I had the opportunity to participate in Accessible Media Inc.’s documentary Gaming Blind, a documentary that explores blind and partially sighted accessibility in the video game industry.
“After losing her sight, Shelby Travers thought video games were a part of her past. Join her as she discovers how accessible gaming is to the blind and partially sighted community today, picking up a controller for the first time in 10 years.”
You can see a trailer for the documentary here:
but you can also watch the entire documentary, including the interview with me, right here: Gaming Blind
I had the pleasure of talking with Shelby and we discussed the changing demographics of the video game industry, as well as how developers are attempting to reach a more inclusive audience. The documentary does a great job of evaluating issues that blind and partially sighted gamers face, and speaks with prominent industry professionals about how these issues may be faced.
Thanks to Shelby Travers and everyone at AMI-CA for developing this great documentary and for allowing me to be a part of it.
I’ve been in the dark about all of these #Gamergate going ons, so my apologies for not having written about what’s been going on.
What is Gamergate?
I don’t want to get into the specific individuals involved of the controversy, as I don’t know how fruitful it is to continuously bring up the individuals Gamergate was founded on, but it’s important to talk about how it came about. Gamergate is an ongoing controversy in which gamers are lashing back against the lack of journalistic standards in the gaming media and corruption in competitive gaming and gaming media. It arose out of a scandal involving a developer of an indie game who was allegedly having relationships with noteworthy individuals in the gaming media that may have led to cases of favoritism and bias in coverage of her game. Details about the female developer were leaked to the internet and gamers have responded via the hashtag on twitter #Gamergate. Since then, it has involved to include issues of feminist theory polarizing indie developers and fans and, as well, the backlash against equality in the gaming industry.
That’s an incredibly basic and unexplored synopsis of what’s been going on. It’s an extremely complicated issue that has seen poor acts on both sides on the issue. At its heart is a legitimate issue: the lack of standards in video game journalism. However, it has lost sight of that issue in many circumstances.
I don’t want to say much more about it, other than it was a issue that was a long time coming and that it will hopefully lead to changes in the industry and video game community. It’s a chance for gamers to take a stand on what they’re willing and not willing to put up, which should certainly be fair standards and absolutely no use of harassment, regardless of if you’re in the community or in the media.
Resources that I recommend for a fair representation of the issue:
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.
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.