New Study Suggest Video Games May Be Enforcing Racism

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.

In Saints Row you can be a thug of any race or gender! Or not, I haven’t played it.

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. RAW 2010 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.

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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.

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IGN: Why We Need More Gay Characters

IGN: Why We Need More Gay Characters

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.

"Gone Home" is one the few games to feature a LGBT relationship.
“Gone Home” is one the few games to feature a LGBT relationship.

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:

Can Video Games Alleviate LGBT Bullying

Kickstarter for Documentary about LGBT Community in Games 

Video Game Themed Bars: The Next Big Thing in Drinking?

Will Mario and Pals be your new drinking buddies? For years video games have been in bars; an old arcade cabinet here and there, or even bar specific games that typically have to do with gambling. However, it  seems video games are steadily making their way into bars more and more in new ways.

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Today, ReCode.net has a review  for Folsom Street Foundry, a bar/event space located in the San Francisco SOMA area where weekly video game nights are occurring on Tuesdays. These game nights, which have been going on for weeks now, have ranged from Bubble Bobble Duels, live watching of Twitch Plays Pokemon, and Smash Brothers Tournaments. Although conducted by an outside event group, the weekly game nights are growing in popularity and proving that video games and drinking is a combination for success. At this point you may be knocking your head against a wall crying “WHY DIDN’T I THINK TO OPEN A VIDEO GAME THEMED BAR!?”, but don’t fret: there’s room to grow. Of course Folsom Street Foundry isn’t the first bar to incorporate video games and drinking, but it does seem to be one of the latest and greatest.

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The combination seems obvious, pop culture and the bar scene, but video game themed bars have been slow to start up. This could be in large part due to the start-up costs for bars and the additional cost it would take to have hardware to run multiple video games. Likewise,  as anyone who has ever had a college party at their house may know: electronics and drinking is a recipe for disaster. That said, with the success of Folsom Street Foundry and Barcade in Brooklyn there definitely seems to be a niche for video game themed bars.

So why does this blog care? This isn’t only a testament to my own personal alcoholism and addiction to video games, there’s some decent social implications for this rising trend. As video games become more and more accepted into our culture they begin entering scenes and parts of culture they’ve yet to touch before. With video games entering bars and social scene they too become greater intertwined in our social sphere. That’s right kids, video games are now in your social world. Your next date may take you to a video game themed bar in which you and your date bond over a game over Crash Team Racing.

“So where did you grow u- OH DAMN YOUR EXPLODING CRATE, YOU ****”

Have a favorite video game bar or video game themed drinking idea? Let the people know by dropping a line in the comment section!

And now, for the sake a fun (since there’s no sociologically relevant reason I can think to do this), here are some video game themed drinks and ideas to liven up your video game themed bar or party. These are the ones I found to be pretty cool, though you should definitely check out the website for more ideas.

Courtesy of TheDrunkenMoogle.com here are some Video game themed drinks:

Zelda’s Lullaby (Legend of Zelda)

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1.5 oz Chambord
.75 oz vodka
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
1 lemon twist

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The Dratini (Pokemon)
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1 1/2 oz gin (Bombay Sapphire Gin used)
1 1/2 oz Hpnotiq
splash of blue curacao

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The Rainbow Road (Super Mario Kart)
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4 oz. Orange juice
½ oz. Gin
⅓ oz. Grenadine
⅓ oz. Rum
3 oz. Vodka
2 splashes Blue Curacao

 

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The X Buster (Mega Man X)
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1 oz Gin
1 oz Blue curacao
Lemon-lime soda

1 Cherry

Twitch Plays Pokemon: Can Thousands Work Together To Be a Master?

The past few days a social experiment has taken over Twitch. Twitch, for those who may not know, is an interactive streaming website primarily focused on gaming. This past week, a user by the name of TwitchPlaysPokemon uploaded the 1996 classic Pokemon Red to the servers of Twitch, enabling the game to be controlled via chat commands. The results are hilarious, interesting, and insane.

140218174147-twitch-plays-pokemon-story-topWhen the game went up on Twitch earlier in the week the play mechanics were amusing and novel. A player, in a chatroom of about 100, could enter a command and see the onscreen player move accordingly. Then thousands and thousands of people jump aboard. At its peak, Twitch is reporting that over  80,000 players were participating and watching at once. The result is a spastic main character who seems to be struggle to do anything but walk around in circles. The goal, now, has become to journey through the game as a group.

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However, to better function tweaks have been made to the game. A few days ago, a change was made to the game to allow for a more civil play experience. Players now have the option of voting for either Anarchy or Democracy. When the majority of players vote for Anarchy, the game is carried out in the same fashion as it was when it first began; chat commands from all players dictate how the main character moves. When the majority of players vote for democracy, chat commands are disabled and players instead vote on what movement to make  and the game moves with the majority move.  Of course, it even gets more absurd when the game gets thrust into battle. The results have been absurd and have spawned memes and jokes across the internet.

I don't have time to explain the Helix thing..
I don’t have time to explain the Helix thing..

The sheer fact that this democratic system for working together has arisen in this chaotic world is incredibly interesting, both from a gamer’s perspective and a sociologist perspective. TwitchPlaysPokemon has become a fascinating case scenario for how the internet can create unique social experiences in places that once were not social. It shows the creative ability of group interaction to change and add new life into something from the past, and re-imagine what it is to play video games together.

Even if you’re not into for its social implications, it’s still a hell of a funny thing to watch.

Join in the fun here!

 

Nintendo UK creates the ” Nintendo Girls Club” on Youtube

A few months ago during E3 I asked the question whether Nintendo was being more gender inclusive after the inclusion of lead female characters in most of their E3 line-up. Yesterday, the Nintendo’s Girl Club youtube channel popped up on youtube, giving further evidence that Nintendo is really stepping up their efforts to appeal to a wider audience.

The introductory video (posted above) promises trailers and news presented by the channel’s host  Jorgie Porter and other female fans of Nintendo games and franchises. All in all, it seems like the channel will be just that: female gamers talking about games and news relating to Nintendo. It’s a welcomed and novel approach, and it does show that Nintendo is at least trying to appeal to female gamers. I doubt we’ll see any hard hitting insight on the channel, but it’s good nonetheless. This comes after many divisions of Nintendo have launched a marketing campaign to appeal to a wider demographic of gamers, including commercials and games that more widely appeal to a greater audience.

If you are or know a young girl that is a fan of Nintendo then they may enjoy this new channel. I realize this entire post reads like a advertisement for Nintendo, but I thought it was something worth noticing.

Check out more videos on the Nintendo Girl’s Club Youtube channel

 

Telltale’s The Walking Dead Being Used To Teach Ethics in Norwegian School

A highschool in Norway is using Telltale’s acclaimed “The Walking Dead”  series to teach their students about ethics. Will these kids learn actual ethical insight, or will they only learn that Zombies = bad news?

The school was brought to attention by NRK, a media outlet in Norway that reported on the class. A video of the report can be seen here (Warning, it’s in Norweigin, but you can hit the translate button if you don’t speak the language).

According to the report, the game is being used to give student ethical dilemmas that they may not otherwise be given. Before you assume these ethical decisions are “Be a zombie murder or not?”, bear in mind that the series has been acclaimed for making players actually feel for their characters and feel the weight of their decisions. Unfortunately I personally have not had a chance to play the series, but I’ve heard they’re very well respected and well developed in character design and progression.

The report also claims that students have had positive results using the game to teach students ethics, as the game has spawned lively discussion of many of the ethical dilemmas that are presented in the game. Likewise, the students are reported to be much more engaged in this form of teaching than in traditional forms of teaching ethics.

Such a report begs the question: should video games be incorporated into more classrooms? Certainly there has been evidence to suggest that video games help engage students in school, but are they more successful in teaching than traditional means? That remains to be seen, and anecdotal evidence like this can only be applied to the situation. Certainly The Walking Dead wouldn’t be appropriate outside ethics and philosophy classes, but perhaps other games can help bridge the gap between education and video games. Similarly, one must ask: are using video games in the classroom any different than using television or movies?

Can Playing Video Games Cause Hallucinations?

Can Playing Video Games Cause Hallucinations?

A Recent study out of Nottingham Trent University, and reported on by Gamespot, claims that playing video games for may cause hallucinations. Should we be worried, or should we just forget about it and continue to try and get Donkey Kong out of my backyard?

The study is based on experience compiled by  gamers collected on online gaming forums. The fact that the study is relying on personal experience from internet testimonial is already questionable, but we’ll just go ahead and move on.  Gamers reported seeing distorted versions of reality that included aspects of games after playing for extended periods of times. This could include things like seeing gaming menus, signs, or even options in the real world. This phenomenon the research team calls “Game Transfer Phenomena”is  what they describe as “how playing games can affect a person’s sense of sight, sound, and touch after they are done playing”.  These experiences were mixed, with some gamers having uncomfortable experiences in which they were unable to concentrate, confused, or even worried about the perceived objects they saw.

From personal experience: One night, after a particularly long session of playing the 2001 title “Super Monkey Ball” the game seeped into my reality. Day was night, light was dark, balls were filled with monkeys.  Had my loved ones been trapped in spherical cages, or was it all in my mind? As I navigated the mazes of my mind, and the ones manifested into my reality I began to laugh at the comedy of it all; for aren’t we all monkeys in our own balls? Trapped in our own spheres of lies and desperation? What a world to live we in; It’s Bananas.

…Where was I? Back to the article: Should we stop playing video games excessively for fear that Mario will sneak into our reality? Who knows. The research study team admits that relying on personal experience from an internet pool of respondents means that we can’t say that the group represents a majority of gamers. Further research needs to be done to see what type of gamers are more likely to have GTP occur and to see how and when GTP manifest, if it does. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like GTP is anything gamers should fear, as the majority of gamers didn’t seem to respond to having it. However, if true, GTP does mean that video games and media effect our brains in ways we haven’t quite figured out. Then again, is it just video games and other media that have this effect? One could argue that doing any activity for an extended amount of time can have adverse effects on one’s mental state and lead to sensations of that activity in normal life. We’ll have to keep an eye on the phenomena to further see how video games and media are effecting our social world.

If this sensation has ever happened to you (And not like the ridiculous lie I told) please share!

For more photos of Video games in Real Life!

http://kotaku.com/real-life-photos-mixed-with-16-bit-video-games-are-amaz-476024420

Do We Cheat in Video Games Because We Assume Everyone Else Is?

Do We Cheat in Video Games Because We Assume Everyone Else Is?

We’re back in 2014, with an article that looks into a study conducted by a research team coming out of Singapore. This specific study looks into why we cheat in video games.

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I won’t go into the specifics of the study, as the wired article does that quite well, but it is worth discussing the findings of the study. The article reevaluates the belief that it’s anonymity that makes gamers cheat in online communities, and instead finds that gamer’s responded that they more often resorted to cheating because they believed others were cheating as well. Not only that, but they also responded that if one doesn’t cheat in online communities then they are at a disadvantage. Essentially, we’re all cheating because we assume everyone is cheating, and if you’re honest you’re probably losing. What an online world we live in.

Take some time and check out the article, and the study if you have the ability to. It’s worth a view.

I know this post is a bit on the sparse side, but I promise: more content and new articles in the future! Until then, happy new years and good gaming.

Racist Games: Spanish for Everyone (DS)

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It’s time once again to look into the vault of Racist games that haunts our dreams every night. With the Holiday season in full bloom, perhaps you’ll find the right racist game for the racist in your life!

Today’s installment: Spanish For Everyone (DS, 2007)

From the looks of it “Spanish For You” looks like a harmless educational  DS title that will teach your kids Spanish. I’m sure that’s what the developers of this title intended it to be, but the result is anything but.  Let’s start with the game’s story.

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The game starts with you taking the role of a boy named Shawn. He’s a seemingly normal kid, playing his DS outside on a nice day (That kid is playing a DS Phat outside during the day? He must not enjoy seeing the screen! AMIRITE!?….Lets move on). The plot starts rolling when Miguel, a random kid who Shawn seemingly doesn’t know, ask to play Shawn’s DS in Spanglish. What proceeds will sound completely made up, but keep with me: it’s not. Miguel’s father rolls up in Limo and insists that Miguel comes with him, which he does. In the moment Miguel forgets to give Shawn his DS back and as the Limo squeals off Shawn begins to panic.  The plot thickens when two cop cars chase after Miguel’s father’s limo. A few minutes later, Shawn’s aunt, who he seems to barely know, arrives and ask you if you’d like to follow them to Mexico to get your DS back. She can “teach you many things, including Spanish”.

Rule of S4E # 1: When a strange older woman ask you to go to a foreign land to retrieve a device worth less than 150 dollars, you go without asking your parent permission.

Okay, so at this point the game just has a questionable premise to take the game’s character to Mexico to teach the player Spanish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Upon arriving to Tijuana, Shawn’s aunt abandons him on a truck with a talking bull. The Bull, the strangest character in the game, believes Shawn to be some sort of Messiah. He agrees to teach you Spanish, as it’s obviously a animalistic language that even animals know.

Rule of S4E #2: Abandoning kids in the backs of pick-up-trucks with dangerous animals is an okay thing to do in Mexico.

After traveling in this questionable pick-up-truck, Shawn arrives in a town that looks completely abandoned.  A man, who is apparently his uncle, is the only one to be found in this town. This is where the game get’s even more racist. Shawn’s uncle, who looks like a pedophile, tells you that he’s an exporter to the United States and that he is seeking a wealthy man for some unfinished business. The wealthy man turns out to be Miguel’s father, as he is the only man in Mexico to be able to afford a limo. He tells you that the town is dangerous a night and that you’ll need to get in his jeep to avoid getting attacked. What the hell is going on.

Rule of S4E #3: If you’re wandering the streets of a dangerous Mexican town alone, as you will obviously find yourself doing, get in the Jeep of the shady man claiming to be your uncle. He’ll protect you with “adult words” if your Jeep gets attacked.

Just to clarify. At this point, the developers of this game, are obviously insinuating that Shawn’s uncle and Miguel’s Father are mixed up in the drug trade. Their view of Mexico up until this part in the game are the following: Deserting Family members who may or may not be a pedophile, overly religious cows that are as intelligent as the other Mexican natives you’ve encountered, and drug cartels.

THIS IS LOCO! (I learned that word from the game!)

Now we’ve reached the conclusion of our strange journey. Shawn finally reaches the house of Miguel’s father. After your uncle tells you that he’s going to hold back until you leave, you go and knock on the door to find the swindler Miguel holding your DS. Fortunately he feels bad and he gives you back your DS and also gives you a plane ticket to your next adventure: France. The final scene shows multiple cars coming up to Miguel’s house as you walk away with your DS, eluding to the fact that shit is about to go down at Miguel’s house.

Let’s step back and look at what we just witnessed. This seemingly educational game relies on nothing but horrible stereotypes of Mexicans while it progresses you through meaningless mini games aimed at teaching you Spanish words, not proper Spanish speaking.  At no point in the game do you learn any conjugation or difference between masculine and feminine nouns. Worse even is that the game features numerous mistakes in both Spanish and English, making some parts of the game virtually unplayable. All in all, the game is racist, terrible, and horrendous to look at; what more can you ask for the holiday list for the racist in your life?

This is one of the instances in which I recommend emulation. If you want to check this terrible title out, please emulate and do not give money to the developers or Activision for publishing this horrendous game. To my knowledge, “French for Everyone” has never been made, and I sincerely hope it never does.

New Study Suggest Violent Video Games May Have Benefits for Children

New Study Suggest Violent Video Games Have Benefits for Children

Ru Roh. After numerous studies that have tried to link violent video games to bad behavior in children, the American Psychological Association has conducted a study that has found positive benefits to children playing violent video games. Is this just hear say, or should we sit our kids down in front of Grand Theft Auto instead of going to school?

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I don’t go into the study too thoroughly, but basically it discusses the positive and negatives that video games have for children. Specifically, the research discusses how video games in general help form cognitive and problem solving skills in young children. While these effects are not limited to violent video games, they too have these same type of positive effects. After years of researchers trying to find evidence that Video Games have negative effects on children’s development, it’s only recently that researchers have begun to study the positive effects that video games may hold.

“Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” said lead author Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. “However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed.”

Hey, that’s pretty much what I said, right? The article then goes on to talk about how new perspectives on video games are being used to educate children. Classrooms and educational plans are being designed with video games incorporated, and these new types of learning tools are revolutionizing the way we teach children.  Hopefully these lesson plans and games are better than the first generation of educational games, which the majority of which were….creepy.

Terror is your teacher in Sonic Schoolhouse for the PC.
Terror is your teacher in Sonic Schoolhouse for the PC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who knows if we are at the dawn of video games being used in education, or a mere passing trend. Regardless, kids will play video games with or without the positive or negative effects researchers are suggesting. Likewise, researchers will continue to disagree about the effects of video games, especially violent ones.