement. Using Halo 5 as an example, you can buy packs in three flavors saying what rarities are included (Common, Uncommon, Rare, Ultra-Rare, Legendary and Mythic are the rarities), but nothing guaranteed in any one individual box and nothing can be resold/traded to other players. Incidentally, Magic also has several video game versions, most recently: Magic: the Gathering Arena. It has everything you expect from the game, but its free to start, gives you five decks of cards to play with and is completely upfront and honest with its drop rates[65] and costs.[66] To compensate for the lack of a secondary market, if you get a fifth copy of a card (the game locks you at a max of four per deck) it then auto-replaces it with another card from the set of the same rarity. If none are available, you get premium in-game currency (as in the game pays you) or progress towards rarer cards. On top of that, as you open packs, you get progress towards "wild cards" that allow you to buy any card you want to slot in somewhere.

A common rebuttal from the industry and gamers alike is that "it is just cosmetics" and therefore, they do not directly impact gameplay, which under a bit of scrutiny falls flat. Due to how people play their video games in personal settings, options that cater to how a player wants to enjoy the game causes them to enjoy the game more, and arguably, these enhancements, no matter how minor they may seem, increase a player's enjoyment of the game and is therefore considered a viable part of the experience. Worse tends to be the low or limited value of some of these cosmetics. Overwatch has limited-use sprays (allowing players to decal walls with a picture) while Destiny 2 has textures (coloring) that can be used only once and only on a single piece of armor, limiting the ability to skin a whole character. Additionally, if these cosmetic items weren't important, greedy publishers wouldn't gate these items behind these chance paywalls to begin with (and these items aren't easily ignored) and wouldn't have developed a lucrative system behind scamming people who have gambling impulses to purchase loot boxes in hopes that it may contain a skin they would wish to use. Furthermore, many of these items used to be actually part of the game (see above example: Forza Motorsport 7) and used to be actual in-game rewards, and many games still today use aesthetically pleasing costume pieces as rewards for playing the game rather than asking players to play upfront, recent examples being Super Mario Odyssey and Sonic Forces.

Another common rebuttal is that loot boxes are simply up to the discretion of the player to buy them, and all of the negative consequences are up to the individual player weighing the risks and rewards and coming to their own conclusion to make that decision. The problem with this argument is that the game psychologically manipulates the players in many ways to get them to part with their money, such as badgering them with notifications on the main menu to purchase these items, as well as forcing players to either go through endless amounts of tedious grinding to possibly earn a crate that houses that said item if they choose not to pay extra. In many of these cases, most players have already paid 60 dollars for the game they are playing; the last thing they need is said game nagging them to part with even more cash. This is about as much choice the player has as with people who have psychological problems with gambling, and this is the main reason gambling is restricted for adults only. Going back to kids for a second, Fortnite, which is popular with children, has an out-of-game bullying problem for in-game outfits that are used. Essentially, not having spent money on outfits is seen as an excuse to bully someone.[67]

Beyond that is the derogatory language used to describe the player base, derived from casino terminology. The most common word is "whale," referring to someone who would spend large amounts of money on any particular game (casinos also call them "High Rollers", who would bet large amounts); similar terms are "dolphins" for those who spend a moderate amount on a game and "krill" for those who spend nearly nothing. Whales tend to share similarities to people with gambling addictions, making it very obvious the ingrained problems with these models.

See also[edit]

Games with articles[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. 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
  2. The "ur-game" remains disputed to this day; "Cathode Ray Tube Amusement DeviceWikipedia" just isn't as catchy.
  3. 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.
  4. BFG-9000: When you absolutely have to frag incinerate every mofo in the room, accept no substitutes.
  5. Warning stated in practically any modern game manual. Related is the infamous Pokémon episode.
  6. Multiple anecdotal cases; this is generally a given risk for anyone who doesn't take some time out of their day to exercise.
  7. Kawashima, by the way, did endorse a series of Nintendo DS games – Brain Age – that claim to train your brain with several activities, such as the aforementioned speed-adding of numbers. Regardless of any actual scientific effect, they can be considered "not bad" as games go, and were popular enough to inspire several clones, including the very transparent The Professor's Brain Trainer.
  8. This is the same thing that can cause both rats and people to become compulsive gamblers.


  1. See the Wikipedia article on Law 3037/2002.
  2. Author Faults a Game, and Gamers Flame Back (January 26, 2008) The New York Times.
  3. Zelda:Twilight Princess, 8.8 from Gamespot (Nov 17, 2006) IGN.
  4. GameSpot Receives Death Threats and Locks Down Entire Office After Naming Zelda Game of the Year by Jack (December 19, 2013) Play4Real (archived copy from January 1, 2014).
  6. American Psychological Association, APA Review Confirms Link Between Playing Violent Video Games and Aggression"
  7. APA/CNN, "Do video games lead to violence?"
  8. Wartman, Scott (Feb 16, 2018) Kentucky governor blames violent video games, movies, not guns for school shootings. USA Today. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  9. Jamieson, Amber (February 22, 2018) Trump Linked Violent Video Games And Movies To The Florida School Shooting. Buzzfeed. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  10. Beck, Kellen (Mar 08, 2018) The White House is already bungling its meeting about video games and violence. Mashable. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  11. IGN. (Mar 8, 2018) Watch President Trump's Violence in Video Games Highlight Reel. YouTube. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  12. Griffin, Andrew. (August 5, 2019). Trump to launch crackdown on violent video games after mass shootings. The Independent. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3
  14. Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry: 2012, Entertainment Software Association
  15. Video game industry haunted by lack of female characters: Technical issues, lack of female gamers blamed (Jun 19, 2014 11:08 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 19, 2014 11:13 AM ET) CBC.
  16. Online culture can be toxic. These women gamers are fighting back.
  17. Intersecting Oppressions And Online Communities: Examining the experiences of women of color in Xbox Live by Kishonna L. Gray (2012) Information, Communication & Society 15(3):411-428.
  18. Flash Game Makes Players Beat Up 'Tropes vs Women' Creator by John Funk (6 July 2012 11:35 am) The Escapist.
  19. XBox Girls Get Revenge by CollegeHumor (Sep 8, 2010) YouTube.
  20. Survey: poor work conditions and sexism give games industry a bad rap by Tracey Lien (Jun 24, 2014, 12:00pm EDT) Polygon.
  21. Women in Games by Gabe Newell (July 10, 2014) Imagur (archived from June 10, 2015).
  22. Is pervasive sexism holding the professional fighting game community back? Sexually charged language toward a female competitor at the Capcom-sponsored, … by Kyle Orland (2/29/2012, 10:26 AM) Ars Technica.
  23. The Effects of Video Games on Sexism Attitudes in Males by Troy Deskins (2015)
  28. Men who harass women online are quite literally losers, new study finds by Caitlin Dewey (July 20, 2015) The Washington Post.
  30. Chalk, Andy (November 6, 2018) Riot Games sued for gender discrimination. PC Gamer. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  32. How Far Cry 3's "Dude Bro" Led to Changes in Far Cry 4: Creating the "anecdote factory" by Laura Parker (July 18, 2014 at 2:05PM) Game Spot.
  34. Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games by Vit Sisler (2008) European Journal of Cultural Studies 11(2):203-220.
  35. Hispanics and Blacks Missing in Gaming Industry by Damon Packwood (Sep 13, 2011) New America Media.
  36. Video games’ race problem goes all the way to the top: What we really need to fix is an insular industry, and a gaming culture that punishes people for bringing up race by Sidney Fussell (Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 5:57 PM UTC) Salon.
  37. BioWare on Racial Diversity in Dragon Age 2 by Cuppycake (Jan 5, 2011) The Border House.
  38. Can Video Games Curb Racism? by Jeremy Hsu (October 24, 2014 11:16 am) Discover Magazine.
  39. Video Games And Motion Sickness
  40. Office Chair, Posture, and Driving Ergonomics
  41. Interactive video games can cause a broad range of injuries, Science Daily
  42. Researchers: Video games hurt brain development, CNET
  43. Computer games 'cause brain damage', CNN
  44. Video Game Brain Damage Claim Criticised, New Scientist
  45. Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills, NPR
  46. How video gaming can be beneficial for the brain, Max Planck Institute
  47. How Every Awful Video Game Thing Was Born
  48. Inside the Epic Online Space Battle That Cost Gamers $300,000, Wired (Though this was probably worth it.)
  49. Jail for couple whose baby died while they raised online child, CNN
  50. What makes video games addictive?, The Economist
  51. My favourite waste of time: why Candy Crush and Angry Birds are so compulsive, The Guardian
  61. 61.0 61.1
  67. Hernandez, Patricia (7 May 2019). "Fortnite is free, but kids are getting bullied into spending money" (in en).