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The never-ending debate whether videogames are good or bad for us has been going on since the beginning of gaming systems becoming a home commodity. Parents of every generation find themselves either against videogames or defending them. This debate is reaching a new height, earning its place in the media and news articles, as the access to many different platforms and games have emerged.
Videogames are a medium, just like painting and music, and as such it can have many ways of changing our views and feelings.
First, it is important to know that there are videogames that are violent and games that are overly violent. In an article by Chris Suellentrop for Kotaku news, a videogame and technology news source, he talks about a game called ‘Plague Inc.”. He titles his report as “Plague Inc. Makes Killing Billions of People Feel Educational” (Suellentrop 1). The game involves playing as a disease with the goal of taking out the entire population. The player must also stop a cure from being created or else the game is over.
The player can upgrade their disease, such as adding weather resistance for it to infect in hot or colder regions faster. It is through this mechanic that makes the game different and Suellentrop states, “…its designer, James Vaughan, has achieved something more remarkable by designing a game that feels both transgressively thrilling and educational”.
The player does not visually see any dead bodies, but instead gets notifications that regions are closing their borders and a death toll counter slowly reaches the population.
The mechanics within the game that allows one virus to prosper in Greenland but not in Mexico due to climate and regional differences expands a player understanding of how real life viruses work. The game became such a hit that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invited James Vaughan to talk him and his staff about the designing of their game.
“Plague Inc.” is not the first game about taking out all of mankind. Games such as “Destroy All Humans” by Pandemic Studios has the goal to kill all humans and is in a third-person perspective of an alien shooting humans. Violence can be too visually violent, but it can be introduced and presented in mild and appropriate ways. In recent events, a game titled “Active Shooter” released onto the digital market. The game is set “…where players could simulate a school shooting” (Molina 1).
No matter the reason of creating this game there is no justification that it should be a game for any audience. The community was not happy with the release of game of that subject. Brett Molina sampled a tweet from Fred Guttenberg, an American activist against gun violence. His tweet read, “I have seen and heard many horrific things over the past few months since my daughter was the victim of a school shooting and is now dead in real life.
This game may be one of the worst” (Molina 2). Whether or not one agrees with Guttenberg is not of importance. What is important is that there is no justification for creating an overly violent game about such an emotional topic. It is not just Fred Guttenberg that is addressing concern in violence in videogames but also President Trump has shared his opinion. Susan Scutti from CNN writes about how Trump blames all media as the reason for violence in children.
In her passage she discusses that although Trump blames violent media as the source of violence in teens and the youth, there are several reasons that disprove his statement. First, a survivor of an actual school shooting, Chris Grady, states that even though he played violent first-person shooter videogames, they didn’t make him want to take someone’s life (Scutti 1). Scutti also points out that a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found, in multiple studies, that violence in media relate to violent actions and thoughts. This includes but is not limited to videogames (2). Scutti also writes that the academy wants parents to take a role in what their children play, and to take up an interest in the games their children play.
Violence in videogames can take many forms and can offer the players a new experience like in “Plague Inc.” or disgust like “Active Shooter”. However, it is through active communities and leading figures that protection of the youth from such violence and properly protect violent videogames. The intended audience isn’t always followed when seeing the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating on a videogame packaging. Many times, new games do not have to get a rating to publish online.
However, distributors such as PlayStation and Xbox (Microsoft) require developers to get an ESRB rating before they allow the game to be sold on their digital markets. They even go as far as denying games with Mature or Adult ratings. Children still manage gain access to content that are above their age group, or that the ESRB finds rated T for Teen or M for Mature. In a news post by Jonathan M. Gitlin, he discusses the results of research that tested to see how many kids are playing violent videogames in the United States.
The study was done using a survey for children from ages 12 to 14 years old. One result stood out the most, “… over 60 percent of boys and girls agreed with the statement ‘I play electronic games because there’s nothing else to do.’” (1). Not only are children playing violent or mature rated games because it is fun, but also because they are left nothing else to do besides that. It is possible some parents have game consoles for their own pleasure which justifies the mature content, but it is also likely that they neglect to keep this content away from their children. Not only are children’s violent patterns at risk but so are their development for academics as well as their wellness.
In a case study by Dr. Marko M. Skoric and their team, Skoric tested to see how videogames affects their mental wellness as well as scholastic achievement. The study was done using 333 students spanning from ages 8 to 12 years old. Skoric used a survey strategy to get information about the student’s addiction to videogames, engagement tendencies, and used test scores in subjects of English, Mathematics, and Science. The results of the experiment returned with multiple conclusions. First, gamers that played on the weekdays had a higher grade in English than those that didn’t however, there was no increase when playing on the weekday for Mathematics and Science scores Secondly, gamers that play on the weekends had no significant correlation with any of the three subjects.
Lastly, gamers that showed addictive tendencies had significantly lower scores in all three subjects (Skoric 569). With the strong correlation between addictive gaming tendencies and poor grades, it is seen how vital it is for children to get a healthy and moderated amount of videogame play time as it has long term effects on them mentally. After hearing about how videogames turn the youth into killers and that it rots children’s minds, it is hard to believe videogames have anything good to offer us.
A psychology study done by Courtney N. Plante and their team researched if videogames used as a coping strategy was a cause for videogame addiction. In the discussion of their research and how it relates to other studies they talk about how videogames used as a form of escaping anxiety or stress are more likely to generate an addiction than those who play and create social or recreational reasons (Plante 9). This result ties well with the news article by Grant Bailey who writes about videogames being a coping strategy for stress.
In Bailey’s article, he tells the reader about a survey that was done for a TV series that showed that videogames that brought players together yielded positive mental benefits. After surveying 1,000 gamers ages 18 to 30 years old, it showed that a player makes on average of three friends either online or in their community (Bailey 2).
It was also found that about 25 percent of the surveyors said they had made more friends through the interest of videogames than another area of their life (Bailey 2). With reward systems in games stimulating the players brain, over a third of the surveyors felt a sense of achievement in them (Bailey 2). Bailey also writes, “Thirty seven percent agree playing a game online with other people has helped to increase their levels of confidence (Bailey 2). Playing videogames with others reaps in positive benefits both as a pastime activity and in developing one’s self in the outside world. Videogames are not limited to just being entertainment but is also able to create major change in the world for the better. In an article by Anna Washenko, she talks about 6 ways videogames are giving back to worthy causes.
One of them is Games Done Quick, a speed running event where gamers use their skills and exploits in games to complete the game in outrageous speeds that the developers never intended. This event is held twice a year and is always changing the charity organization it is partnered with each time. Washenko states that one of the more recent events raised more than $1.2 million dollars for Doctors Without Borders, an independent group of doctors offering their skills and time to areas that need them the most (2).
Another example is Humble Bundle, a site that offers a bundle of digital games where users pay as much as they want for each tier and a portion of their payment goes to the charity for that bundle. With bundles changing constantly for not just videogames but also softwares and eBooks, this site offers many gamers and even others to participate in a worthy donation. Videogames and gamers don’t only bring harm into the world they can bring positive change as well. Videogames have been a large part in my life and it is a goal of mine to code or program for a video game development team one day.
It’s a shame to see kids and adults do harm in the world and how easy it is for society to blame videogames for that harm. It’s also just as easy to blame music and art too, but it is not as easy to write against a person than an inanimate object. I do believe children should be taken away from mature content and that those guidelines are made for that reason. Guidelines are not laws, meaning if a parent thinks their child is ready to play a teen or mature rated game that is their choice, but neglecting a child’s safety is not something people should be blaming on videogames.
Personally, I don’t think I struggle with confidence but gaming with friends, or even co-workers, defiantly lets me redefine myself and allows me to express myself in an environment that feels more comfortable to me. It’s also great looking at Humble Bundle to see what deals they have and knowing that a portion of my purchase is going to charity. Also watching Games Done Quick and hearing the streamer read donations aloud with the user’s comments talking expressing their feelings and how much joy this event brings back to them is inspiring.
There have also been times developers donated in thanks not only for the participant to play their game but to even share their experiences. Videogames to me are like any medium, a singer can sing a sad song, or an artist can paint a joyful drawing, it’s what we take away from the game that makes it harmful or not. A violent game doesn’t mean to bring the violence into the real world but a game about WWII should remind us how tragic it was and how much it destroyed us as a whole world. In the end, videogames have so much to offer me, my peers, and the world that just letting the media and research show how much it harms us is propaganda and it’s up to people to show and defend.
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