It’s been a fun week of demos, conferences, and mostly announcements for First Person Shooters. Between announcing games in which people shoot each others’ heads off, Ubisoft announced the newest entry into their Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game is the first game in the franchise to offer co-op play, allowing up to 4 players at once. That’s all fine and dandy, but fans are disappointed with Ubisoft for something besides them announcing another AC game; fans are upset that the game will feature no playable female characters. Alright, you may be saying “Hey, dingbat. Lots of games don’t feature female characters”, but it’s pretty silly when other games in the franchise have featured playable female characters. With 4 main protagonists in the game, surely they could have put one in.
So what’s Ubisoft gotta say about this lack of gender choices?
“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets…Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.”
DOING THINGS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN IS HARD. I get it, it’s true that having to animate, design, and whatever else a female character would add production time to the game, but really? For a company like Ubisoft, who has been releasing an Assassin’s Creed game almost annually, to play the workload card is a little absurd. How about spacing the games out a little more to add this one customization in? The company went on to explain that designing a female character is increasingly difficult because they don’t have a”female reader for the character” at their disposal, nor do they have “all the animations in place.” A spokemen went on to explain that designing a female character is different from a male one, because they look, act, and walk different. After he said that, the world smallest violin was played for him.
It’s not only fans reacting to the statements of Ubisoft either, as other game developers have added their voice to the subject matter.
Jonathan Cooper of Naught Dog calling them out for being both lazy and…incorrect? This one from Tim Borrelli from 5thcell is in response to female characters looking and acting different.
One last one from industry types (I forget who they are with)
All in all, fans and developers aren’t happy with Ubisofts response and laziness on the matter. Come on Ubi, you’re not an independent developer struggling here; the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a huge one and we expect more out of they. They should probably use some of that Babyz and Dogz money to fix this fiasco, but we probably won’t see that happen. Who knows how this will change future Assassin’s Creed games or ever the upcoming Unity.
For those who subscribe or check in regularly, you may notice the domain has lost the “wordpress” and is not just a .com! Exciting times people. We are now a registered domain! Will the blogs level of terribleness lessen? PROBBBBABBBLLLLYYYY NOOTTTTTTT
The folks over at the Nielsen Report (You know, the people who tell you that your favorite show will probably get canceled) have released their 2014 report on video game consumption. The Nielsen report is more of a general observation on video game consumption that other outlets. For a more detailed look, I recommend checking out the ESA’s 2014 report on video game consumption.
So what do these guys named Niels (I assume everyone that compiles this data is named Niel) have to say about video game consumption?
#1: People are spending more time playing video games!
Up from 2012 and 2011, gamers are putting more hours into gaming each week. This would mean that the average gamer puts a little less than an hour of gaming in a day. Neato. That’s an extra hour of Pokeymans than last year! This increase could very well be due to the increase of popularity in mobile games, which enables players to play on the go.
#2: The number of console gamers who also play on mobiles is increasing!
This isn’t that surprising. As smart-phones and tablets become more and more common place so does the amount of gamers playing games on these devices. You’re not going to not playing games on a mobile device you already have, right? I mean that would be insanity…so of course I will devote days of my life to “Candy Crush” like the electronic heroine that it is.
#3: Mobile Games/Tablets are increasingly growing in the amount of gaming time played!
Although the number of hours spent on gaming is increasing, much of the share of the time is being given to mobile and tablet games. However, console games are still the norm and still make up the majority of gaming time spent. Likewise, newer consoles (Wii U/Xbox One/ PS4) are gradually building audiences while last generation consoles still make up the majority. We’ll probably see this percentages shift in the next two years, but as of this year many gamers have yet to make the jump to next gen.
That’s pretty much all the Niels have to say. Not real revelations, but interesting nonetheless. It’s pretty nifty to see in numbers the increase in popularity that video games are having. As these numbers grow, it becomes increasingly more pertinent that we evaluate all the sociological issues around video games. If only someone would do that…instead of what we’re doing here, which only amounts to nonsense.
NOW ONTO E3 WHERE ALL OF OUR DREAMS AND NIGHTMARE WILL COME TRUE!
A poll coming out of the magazine “Reason”, a libertarianism magazine, finds that there might be a correlation between libertarian beliefs and playing video games. Should gamers be flocking to the polls for Rand Paul, or is this all just bogus. WHO IS TO KNOW, PROBABLY NOT GOVERNMENT.
I won’t delve to much into the poll itself, but the poll was administrated by the magazine to gamers to get their beliefs about fiances and consumerism. The poll found that gamers had leaning towards libertarian beliefs, despite the majority of gamers classifying themselves as liberal.
“If there’s any one trend to take away from a poll looking at gamers it’s that gamers don’t like to be told what to do with their lives,…Again, they may describe themselves as liberal, but they do not like government policies that control individual life choices, like what products they can purchase or consume. Video games are all about making choices, right? That’s one mentality that does carry over in real life.”
Hey, ok. Having not seen the actual poll questions, I can’t comment on how slanted the questions were, but certainly one has to take a poll from a libertarian magazine making claims about libertarianism with a major grain of salt. Saying that this poll may have a political slant is a huge understatement. That said, the claims of “not liking being told what to do” as an indicative of libertarian beliefs in gamers is a little hard to chew. Even the most liberal individual probably won’t say they “like being told what to do” in regards to their consumer habits. That statement is about as libertarian as donkeys (Get it, because…they’re…democratic).
Some of the “libertarian beliefs” gamers have are:
A significantly larger percentage of gamers than non-gamers believed that they should be allowed to buy caffeinated energy drinks, play violent video games, and gamble in online poker games. They also supported legalizing marijuana and 3D printed guns in greater numbers. The biggest difference was gamers’ support for using Bitcoin as a currency. 55 percent of gamers were in favor compared to 30 percent among non-gamers.
I…don’t even know where to pick this apart. It’s pretty silly trying to relate most of these beliefs to a political philosophy , but of course that is what this magazine is trying to do. It would only be more absurd if the claims were “Libertarians drink mountain dew and so do COD gamers! REVELATION!?” Again, having not seen the actual poll itself, I’m only commenting on the purposed results of the poll, but it seems that the magazine is drawing correlation where there isn’t really much. It’s our job as good sociologist and gamers to question these sorts of pieces, as having the backing of gamers is something many groups may want; They want to play with power.
That’s all for now. Silly poll, silly conclusions. I should have probably put that up front to save you time from reading this articles. TRICKED YA SUCKER.
This week the Wall Street Journal revealed their results of a poll gauging American lifestyles and habits. Among other rising trends in young adults, video games and tattoos have stood out as prominent habits in American lifestyle. The rise of video games isn’t surprising since, as we’ve discussed on this blog before, the percentage of Americans playing video games is growing more and more each year. However, the poll has found a overlap in the number of people playing video games and having tattoos.
Wait, there may be gamers that tattoos? SHOCKING.
Pollsters Bill McInturff, and Fred Yang found considerable overlap between tattoo households and people who said they play videogames, though they didn’t know exactly why that is beyond both videogames and tattoos holding more appeal to “younger, downscale respondents.”
You don’t need a doctorate in Sociology to begin to hypothesize why there’s an overlap between the tatted and gamers, it’s fairly obvious that the driving force is that both mediums appeal to a younger demographic. However, as the population of Americans who play video games has grown beyond 50%, the correlation between Video Games and anything begins to weaken. If the majority of the population are playing video games, then it’s reasonable to make the prediction that many niche groups (In this example, people with tattoos) will probably be doing that activity as well. Thus, it’s not really news for “young group A” to have a correlation with playing video games, as that’s the majority of the population for young adults. MORE WORDS TRYING TO EXPLAIN THINGS.
Now that video games are gradually becoming melded into American sociolization, isn’t it time that we start to accurately discussing and evaluating the medium for the increasing part of society that it is? Let’s stop being surprised that people are playing video games. Hopefully we’re doing our own part here to increase the awareness about the study and discussion of video games.
The Entertainment Software Association has released their annual report about video game consumption and demographics. For those new to the ESA, these statistics are gathered by the foremost collectors of video game demographics and stats in the industry. Here is the entire report for 2014 in PDF Form. Give it a read, it’s quick and very easy to read.
The ESA is super helpful for anyone interested in video games and sociology, as they do all the grunt work to figure out gaming population and trends.
Last year I posted the 2013’s report in some dept, but let’s see what has changed, stayed the same, or is new.
The number of people playing video games has increased! Compared to last year, the percentage of people playing video games has increased from 58% to 59%. That means more and more gamers are becoming the norm.
Digital sale of video games have surpassed physical sales of video games. What does this mean? This means that less physical games were sold in 2013 than digital video games. This is majorly due to the increase of popularity of mobile apps and online digital purchases, but it is interesting nonetheless. Now that it is easier to download games online over avenues such as the app store or Steam it is becoming more and more apart of the norm.
Who is the average gamer?
Although the demographics aren’t that different from last year, it is still worth looking into the average gamer:
The industry is steadily growing to be a more adult one, with AAA titles mainly being made for gamers 16+. That said your average gamer is still an adult male, but more and more women are becoming apart of the gaming sphere; they’re really closing in! This could be in part due to the increase of popular mobile games aimed and women and girls, but also due to women becoming PC and Console gamers as well.
That’s all I’ll say about this years findings for right now, but please do go and read the ESA’s finding for 2014: they have an array of information from demographics to sales. I’ll try and edit or expand on these demographics and stats in the near future.
It’s time to once again dive into the murky waters of one of the most popular video game franchises of all time to search for their messages and outlooks on the social world. This time I’m delving into the franchise that without a doubt has the most bizarre following behind it. For over 20 years and counting, this franchise has been running through the minds and hearts of fans. I’m talking of course about…. Socket.
Wait, sorry…That was a terrible rip-off. Of course I mean:
Sonic The Hedgehog
I say that the franchise has a bizarre following with as much affection as possible, as the Sonic Franchise is the one franchise I have dedicated the most time in my life to. Years of message boards, Sonic Fan Art, and lack luster titles, I’ve been with the franchise through thick and thin. Thus, if there’s any franchise I know more about it’s the one with this spikey blue 90s product. However, it’s worth mentioning that the franchise is quite different today than it was in its early years. For the sake of not having a breakdown trying to decipher the hidden messages in titles like Sonic The Black Knight and Shadow The Hedgehog, we’ll be sticking with the classic games in this piece. There are social and cultural themes in a franchise about a blue, super fast, hedgehog fighting against a egg shaped maniac? Surprisingly yes! Let’s go a little deeper.
Nature Vs. Industry
The first and probably most prominent theme in the franchise has and will always be nature rebelling against the evil of over industrialization. That’s deep for a franchise that has a two tailed fox flying a plane. The original Sonic The Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis in 1991 had Sonic pitting off against Dr.Eggman, an evil genius who has been capturing animals for experimentation and transforming the once beautiful world into a industrial wasteland. Throughout the game the player finds themselves freeing trapped animals and destroying machinery while pitting off against Eggman’s complex designs. This seems to convey the message that over industrialization is ruining our natural planet, which is a pretty big social critique for a colorful, kid aimed video game. In case you haven’t become an environmentalist from the original alone, subsequent games push this theme of anti-industrialization by making the stakes higher: Sonic 3, for example, features Eggman tricking native inhabitant, Knuckles, into helping Eggman seizing his own homeland. With all of these themes of colonization and anti-industrialization it’s easy to forget that you gotta go fast!
From a sociology stand-point, if the franchise is instilling themes of anti-industry and pro-environment, then it’s fair to say that the franchise is socializing fans and players towards a specific ideology. THANKS FOR THE INDOCTRINATION SEGA.
More Money, Less Problems
Unlike a franchise like Pokemon, which is without a doubt influenced by capitalism, it’s hard to say that Sonic is specifically about gaining more wealth. However, it is fair to say the franchise pushes themes of accumulation for the sake of safety and betterment. In the games there are rings littered across the world; rings floating in the sky, in Tvs, and you can even gamble for rings in certain games (Hook em while they’re young!). For those who haven’t played everyone’s favorite Needlemouse, players collect golden rings for life and security; A single hit and you’ll lose all of your rings and be vulnerable to death. You might be saying “Wow, what a statement on the fickleness of wealth and security”, and you may be right. Sonic, intentionally or non-intentionally, teaches us that you can go from rich to broke in a matter of seconds. You can be riding high, almost at that sweet 100 ring goal to get an additional life, when a stray crab takes it all away. What a lesson…
Of course the more rings you accumulate, the more chances you have to collect lost rings once hit. The rich don’t fall harder than the poor. So the game actively pushes you to get more rings for the sake of security, as acquiring lots of rings nets you additional lives and even gives you access to bonus levels. Money gets you places, kids.
These aren’t bad lessons. It’s smart and logical to teach kids about saving for security. Besides, you gotta counteract kids thinking that the Mushroom trade is the key to economic success. Thanks Mario.
What? No…That can’t be right, can it? How could a Japanese developed game have anything to say about American values and beliefs? Oh, you skeptic. The franchise was originally developed to be a competitor to the once and still dominating video game icon Super Mario. With The United States being the emerging and most profitable gaming scene in the world, Sega wanted to focus their efforts on it. Thus, Sonic The Hedgehog was designed with America in mind. Everything from his red and blue colors to his snarky demeanor was intended to appeal to American audiences; in many ways the original Sonic design is a reflection of Japanese beliefs about American consumers.
Some noteworthy beliefs about America Sega made with Sonic (Rightfully in most cases):
America likes Santa and Disney: An odd combination, but Sonic’s character design was heavily influenced by Mickey Mouse and Santa.
Americans hate to wait and have attitude: Sonic was designed to be what Mario was not – filled with attitude, inpatient, quick, and cool. Original concept art had Sonic saving a hot-to-trot girlfriend named “Madonna” and Sonic even had his own band! PRETTY RADICAL.
Sometimes our Villains look like out leaders: Dr.Eggman’s original design was heavily inspired by American President Theodore Roosevelt. What this says about American presidents is up for debate, especially considering Eggman’s design was borrowed from a concept for the hero of the franchise.
Jokes aside, the Sonic franchise stands as an interesting survey on what Japanese game developers believed to be appealing to American audiences. For better or worse, Sonic The Hedgehog is a cultural mirror of American pop culture in the 90s. That’s bizarre to think.
Make it What You Want
Up top I said that the Sonic franchise has the most bizarre following, and that’s true, but I forgot to mention that the franchise also has one of the most passionate and dedicated fanbase in the video game community.
Unlike any other franchise, the Sonic franchise has spawned more fanart, fan fiction, and fan response than any other franchise out there. Countless fan characters, fanfiction stories, and sprite comics have been made to convey fan’s passion for the franchise. There’s also a strange dark side to this passion that includes far too much cartoon pornography and slash fiction, but for the most part the passion leads to harmless things…I try and forget that stuff exists. Despite this, the Sonic franchises shows that fans can embrace a franchise and make it whatever they want it to be. It’s a testament to their passion and the distinct impact that the series has had. More interestingly, it shows that a product can become something much more than a character on screen; it can become a social and cultural character that effects and instills passion and love in countless people, bringing them together in interesting ways. Sonic’s a social catalyst!
Again, we try and forget all of the strange stuff.
This theme is one that may be lost on those coming to the series now-and-days, but Sonic was born with the theme of competition ingrained in every aspect of the original game.
For those who weren’t there, in 1991 Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis was the title to compete with Nintendo’s powerhouse franchise Super Mario Bros. Prior to its release of the Sega Megedrive/Genesis Nintendo dominated the home gaming console market with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Sonic The Hedgehog and The Sega Genesis gave Nintendo a run for their money and provided for the greatest console war of all time. What was spectacular about the Sega/Nintendo console war was the level of quality games it spawned both companies to create. Some of the greatest games of all time were created in this rivalry, including Super Mario World, Sonic 2, Altered Beast, and A Link To The Past. It was a healthy competition that grew the video game market and made the statement that it was possible for two consoles to co-exist and compete. Regardless of which side you were on, or if you had both consoles, the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo was both beneficial to each company, gamers, and the industry. It was great time to be a gamer that resulted in the creation of many gaming icons and staples. While Nintendo has their hands a little more full these days, Sega and Sonic have stood the test of time as being mainstays in the video game industry. The story of Sonic and Sega is one that is worth telling, and teaches us all that something great can come from a little competition.
Other Quick Social Lessons Classic Sonic Has To Teach
Blast Processing is what you need and what doesn’t actually exist.
Mutant foxes make the best companions
Being a jewel collector grants invincibility
Check your pinball machines for small rodents.
Foxes and rodents are the greatest enemy to scientists.
Smashing TVs give you special powers, especially if you see your own face on TV.
Never look up your name + Hedgehog on the internet.
If you’re drowning, just grab a bubble.
Alright, we’re at the end of the zone, let’s slow down. The Classic Sonic titles are a great set of games; Some of the spin-off games and handheld games are pretty terrible, but the original Genesis titles and Sonic CD are some of the greatest games of all time. If you haven’t already played these titles they’re available on every platform known to man, (They’ve even been ported to consoles with lesser graphics!) so there’s no reason not to play these beloved classics. The Sonic franchise may not be the most sociologically relevant one, but it certainly has some messages to say. Perhaps one day I’ll delve into the messages modern Sonic has to put forth, as there’s some ridiculous messages about rodent Gun Control and why experimenting on animals will lead to psychic abilities (The franchise has gone to strange places…) but for now we’ll put lid on this speedy forest creature.
Please let me know if these type of articles are worthwhile. I know their scarce on the actual sociology, but I hope they’re at least a little entertaining.
For more Lessons from Classic Franchises, check out these two:
Today marks one year since I registered The Sociology of Video Games
It’s been a year of sociologically relevant news, looking into racist games, and failed attempts at humor. I can’t thank everyone who has supported the blog over this past year, you’ve help keep me motivated to post and share my interest in sociology and video games. I do hope the blog has been worthwhile for those who have subscribed and commented. With your help the blog has really taken off: we’re the first thing that pops up when you search “sociology video games” on google, and we’ve seen links to articles and post spring up in all sorts of awesome places.
The responses and feedback I have received has made up keeping this blog all the more worthwhile. I’m humbled by many of the responses I have received, and I’m glad so many people have found the blog to be worthwhile.
What does the future hold?
I intend to keep building the blog. I would love to see the blog become a place for people interested in sociology and video games to come, discuss, and share resources. In the near future I intend to make the transition to a full fledged website/blog that will provide outlet for discussion, outside contribution of articles or posts, and resources for those interested in sociology and video games. I’m continuously trying to expand the blogs presence, so hopefully one day we’ll see these goals come to fruition.
I would love to hear from other fans of sociology and video games. Although this blog has been a solo effort, it would be great to share this blog and subject matter with those who are interested. So please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to contribute, share, or see more.
Things The Blog will Introduce in Year 2 (One of these is real!)
– A sidekick blog character that appeals to a younger audience and has more appendices than normal!
-6 readable authors, 5 of which are just clones of the original.
-8 New Robot masters.
-More than 150 new articles, even though you were told in the previous year that only 150 articles in total existed. (Honestly, how hard did they even look?)
Wired has a new article this weekend about Nintendo’s new strategy for creativity in their development process: adding more women to their development teams.
The article notes the success of Animal Crossing New Leaf, which has been an all around success for Nintendo. It’s a great game for doing mundane tasks and filling the empty void in your life with fake furniture and appeasing talking animals. More remarkably:
Since its release in 2013, New Leaf has sold 7.38 million copies worldwide, and is credited by Nintendo with helping the handheld 3DS system reach 42.74 million units sold. It also boasts another striking statistic: Nearly half of the Animal Crossing: New Leaf game development team was female. And according to Eguchi and Kyogoku, the two are far from unrelated. Indeed, they believe that the diversity of their team was crucial to their game’s success.
However the bigger story is that they intend to further this success with applying the same belief to future games, which means we may see more female development staff on future Nintendo games.
I won’t go too much farther than that, as you should go read the article, but it is an important step in making Nintendo a more diverse company. If Nintendo, who has been slow to adapt to change in many parts, can begin to diversify, then perhaps we’ll begin to see it throughout the industry. And that, my friends, will be a great thing.
They did it everyone. They found the link between playing video games like Kirby and being a bigot…Well, not really. However, A recent study coming out of Ohio State University has found some interesting findings regarding racism and video games. This study may make your reconsider your next gaming choices.
Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science the study questioned what happens when white video game players find themselves playing as black video game characters in violent video games. The first experiment had 120 white students play the violent video game Saints Row. Participants were randomly given either a white protagonist or a black protagonist in the game. Furthermore, players were given one of two missions – break out of prison or go to a chapel without harming others. After each play sessions participants were given the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to reveal any hidden biases they may have had by having participants link white and black faces to either negative or positive categories. The results found that players that were using black avatars were more likely to link negative categories to black faces than those who used white avatars. Similarly, it was found that players who played the more violent mission were more likely to agree with the statement “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”. Yeesh, that’s harsh.
We’re getting into some scary findings here kiddos, but it doesn’t stop there. A second experiment was conducted to further these findings. In this follow up experiment, 141 more white college students were asked playing either WWE Smackdown vs. RAW2010 or Fight Night Round 4. As in the previous experiment, participants were assigned either a white or black avatar and then given the IAT to measure their biases. However, after each play sessions participants had the opportunity to give their unseen partner (presumably their opponent) a punishment in the way of hot sauce, which the participants knew they disliked. The results found were inline with those of the previous experiment; players who played as black avatars were more likely to associate negative categories with black faces than those who played as white characters. In regards to the hot sauce portion of the experiment, players who played as black avatars gave their partners 115% more hot sauce than those who played as white avatars. Clearly, something about playing as black avatars makes white players want to dish out some hot sauce.
What this suggests is that something about playing as black avatar characters, especially in violent scenarios, reinforces negative stereotypes about the black community in white video game players and makes them more aggressive towards others. While it’s a general perspective to believe that more minority characters will make general audiences more empathetic to people of colors, this study suggests that negative and unbalanced minority characters may only fuel further racism and bias. Regardless of this study’s findings or not, clearly there is a lack of balanced and progressive minority characters in the video game industry.
One thing the study does not do is offer reasons why this may occur, other than their go-to embedded racism. Embedded racism may be the perpetrator, but one must consider that there may be something more at work. It would be interesting if the same experiments would be done with a control group of only black video game players: would the same results be found or would the results be flipped. One consideration the study does not offer is disassociation: players could potentially be more likely to be more aggressive when they have a further distance between themselves and their character. Not relating to their character on race may be making players relate less, and thus become more aggressive and more likely to act out. Of course this doesn’t offer a solution as to why they would be biased towards racial stereotypes, but it’s a consideration.
This study tells us something that we already know: negative characters lead to negative attitudes and actions. Playing as a violent killer is negative, regardless of the race of the character or player. I’m not suggest we pacify or censor our games, but instead me more conscious of the media we’re consuming and how it effects us. It often is more fun to be violent in a video game than not, but perhaps we should only be giving our gaming palettes opportunity to be violent.
Here is a link to a great piece by Luke Karmali of IGN about the lack of gay characters in video games. While he does note that representation and inclusion are up considerably in the last few years (mostly in part due to western studios such as Bioware and Naughty Dog), it is still an uphill battle to get proper and adequate representation for the LGBT community in gaming.
Growing up is hard. Growing up in a world where you find it nigh on impossible to catch sight of someone you can relate to is harder. The inclusion of gay characters in games leads some to believe that one day there will be no heterosexual characters they can choose to play as, that this is a slippery slope that will inevitably cause entire entries in popular franchises to be populated exclusively by LGBT characters. Such a premise is ludicrous. It’s also the exact reverse of what’s facing young lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender gamers – who are represented even more poorly still – in most titles today.
I won’t say much more about the article, as the author has already said everything much more elegantly than I could ever, so please take some time and give the article a read. For more articles about the LGBT Community and Gaming, check out these articles: