A recent study coming out of Stanford is claiming that there’s a scientific connection between sexist video games and rape. Honestly, the study is more about a connection between video games and self-objectification, but we’ll go with that they’re claiming for right now.
The study evaluates shifts in perspectives on rape culture and physical embodiment after playing with sexualized in-game avatars. The research group went about examining these shifts by having groups of female gamers play with highly sexualized avatars and then having them answer questions regarding views on rape and sexism. A control group of female gamers playing with non-sexualized avatars were used in comparrison to those with the sexualized avatars. The study found two things: The first, that gamers who were playing with sexualized avatars were more likely to give into myths about victim-base rape culture and that, two, when the groups were playing with characters that mirrored themselves (including having their real life faces posted on the characters bodies) the proponents were even more likely to give into victim-blamed myths about rape. What the research contends is that gamers embody characteristics of their avatars, which alter their real-world perspectives as players with more sexualized avatars were reported as having much more body related thoughts than those without sexualized avatars. This would contend that sexualized avatars create more self-objectification than non-sexualized avatars.
What’s this mean? It would suggest that sexist female avatars and characters have negative effect on female gamers. Beyond the consequences of being more susceptible to myth about rape, which is what the study focuses on, the research seems to suggest that inaccurate representation of females in games have harmful effects on how female gamers are viewing themselves and females in general. While the study doesn’t go into the effects that sexist video game characters have on men, it does provide evidence that sexism in video games has effects on how gamers view women, which is certainly a great issue. With a lack of accurate a fair female representations in the gaming world, the surplus of sexist and inaccurate video game females is showing to have more and more effect on female and male gamers alike.
I’m not really doing the research justice, so please go check out the link to the research study’s paper that was published in Computers in Human Behavior
Published recently in Addiction and Research Theory, a paper entitled “Social responsibility in online videogaming: What should the videogame industry do?” questions whether developers of online video games should actively do more to prevent players of their games from getting addicted. Should they? Will they?
Before we delve into the content of the paper, we should make note that video game addiction has become a growing problem over the years, grabbing many headlines and creating quite the concern. For some statistics about video game addiction, I’d advise to head over to www.techaddiction.ca for some interesting facts about this problem.
ONTO THE PAPER I SAY!
The paper has already gained notice in the press, as both the BBC and Washington Post have written articles about it:
The paper, given what we know about addiction to video games, calls for developers to decrease some of the elements in their games that cause addictive tendencies. This includes decreasing the number of long missions, decreasing the importance of doing repetitive tasks for the sake of leveling up characters (Grinding or farming), and making crazy uber-rewards for players who sink countless hours into the game. While many gamers may find these aspect of their favorite games essential, they’re often the most time consuming and addicting parts of them. Should game developers comply? Is it reasonable to be asking them to take measures to prevent addiction when video game addiction, for all intensive purposes, is financially positive?
While some of what the paper calls for seems a little far fetched, specifically taking out grinding, some publishers have already taken steps to prevent their games from getting overly addicted. For example, Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of World of WarCraft and most of the games that will get you addicted, took out a reward in WOW for players who reached the highest level possible to prevent gamers from over doing it for the sake of obtaining this reward. Likewise, warning of over-playing have been used in numerous games in the past. Nintendo, for example, ask players to take a break from playing in several of their games if they exceed a certain number of hours in game. Similarly, games like Animal Crossing even go as far as to only allow players to do certain content during normal hours of the day, not giving players much to do during night hours. These little reminders, while easily ignored, do help to remind gamers that they need to step away from their gaming devices every once and awhile.
With gaming getting more and more intertwined with daily life, it’s only natural that more and more gaming will become addictive. You can talk with your friends, watch shows with them and even share content, so the need to remove yourself from your gaming devices is lessening. So perhaps it is up to gaming developers to at least try and make some in-game attempt to prevent their players from over addiction. It’s not crazy, honestly; we ask our manufacturers of Alcohol to ask their consumers to not over do it. Social responsibility for their products is not asking too much of game developers. After all, a healthy gaming populace is a happy gaming populace.
If you have an opinion, please let me know! I’m very interested to learn what players of MMOs and other games that fall into what the media calls “addictive” think about this matter. Not being a MMO player, or much of an online gamer, myself I can really only take the stance of an outsider on this.
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.
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.
“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.