Can Video Games Help Kids Read Classic Books?

Can Video Games Help Kids Read Classic Books?

Probably not, but the people at Amplify have invested a pretty penny in the hope that they can! This article was posted today on USAToday and it asks the question whether video games can motivate kids to read classic books like Alice and Wonderland or Frankenstein. Evidently, kids aren’t reading the classics anymore and are instead off listening to their rap music, playing a shim sham, or twirling a tire (Or whatever kids do).

At risk, my friends, is our future. I don’t think I have to tell you, but if kids don’t read the classics then our society will fall into a hellish landscape of deviancy and  stupidity. At first it’s the classics they don’t read, then its your Miranda rights, and lastly it’s the label on the bottle of poison that says “do not drink”. Anarchy and hellfire will take hold and WE’LL ALL BE DOOMED because the kids didn’t read Moby Dick.

Games like “Alice: Madness Returns” have already attempted to make learning the tales of classic games fun, by making them exceedingly violent and full of hacking and slashing

That of course is the most likeliest of outcomes. To offset this inevitable demise, Amplify has created “Lexica”, which the article describes as:

massive role-playing game for young teens that invites them to interact with characters from great novels and read the books outside of class if they want to get ahead in the game

Sounds riveting. The game’s world is apparently one in which the worlds books are being safeguarded from the dullards of the world so that no one can read them. Characters from the classics book escape from the books to seek help and seek out players to read them. Literary types are the most needy. It’s then up to players to assist the characters by reading books outside of the game. Players will be reward with in game rewards such as abilities and items. Sounds like a novel idea (HA HA!), but what’s going to motive these kids to play this game?

“The Evil Empire, as it were, believes that you’re not smart enough and you’re not good enough,” he says. “You’re certainly not good enough to write something yourself, because only great writers can be the ones who create books. And, in fact, you probably shouldn’t even be reading these things, because you’re not smart enough.”

Oh. The game actively tells you that you’re not good enough, and that’s supposed to motivate kids to prove them wrong. What about the kids that don’t? They’ll just be defeated and forever cast into a life of stupidity? Negative reinforcement is the best way to motive kids!

Will this work? I’m skeptical. Lexica certainly wouldn’t be the first educational game designed to teach kids classic literature, in fact there’s been plenty of titles attempting to do so throughout gaming history. What the developers of the game intend to do is make the game apart of school’s curriculum, but if no one adopts the game then it’ll most likely never see the light of day. Teenagers aren’t morons. They’ll know when they’re being tricked into reading books, and they don’t need video games to persuade them to do so.  The bigger question is “Is there a need?” Every generation worries that the next is lacking skills or knowledge that they hold dear, but it’s never really the case. TV was marked as an indicator that kids would eventually lose interest in reading and that our kids were in trouble. It didn’t stop kids from reading, and neither will video games.

Sony’s Wonderbook hoped to make reading fun! It flopped!

“The main educational goal is to get kids to be doing more reading of an ambitious sort outside the classroom. Kids today probably read more words than ever before, but they’re tweets or text messages from each other. This is to try to get them to do something which they’re not doing as part of their daily habits, which is reading books of a reasonably ambitious sort.”

Or to sell more tablets. While Amplify seems pretty noble in their journey to save the classic for kids, they’re really just pushing software and products. The article goes on to tell about Amplify’s new tablet that they have just released for a cheap $349 with a two year subscription. Certainly, if they were more motivated by teaching kids the classics they wouldn’t make their program for a tablet that is overpriced to only the most affluent of families.

What this article really gets at is that video games are increasingly being used as tools of education and socialization. They’re teaching our kids and engaging them in ways that weren’t before possible. While it’s unclear weather games like Lexica are the future of this socialization and education through video games is unclear, but certainly they’re a stab at it.

But maybe I’m too pessimistic. Maybe we should be looking to video games to help educating our kids. I had educational video games that I played when I was younger, and my favorite part of computer class was playing Sticky Bear, but I don’t know how much they really aided in my education. That said, video games in general probably did help me develop essential reading skills when I was a kid. Games that were text heavy like Legend of Zelda or Pokemon probably further developed my reading and comprehension skills, and today’s youth certainly seem to have a thing for playing tablet games at a young age, so perhaps it’s not so farfetched. However, I just highly doubt we’ll look back on Lexica as a tool of education that turned thousands of kids onto classic literature. Prove me wrong Amplify.

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Animal Crossing: Life Lessons

I’ve been playing a lot of animal crossing. I mean, more than is healthy to play. Something about being in debt to a raccoon just seems so much more fun than being in debt to a university. During one particular long play session reality and the game began to blend into one; no longer could I tell if it was my soulless eyed character or I who was selling butterflies to a poodle and writing berating letters to a cat for constantly asking me to do trivial chores. It was then that I took an unbridled look at the world of Animal crossing; I saw it for what it was, and how it compared to the dull world that I actually inhabited. Upon waking from my haze a day had passed and I found myself in a dog kennel requesting a haircut and a song. I quickly raced home to transcribe what I had learned from the experience, and so this is what I bring to you today: Life lessons from Animal Crossing.

animal_crossing_new_leaf_box_art_north_america

DEBT MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

The first thing you learn upon entering the animal crossing world is that nothing comes for free. Before you have time to ask the questions “Where am I?”, “Why did I come to this place with absolutely no money and motive?” and ‘WHERE IS MY SOUL!?” you’re immediately thrust into a contract with one Tom Nook. You better get used to this Raccoon, because he owns you. Everything you do in your town goes through the Nook family (So much for being Mayor). If the above box art wanted to be anymore accurate to the game, there would be a large translucent Tom Nook in the sky laughing manically while looking down upon the town that crumbles at his whim.  Tom Nook has what you need: somewhere to live and the tools required to live. He starts small of course, giving you a measly single room home with room for little more than a bed and a light, but he plays on your own greed, roping you into contracts for bigger and grander houses until you’re his slave. It’s then that your  play time is consumed by fishing and bug catching just to pay back your immense debt to the Nook family.

This sound silly, but that is animal crossing in a nutshell: a cutesy debt simulator fueled by the labor of fishing. If you had to learn one lesson from Animal Crossing it’s that life is about owing others. But hey, that’s not a bad lessons to learn, especially if you’re young. Animal Crossing in some ways teaches fiscal responsibility to children. While Bells are certainly easier to come by than dollars, at least Animal Crossing is teaching kids that they’ll have to work for their money. Is it instilling a strong work ethic? No, probably not, but at least it’s an ethic. It’s only if we start seeing the next generation of kids become really into pawning anything and everything that we should  be concerned.

WANT BIGGER AND BETTER

Of course Animal Crossing also plays on the heart of capitalism, acquiring more wealth and possessions, but it’s all so adorable and silly that you forget that you’re essentially doing what you’re doing in the real world (Most likely minus the fishing). Multiple stores, new items everyday, and a year wide system of changing aspects makes your town an ever changing world, so it’s inevitable that you’re house’s design will go through multiple make overs. Making your house bigger and better is the essential goal of Animal Crossing, and with the addition of wi-fi play you’re no longer doing it for yourself. You can visit and compete with players around the world to see who has the most elaborate and coolest towns.  The most recent title, New Leaf, even lets you live out the fantasy of being a looter in someone’s town. That said, it’s fun. Unlike in the real world, Animal Crossing has a lot more immediate gratification than the real world- You like that cactus with a happy face but don’t have the Bells to buy it? Go fish for 20 minutes. It takes all the mundane parts of accumulation speeds them up and makes them less boring.

You can also be somewhat charitable in the world of animal crossing by donating items to your local museum, but the Owl who runs it is an ingrate who sleeps all day.

Kindness is Key

Although you have ulterior motives in your town, the game very much rewards kindness. Whether your helping out your neighbor by finding him a peach or making your town’s satisfaction higher by composing a new town melody, a big theme in the game is to make others happy. It shows, as the world of Animal crossing is a harmonious world where all types of animals live together under one town. The alligator resident isn’t ripping into the cat resident and there are no major fights over property: it’s a nice world. These acts of kindness make for a good lesson: be nice and play nice, and maybe you’ll be rewarded. Sure, you can also be a terrible villager and axe all of the trees and let your town go to ruin, but that would make for a pretty dull gameplay experience.

However, we don’t know much about what goes on beyond the walls of your town. Perhaps constant war? Famine and disease? Maybe your town is a controlled society in a larger world devastated by war? For more conspiracies about the Animal Crossing world, please read my book “Animal Crossing: The Lies of Tom Nook”.

Other quick lessons:

  • The land provides, and what the land provides will make bank.
  • Animals are sometimes really petty.
  • Not Saving is like committing an unspeakable crime.
  • New fossils appear in the ground every day.
  • Animals are living breathing things that should be treated as such. Not bugs or fish though; capture them and put them in cages.
  • Fishing is the most valuable skill ever.

So there you have it, some life lessons from the world of Animal Crossing. Take them as you like, whether its to your normal life or to your life in your Animal Crossing town. Perhaps one day, when games and virtual reality become one,  we’ll be able to owe Tom Nook huge amounts of money for real. Wouldn’t that be paradise….

Study Shows Parents Are More Positive about Media Use, But Not Video Games

Study Shows Parents Are More Positive about Media Use, But Not Video Games

Northwestern University published this report last about parents’ attitudes towards media use for their children. Exciting stuff! Well, maybe not so. However, it’s worth a read because the study finds shows some interesting insights about changing attitudes towards media.

“hehe! We were told to each wear a different bright color!”

tl dr: The study finds that today’s parents have much more positive attitudes about allowing their kids to consume media than in past years. A majority of parents are not weary of letting their children consume most types of media, as they’re not worried that their kids will become addicted and have to spend their lives as circus folks ( I may be assuming the latter).

With the exception of video games, parents think more positively than negatively about the impact of media (including TV, computers and mobile devices) on children’s reading and math skills, and their creativity.

Math skills are a stretch, but this fact shows an interesting trend: today’s parents, who grew up with computers, TV and other forms of media are less weary of these mediums because of it. What didn’t get them won’t get their kids, right? Meh. That said, the study still finds that traditional forms of family activities still reign predominant in most house holds. Also, interestingly the number of households the article deem ” Media centric” and Media Moderate” is considerably higher than those deemed “Media-light” (Media-Light sounds like a milk substitute). What this could mean is that, while parents may say traditional forms of family bonding are at the heart of their family activities, it could very well be that media plays a far bigger role than they would like admit.

However, what is most relevant about this study to sociology and video games is that parents, despite this positive trend towards media, are still relatively negative about video game use for this kids.

Parents view video games more negatively than TV, computers or mobile devices. Parents rated video games as more likely to have a negative effect on children’s academic skills, attention span, creativity, social skills, behavior and sleep than any other medium.

Peachy. The study doesn’t say if this is a improvement upon previous studies or not, but we’ll just focus on this negativity. The concerns come mostly from parents worrying that video games will effect their children’s physical activity, though that seemingly isn’t a concern for the other forms of media (Surfing the net sounds physical!). These are valid concerns, granted, but should we be more weary of video games than other forms of media on our kids physical activity? Probably not, but it’s an easy target. Likewise, concerns of effects on academic skills, creativity, and attention span are questionable in comparison to other media. With such an array of video games out there, and especially with the amount of video games being created to push creativity and education in young children, it’s hard for me to believe that video games are more destructive to a children’s attention span, intelligence, and creativity than television or the computer.

If video games are to become more widely accepted as tools of socialization, parents needs to be aware of their values and the options they offer. With research and proper insight, parents can choose video games that promote health values in children. Not all children games are angry birds (I loathe Angry birds) or run of the mill cartoon tie ins, so games challenge kids to think out side of the box and inspire them to be more creative. Being a product of growing up with video games myself, I honestly believe games made me more creative and analytical. Games like Zelda taught me to examine my surroundings and think beyond what I can see, while games like Mario Paint inspired me to be more creative than I could be with mere paper and pen. …And Duck Hunt taught me hunt duck, but that’s besides the point. The point is, video games aren’t the menace they’re often made out to be. Like TV and other forms of media, what you get out of a video game comes down to your selection.

Lastly, the study was of 2300 parents. That’s a decent sample size, but it’s not huge. As a result, we have to question whether this represents parents as whole. Likewise, the study did not say how their results were gathered or how they chose their sample size; all good questions to ask if we’re choosing this study to represent a population.

 

Lessons from the Social World: Mega Man

In light of Mega Man joining the roster of Super Smash Brothers, why don’t we take a dive in to looking at what Mega Man, the blue bomber, has to say about the social world:

Shootin’ and stealin’ all day

Before I start, let’s get it out in the open. I’m a big Mega Man fan, and not only of the good series like Classic and Legends, but the crappy ones too like Starforce! But it’s not just me, with the series spanning over 25 years Mega Man has been an influence on an  entire generations of kids and gamers. For the sake of this article, I’m going to be focusing on the original 2 series (X and Classic), but so much could be said about the oddities of some of the other series.

So what this little guy teaching us?

INDUSTRY!

Rock is a man of industry, and I’m not just speaking to the fact that he’s a robot. If you look at the original Mega Man games, what’s Mega Man doing besides going around, dominating an industry and then using its resources to dominate others? Nothing. He’s arguably the most capitalist character out there. I mean, the guy steals the bosses weapons and then uses the same weapon against another boss- what a cut throat bastard! Really, Mega Man is the industrial leader: he dominates industries one by one with an iron fist (Metal, same difference) until he’s has defeated (or owns) them all. Now, of course not many kids are going to be playing Mega Man and gradually learning lessons about cut throat business tactics, but the series certainly has a capitalistic spin on it. Time and time again Dr. Wily tries to make a product that can best Dr. Light’s finest product, but of course time and time again he fails. Of course, we’re led to believe that’s because Mega Man is fighting for the common good and Wily is only fighting for evil, but certainly Mega Man is quality product. Like Astroboy, (Who Mega Man is undeniably inspired by, and the original game started as an Astroboy game) Mega Man is fighting on the behalf of humans against the evils of the world and that’s not such a bad storyline for kids to follow.

Of course, later on the X series is more murky and robots have kind of taken over.. and they bleed. and it’s scary.

THE WOES OF INDUSTRIALIZATION

“DON’T DO IT MEGA! YOU CAN’T SERVE TIME AGAIN!”

All of the MegaMan franchises take place in future where robots co-exist with humans, but the brunt of the problems  come from robots rebelling and doing harm to humans. In the originals there’s still a human at the helm, but further along in the series the robots are self-aware enough to know what they’re doing. “Going Maverick”, as the X series describe, is rebelling against their human creators. In fact, one of the series main characters, Zero, is supposed to be a robot who has led a massacre against humans and robots alike. So.. it’s pretty much a dystopian future. The key problem in the series is excess and overpowerful machines; fear of technology. Now of course, that seems cyclical as the series protagonist and antagonist are both machines (industry vs industry), but it seems apparent that the series is warning against technology becoming over powered and over used. Of course, that’s probably not a true concern of Capcom, developer of video games…but it works for the series. Of course, it also wouldn’t be the only franchise to put up technology and industrialization as a key problem in the gaming world (We’ll talk about Sonic at some point…). That said, it’s not really a bad subject to instill in kids. To question and value technology is something that we should all do, less we become brainwashed and over saturated. Mega Man lets us take a look at what technology is really doing for us, and where it’s going.

But really, the game just teaches you not eff with robots.

The world is your Oyster: Use it.

As I mentioned before, Mega Man is just a dirty rotten stealer. No, really. He comes to your house, destroys your friends and pets (who happen to drop pictures of his face, clearly meaning they’re fans of his), shoots you, and then steals your greatest attribute to then use to burglarize other people’s homes. He’s terrible. But what’s all of this home invasion really telling us? Mega Man, like many games, is teaching us that we should to be the best. How do we become the best? By defeating others and using whatever skills necessary. Healthy competition, eh? But really it’s not so sinister, learning from battles and learning from your mistakes is a big part of the franchise. The classic games themselves were the epitome of the try-again gameplay in which gamers learned from their mistakes after mercilessly dying many times. That’s a healthy thing to learn: not all things all easy, but if you stick to them and keep at it you’ll eventually prevail (Unless there’s disappearing blocks, then you’ll just go insane). Likewise, the franchise teaches us that you may not always start out being the best or being the strongest, but if you work towards it you can improve yourself by learning from your encounters and using what you’ve learned in the future.

In the end, good prevails and evil will be fought back. That’s kind of nice, right?

Other Quick Lessons:

  • The prison system sucks and is not robot proof.
  • Most robots are men, and the only female ones have to stay at home.
  • No matter how many times you die you can always be rebuilt.
  • Viruses make robots go insane and murder.
  • Beware of your Roomba
  • Scientists are the real global threat.
  • A gun is all you need. A gun that steals others guns.

So that’s all. I hope you enjoyed this ridiculous impromptu look at the Mega Man franchise. They really are great games that all should play, especially the originals and Legends franchise. If you enjoy these looks at classic franchises in this manner, please let me know and I’ll continue doing them.

Until next time, I’m just excited for Mega Man in Smash.

Video Games Causing Divorces – Why We Shouldn’ t Care

Huffington Post posted this article this week:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/divorce-cause-video-game-_n_3349048.html

They finally did. Those god damn monsters video games have finally found a way to break the holy matrimony of marriage. Bastards.

These stock models have clearly never played a video game before.

The article tells a story of a Chinese couple who has filed for divorce after video games ruined their marriage.

Wang Juan petitioned the Chinese courts for a divorce from her husband, 25-year-old Zhang Ping, for neglecting his household chores and playing video games instead.

A 25 year neglecting household chores because he wants to play video games? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NINTENDO!? But this isn’t an isolated case, as a 2011 report claims that 15% of divorces are attributed to problems caused by video games. So what does this mean? That the Wii in the next room is maneuvering to replace your wife? That Princess Peach and Cooking Momma will soon be the only women in your life?

Should we be worried? Should we throw out all of our video games and just have couples stare at each other for hours, secretly resenting each other for throwing out the video games? No. We shouldn’t care.

Who am I to claim we shouldn’t care (15 IS A BIG NUMBER BRO)? Excess video game playing can’t be the cause, it’s only a symptom.  Lazy or inattentive spouses aren’t a result of the products they use, but are a result of being lazy and inattentive people. With 50 % of all US Marriages ending in divorce, it’s  hard for me to believe that so many are divorcing over video games. In fact, studies about why marriages fail tend to counteract this 15% of video game break ups. Similarly, “video games” as a response can fall into varying categories of much more overarching problems in relationships, such as lack of equality. If we use the 25-year-old Zhang Ping as an example, his marriage didn’t end because he was playing video games, it ended because he wasn’t holding up his side of the marriage. If he wasn’t playing video games  chances are he’d be watching TV or out of the house also not doing his chores.

Playing video games  isn’t going to end your marriage, make you anti-social, or kill your gold fish- video games are merely outlets for other problems (see the concern over violent video games). In many ways video games are even healthy for individuals to play as they act as stress relievers and challenge you to think in ways you wouldn’t necessarily think in your normal life.

So maybe don’t fret if you’re a gamer about to enter a potential lasting relationship. Just don’t be a moron, and you’ll be fine. Then again, isn’t that sage advice for all aspects of life?

Can Video Games Alleviate LGBT Anti-Bullying?

Can Video Games Alleviate LGBT Anti-Bullying?

Short answer: Kind of, but not quite.

This article explores how video games may be a “cure” anti-LBGT bullying. It questions whether video games as stress relievers can have help bullied LBGT gamers cope. That’s..kind of a claim?  The article ties stress relief as an method for coping with bullying, but I have to ask: isn’t that only treating the symptoms?

But don’t take it from me:

“I have been bullied quite a bit up until I reached the end of high school,” says Matt Conn, cofounder of Gaymer X, an LBGT gaming conference happening this August in San Francisco. “I wished I could have just been myself and honest about being a queer geek. … Games were my only escape for me. They allowed me to live in another world … having a team with me as we stormed Booster’s Castle in Super Mario RPG or defeating the evil Porky in Earthbound … really was magical.”

Video games certainly have stress relieving qualities (Have you played Flowers? SERENITY), and wanting to get into another state of mind is certainly a viable option for anyone having a hard day.

thheee sttressss juussssttt meeellltttssss

But I have to ask: Are video games any more stress relieving than other mediums? Books? Tv? The internet? The article isn’t claiming they are, but it’s not asking the question either. In fact, as the article points out video game communities and multiplayer games are often riddled with homophobic comments and bullying as well. These certainly aren’t issues in the other mediums mentioned, or at least not as prevalent.

Likewise, the article questions if video games can “cure” Anti-Bullying without really talking about changing the mindset of those doing the bullying. That’s….hard to do. But that’s not to subtract from what they do: Video games allow for LBGT youths to escape for a moment, and that’s certainly something positive.

With   number of LBGT gamers  in the video game community making a place for themselves more and more LBGT youths have outlets to be and express themselves on the internet and in games. In time, perhaps Video games may be able to change the mindset of people taking part in bullying of LGBT, but unfortunately it’s a slow uphill march towards acceptance.

Lessons on the Social World: Pokemon

“I want to be the very best, that no one ever was!”

It’s not all links and sadness here at the Sociology of Video Games, there’s also deep personal analysis about what Pokemon means to me. No, that’s not true either. However, I did think it would be fun and worthwhile to take the opportunity to examine some popular video game franchises for their messages about the social world. What better place to start than 2nd most popular gaming franchise of all time: Little Masters.

..No, wait. Sorry. That’s the Iphone’s bastard ripoff. I mean of course:


Pokemon is by far one of the definitive games of the 90s, with it being one of the best selling and most popular franchises of all time. 15 years (That makes me feel old) later and the franchise is still white hot, like that Misty’s Sweet short shorts (or Brocks..awesome vest. For the ladies..). For any kid growing up in the last decade, Pokemon may have played an important part in developing their frame of mind when viewing various aspects of the social world. But what are these messages and lessons about social world that Pokemon is teaching our kids? Are they good messages? Is pokemon only teaching our kids to trap animals in balls, and only let them out once and awhile to fight other animals? This isn’t a PETA analysis of Pokemon, but let’s play: Here are some themes and concepts Pokemon is teaching kids all over the world.

Capitalism!

images

One of the more predominant themes that seem to be underlying the Pokemon is Capitalism. Now obviously the game isn’t teaching kids to accumulate wealth (Though there’s a lot of exchange of cash for kids battling bugs in the forest), but the goal of the Pokemon world isn’t that far from the goal of capitalism: Be the best, have the most.  Now, one could theoretically go through the game without acquiring a lot of pokemon, but the game inevitably pushes you to catch multiple pokemon to succeed. That’s not a bad message, as it certainly teaches kids to be fiscally motivated (An issue we saw was lacking in games aimed at female gamers: See below)), but it also makes living creatures essentially into commodities. So..That’s bad. Not to mention you’re essentially an intern for Professor Oak; doing all his work for him while you get paid peanuts.

But like Capitalism, there’s never an end accumulation. With new games come new pokemon and the world is seemingly always expanding. Can one really catch them all? Yes…until there’s more. Gamefreak is teaching us to never be satisfied with what you’ve caught. Being Goal oriented isn’t bad though…most of the time.

Once you start thinking of monetary values in Pokemon, you probably will need to take a break from the franchise.

Competition!

“I came when I heard you defeated The Elite Four” – Professor Oak

Like the theme that I still hum to myself to get me pumped up for any event ever, the goal of pokemon is to be the very best. Pokemon is all about competition. Every battle is teaching kids to outwit, overpower, and outdo their opponents. There can only be one pokemon master and if you’re not him or her, ya suck.

There’s not much you do in the Pokemon world that isn’t a means to an end: You raise a pokemon for it to be stronger, you trade with your friends to acquire what you need, and battling is the only worthwhile way to be the best. But hey, that’s not necessarily bad- some competition is healthy, and games like Pokemon build confidence and challenge kids to think about their actions. Kids today can become in powered by video games; if you’re the pokemon master in the Pokemon world, adding and subtracting fractions aint shit.

Social Stratification!

Ok. Ok. You may think is stupid, but Pokemon certainly has a caste system. Not all Pokemon are created equal my friend. In a world filled with thousands of Pidgeys and only a handful of Zapdos, there clearly some Pokemon that are better than others. Now some might argue with me and say “IT’S HOW U TRAIN THEM. MY LEVEL 100 PIDGEY IS THE BEST”, and I’m not going to pretend to know the stat balancing factors in the games, but it’s pretty clear that some pokemon are overpowered. In fact, most multiplayer/tournament rules prohibit certain Pokemon from being used because they are considered overpowered.  Yes, it’s silly: Any video game you play will have some characters that are stronger than others, but does that lessen the message at all? Who knows. But certainly the game makes kids think of classifications and place certain pokemon in classes accordingly: These pokemon are strong, these are weak. Likewise, the very nature of game classifies pokemon into types- Fire, water, dragon, bug, etc. But hey, classifications help children learn, so it’s not all that bad.

It’s only when you start making Pokemon HM Slaves that you’re crossing the line and making a pokemon a second class citizen.

You Gotta be Social!

tradin’ jigglypuffs n shit

Pokemon was created to be a social game, even back when the gameboy wasn’t the most social things. Most gameboy connector cables were bought specifically for Pokemon, in fact how many mulitplayer games on the gameboy can you even think of? Yeah, ok I can think of quite a few. That said, Pokemon makes you be social, because without being social you can’t fulfill the one main task of the game: catching them all. Version exclusive pokemon and Pokemon that only were available through trading ensured that you were interacting with at least one other game. Gamefreak brilliantly made two versions of the game so that players had to either own both, or trade with someone else. Even if you owned both versions of the game (Which many of us did) you still had to have two gameboys to connect (which many of us did), so really the most efficient and cost effective way to obtain all the pokemon is to have friends. Recent Pokemon games have enabled players to go online and trade, battle, and interact with people all over the world, so Pokemon has really become a global community.

Why there hasn’t been a Pokemon MMO is ridiculous. Nintendo, you monsters. (Official MMOs. Sorry fan mades)

Other Quick Social lessons Pokemon has to Teach

  • All Animals, regardless of power, control over time and space, or size, can be shoved into a single ball after a series of attacks and coaxing.
  • We should probably check other parts of the world before we claim there’s only 151 of them.
  • Some animals are more racially insensitive than others
  • As a child, you’re very safe going out into the world on your own as long as you have some sort of animal at your side.
  • Don’t ever walk into tall grass. Things will attack you.
  • If someone attacks you and beats you, you’ll just black out and wind up in a hospital in the last city you visited.
  • Healthcare is free, but bottled waters are wicked expensive.
  • The world is kind of based on you, and people will more or less stand in the same place forever- even after you have interacted with them.
  • Sailing alongside islands makes crazy things happen.

So that’s that. There’s more Pokemon has to say about the social world, but I’ll leave it at this. Does Pokemon actually convey these messages that I brought up? Maybe, but no one is really being shaped all that much by the games in the manner. In the end, they’re just fun games with tons of replay value and things to do. Just make sure your starters a good one. Charmander for life.

Please let me know if you enjoyed this article by either liking, sharing or commenting. I may do some more in the future. Who knows. Who cares.

Female Employee Calls out Game Developer Boss’ Sexism with Awesome Prank

Female Employee Calls out Game Developer Boss’ Sexism with Awesome Prank

This is just a bit of great and funny news. A post that originated on “The Hawkeye Initiative”(which if you haven’t already gone and checked out you should do immediately) from a anonymous female employee of a gaming developer that was unhappy with a prominently displayed poster in their office shows how bringing to light issues of sexism can both be positive and fun (YEAH  TALKING ABOUT SEXISM IS GREAT!).

The poster in question:

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Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.

To give a little background, the “Hawkeye Initiative” is a an internet movement to replace female comic book characters in impossible or provocative  poses with the very masculine and alluring Hawkeye to comment on the depiction and representation of females in comic books. Essentially, they’re taking Powergirl’s skimpy poses and replacing them with bulging Hawkeye (Oh my!)

Thus, in keeping with the Hawkeye Initiative’s message, the employee got together with one of the developer’s artists and made this poster:

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After replacing the posters, the CEO of the company had this to say to the employee:

“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”

Hey, that worked out. That was nice. The mastermind of this all also shared some insightful things that she learned from this experience:

This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:

  1. Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.
  2. And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.

We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.

So what does this teach us? Nothing? That we should replace pictures of things we dislike with things we like? It just goes to show that Sexism doesn’t have to be a silently fought issue. While no one is suggesting that all bosses/ceos/ people in charge are going to react like this great boss, one has avenues to breach these matters. And it’s true, the gaming industry is filled with more progressive minded individuals than you would think, so perhaps it’s time for men in the gaming industry to wise up a little more to the junk that their female co-workers have to deal with.

Should we have a Hawkeye initiative for the video game industry? Nathan Drake taking on the poses of Lara Croft per chance? Ryu striking the same poses of his female counterparts? As I type this, I wish I had the drawing ability to make these so.

How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

(Caution, main picture on the article is a little on the NSFW side)

Here’s an article that was posted on the NYTimes Live site. To be honest, it’s not the greatest article, but it brings about a good point and is worth questioning. The author’s main argument is that objectification in video games is hurting games and the industry. I this true? Is he wrong? Should we care? Are there any horse socks? Is anyone even listening?

The author contends that female characters are typically objectified to the point of them being nothing more than objects to save; the quest isn’t about saving an individual, it’s about retrieving an object.The article uses the example of Princess Peach to exemplify this objectification, not as a object of of sex appeal, but as a character who represents the nothingness of many created female characters. It’s true, what do we know about Peach besides the fact that she gets kidnapped a lot, likes to bake cakes, and is occasionally not in the castle she’s supposed to be in? Then again, Mario Characters (Or even Nintendo characters in general) probably aren’t the best example of fleshed out characters. But it’s true, a lot of female characters in video games tend to be fairly one dimensional (NOT 2D EVEN. HARDY HAR HAR) and stereotype based. You needn’t look further than most Japanese RPGs to prove this. Without  a doubt, these one-sided characters are hurting the representation of females in gaming, and not providing accurate role models and representations to gamers, but that’s not really the point the author is making.

The author is making the argument that this objectification of females in gaming is hurting developers where they care the most: the wallet.

We see a cover with a woman dressed in something that would give a stripper doubts, we automatically think “well that’s probably crap” and don’t buy it. This is a fairly big chunk of how women are portrayed on game covers, so publishers look at it and think the problem is women, not the portrayal of women.

HEY, THANKS FOR THAT QUOTE. Is this true of most gamers? I don’t I think it is. If we’ve learned anything from the media, it’s that sex sells. Would Dead Or Alive be as popular of a franchise without the complete objectification of women? Probably not. Hell, there’s even complete MMOs out there that were created on the idea “LET’S MAKE AN GAME WITH A BUNCH OF NAKED CHICKS”. Likewise, with a good portion of the gaming populace being teenage boys, it’s hard not to say that this gaming philosophy is working.

Speaking for myself, I agree with the author: games with large amount of “boob exposure” on the cover typically sway me away from looking further into them. Take Lollipop Chainsaw for example- a over the top, over-sexualized, ridiculous hack-in-slash that supposed to be decent

I will happily buy a game with such bad box art. I mean, sexiness aside, it’s still really ugly. Needless to say, not all games have women sexualized to this degree, and the game itself is a tad bit of a parody. However most gamers won’t know that, but will that sway them not buying the game? That wasn’t really the issue with this particular game, but it’s debatable.

So what should be done? Should sex appeal be removed from games all together? No. I wouldn’t say that. It has it’s place. Done correctly, a game that deals with themes of sexuality and objectification can actually be great.

Take for example Catherine on the PS3/360, a game where the cheating main character must make a decision between choosing his long term, less exciting girlfriend, or a very sexualized younger girl he has a one night stand with. Amongst many other themes, the game deals with subjects of infidelity, relationships, and objectification.It does it with great storytelling, consequences for your action, and interesting perspectives.

 

Unfortunately most games aren’t Catherine, and most developers are content with merely painting one dimensional characters with little remorse for the consequences. This isn’t an issue with female characters only, we should be asking more from our developers out of characters in general. Deeper characters = deeper experiences. That said, we should also be weary of games that are simply using sex to sell us a product.

So whether you agree with the author or not about whether objectification is hurting gaming developers, it certainly remains an issue in gaming and media in general.

 

Nintendo Patching Gay Marriage “Bug” in Popular Japanese Game

Nintendo Patching Gay Marriage “Bug” in Popular Japanese Game

Oh boy. This is a strange one. This week Nintendo released a patch for their popular life simulator 3DS title “Tomodachi Collection” that fixes  bug that allows for same-sex relationships. Tomodachi is a Japanese life simulator title for the 3DS in which players can use their Wii/3DS Created Miis to interact, fall in love, and socialize with other characters (Think Animal Crossing or the Sims). The patch supposedly fixes a bug in the game that allows for two male Miis to fall in love, get married, and even have kids. I use the word bug, because it seems that Nintendo did not initially intend for same-sex couples in this game at all ( In fact, the bug does not work for 2 female Miis). The bug only works when a Mii is transferred over using the 3DS’ Mii Transfer system.

It’s only strange if you haven’t seen the movie “Junior”

The patch, according to Nintendo, fixes “Human relations that become strange”. What Nintendo deems strange is unknown, as there’s plenty of relationships that become strange without having anything to do with same-sex coupling (It’s highly unlikely that the game will fix the hundreds of Hitler Miis out there hooking up with Miis of elderly women).

So we have to ask the question: Is patching the game to not allow same-sex relationships the right thing to do? It’s a tough one, especially for Nintendo. Tomodachi Collection wouldn’t be the first life simulator to allow for same-sex relationships, as games like “The Sims” have already allowed for Same-sex sims to fall in love, get married, and even do the nasty together. That said, Tomodachi Collection is a game primarily aimed at kids (Although it’s odd that a life simulator is aimed at a group of people whom, you know, just started life) and having two males conceive a baby together is less than natural (Granted, no more odd than consuming a leaf and turning into a raccoon that can fly). Although one could make the argument that they could simply fix the males getting pregnant aspect and not the relationship aspect. But should they? Nintendo never intended to take a stance on the issue to begin with, and patching the game does not necessarily mean that they are taking a stance. Nintendo isn’t exactly the company you expect to be shaking things up, so it’s only natural for them to be playing it safe with this. Then again, many fans of the game are already disappointed that the game has been patched, eliminating their ability to choose their relationships in the game.

Nintendo is certainly taking the cautious route with this one, but we have to ask: “should our game developers be promoting progressive social issues and social causes?”. Video games are a great tool of socialization, and in making games with progressive social issues is certainly one way of slowing inching towards social change. Perhaps games like Tomodachi Collection can be tools of change.

Then again, Nintendo hasn’t even developed a perfect system for me to play with my friends over the internet, do I really want to them taking the reigns on social issues that don’t have to do with Turtle/lizard creatures being second class citizens? Probably not.