New Study Suggests Violent Video Game Releases Coincide with Low Crime Rates

Quick one today folks! Another week, another article claiming that violent video games have X effect on society. There seems to be a pendulum with these types of studies; one article will claim to have found a link between violent video games and violence and the following week another new study will claim that there is no effect. This study is..a little different.

Coming out of Villanova, a psychology researcher and professor claims that violent video games actually lessen the amount of violent crimes during launch periods of bigger violent video games (Halo, GTA, etc). Are the villains of the world really too busy ranking up gamerscores to go and commit crimes? That’s pretty much what it sounds like the piece is claiming. Essentially, violent crime offenders are among the target audience who plays violent video games and when a new title comes out the amount of violent crimes seems to decrease.

There can be other explanations as to why this is occurring that we can ponder off the top of our heads. Big titles like GTA and Halo typically come out at towards the end of the year, as that’s many company’s biggest earning season. Certainly something else may be going on during these times that have little to do with video games (More people are in their houses earlier in the night, police enforcement is typically more alert for crimes during holiday seasons, etc). The article itself tries to think through what potential reasons could be effecting this outcome, so it’s certainly not a definitive statement on the researcher’s part.

The research goes onto claim that people with specific personality types playing violent video games are more likely to increase their aggression, but that people without those personality types will not be effected These are claims that were based on research that was conducted years ago by the same researcher. These proposed claims seem almost obvious; if you claim yourself to be an “angry person” then you committing a violent crime is more likely, regardless of if you play video games or not.

Which of Pixar characters are most likely to commit a violent crime after playing Halo?

I wish I could go more into the article, but unfortunately I’m not able to get the entire piece because I’m a poor individual, but you can certainly purchase the entire research paper here! 

Frisco Looks To Be Nation’s First Video Game Museum

http://www.polygon.com/2014/9/21/6742881/videogame-history-museum-location-national-frisco

HEY. RAILROAD MUSEUM, MOVE OVER. Video games need a museum!

Frisco (TX) is looking to invest in the nation’s first museum dedicated solely to video games. The Video Game History Museum, which up to this point has only been a traveling exhibit, is seeking a place to call home. This week The Board of The Frisco Community Development Corporation approved the museum, which means we may soon see  the VGHM up and running. This is great news for anyone interested in video games, history, or museums (Everyone know those people).

Why should we care? Toys have museums. Even cartoons. The fact that video games, which now make up a large part of media consumed, do not yet have a museum is pretty astounding. Promoting and maintaining video game history legitimizes and documents video games in a way that has yet to be previously done. Without proper documentation and preservation, there’s plenty of history that can be lost to time. As we have discussed in previous articles, video games are a medium that can literally see aspects disappear because of hardware limitations. Being a digital medium means that once the data for specific games are lost, they may be lost forever. Piracy, currently, has been one of the few ways games have remained in existence, which itself is horribly ironic.

We’ve seen digital video game museum’s in the past, including IGN’s Mario museum and Sonic Team’s interactive museum world in “Sonic Jam”, but a physical place to go and observe video game’s history is the next step in the development of Video game history and preservation.

In Sonic Jam players can view a digital history of the franchise without curators and volunteers lurking around.

For anyone who is interested, you should head over to the VGHM’s website.

New Study Finds Risk Glorifying Games Lead to Deviant Behavior

A recent study suggests that playing mature rated video games may lead to risky, deviant behavior including alcohol use and cigarette smoking. OH HEAVENS!!!

Coming out of Dartmouth College and published this week in the American Psychological Association Journal is a 4-year spanned study that focuses on the effects of violent and mature rated video games on adolescent adults. Are violent video game the gateway drug to worse things, including buying gates and/or drugs? 

The researchers contacted a pool of over 5000 young adults multiple times over the span of 4 years and focused on the three video games “Manhunt”, “Spider-man 2” and “Grand Theft Auto”. Although the respondents fell to less than half of the original 5000, over 2000 subjects were interviewed for the effects of having played one of these three games and continued to play similar risk glorifying games. The researchers found that respondents who played risk glorifying games with an anti-social protagonists (Manhunt and GTA in this case) had reported higher rates of cigarette use, and similar patterns were found for other forms of delinquency than those who reported only have played games with honorable protagonists (Spider-man). 

Honorable.

Jay Hull, the lead researcher, concludes that playing risk glorifying video games increases the likelihood of performing risky actions in the real world. As Hull puts it

“[In video games]They’re not practicing drinking and smoking and risky sex, but what they are practicing is being a less than good person,”.

We’ve seen similar studies where violent video games have been linked to aggression, cheating, and other less honorable behavior, but this might be the first one I’ve seen linked to risky sex..I don’t know how to take that. Likewise, we have seen studies that suggest positive benefits to violent and all video games in general, so the debate seems to be all over the place.The thought behind why this is occurring is that playing violent and risk glorifying games makes kids more willing to take risks in their own life:

“Once a kid is trying one substance, the odds of trying another one go up…The risk starts piling up much faster, and the outcomes for these children get much worse in a hurry.”

 

Eh…that’s no good. The researcher endorses the use of the ESRB rating system as a form to combat adolescents from getting their hands on these games prematurely.

I don’t know what to think about this study, as it seems pretty well constructed. Obviously the study is reliant on the respondents to tell the truth and gauge their effects, but I can’t think of a more developed way to do so. There may some causes that are effecting the respondents that the study doesn’t take into consideration, such as reasons for why adolescents are getting their hands on violent video games before becoming of age. For example, I can imagine parents who buy their children a spider-man game (regardless of its ESRB rating) may not be the same level of attentiveness as a parent who is okay buy and M rated GT game….but that could be neither here nor there.

The study itself is, unfortunately, only available to those who subscribe to the  APA’s website, but a decent explanation of the study can be found here. 

Racist Games: Street Fighter 2

heIt’s time once again to look through the library of video games and examine some of the good ol’ fun themes of racism in some of our favorite and least favorite games. Today’s racist game is one of the most well known games in video game history: Street Fighter 2.

I know what you’re saying: “Hey! Eff you man! Leave Street Fighter 2 alone! That game rocks!”. Fair enough, hypothetical person responding to this blog. Street Fighter 2 is a great game that undeniably revolutionized the fighting game genre and had a huge impact on video game history. That said, it’s a little bit racist. Like “Punch-Out!” Street Fighter 2 falls into the category of games that were unintentionally racist for the sake of having characters from around the world. The game undeniably relies of stereotypes and bizarre caricatures of different countries and peoples. Let’s look at some of these nationally accurate characters!

Zangief : Zangief is Russian. What do Russian people do? Wrestle bears, of course. Also, they do that one dance; you know the one that all Russian people do. Zangief’s ending literally features Zangief dancing with, then president, Mikhail Gorbachev.

You won’t see George Bush in Guile’s ending

Dhalsim: Dhalsim is from India. Things the developers knew about India include that Yoga is popular, Elephants are a plenty, and Hinduism is a strange and mystical religion. In Dhalsim’s ending in the game, he rides a elephant back to home! Everyone in India has a pet Elephant!

Balrog: Balrog is the only black character in the game. Haling from the United States, Balrog shares a striking resemblance to Mike Tyson and is even a boxer! Also, in the original Japanese version Balrog was named M.Bison, which clearly is a play on the aforementioned ear biter.

Upon beating the game and becoming world champion, Balrog retires to a life of luxury, and in some versions, white women!

 

Other Fun tidbits of racism from Street Fighter 2

-The Americans in the game all seemingly have fabulous lives, where as many of the other characters are pretty poor and destitute. Guile, for example, is a military hero!

– Vega is from Spain. People from Spain all love Flamenco and are Vain, or so the developers believe.

-Very few countries are represented, and yet Japan and the U.S have multiple characters! The hell!?

Street Fighter is a great game, but it certainly relied heavily on stereotypes to make up its cast of characters. I’m sure the developers didn’t intend to make the game offensive, it’s probably that they just needed to make the characters noticeably different from each other. Future games in the franchise featured more fleshed out characters and relied less on stereotypes and even the original cast is a little less racist these dam. Regardless of its unintentional racism, it’ll still be one game that will forever be a classic…No mater which 1 of the 500 versions of the game you play.

BONUS ROUND OF SEXISM!

Street Fighter had the chance of being one of the most sexist games ever, as some of the original developers actually wanted to give Chun-Lee, the only female character in the game, a shorter life bar because she was a woman.

“You know how each character has a life bar? At one point, I wanted to make the power gauge for Chun-Li shorter than for the other characters because women are not as strong. But [another designer] didn’t want to do that. We both had legitimate reasons, but then we came to an agreement to not make it shorter.”

Oh man, who thought that was a good idea. Oh Capcom.

 

 

Can Video Games Cause You To Hear Sounds After The Game is Off?

I was up late one night trying to get the perfect route in Star Fox 64. I turned off my n64 and retired to my bed. It was then I heard the screams and cries of animals far off in the distance. The sounds of a shot down frog here, the tart responses of a falcon over there; the sounds were more real than my hate for Andross. When I ran to the phone to call for psychiatric help, all I received was this response “DO A BARREL ROLL!”. 

What I was experiencing, in this made up story that would never happen to anyone, is a newly named phenomena called Game Transfer Phenomena. A team coming out Nottingham Trent University is trying to figure out the phenomena of gamers experiencing phantom sounds and noises after turning off their favorite games. These sounds can be anything from music to the sounds of explosions and cries (2SPOOPI3ME) The research suggests that many gamers experience lingering noises and sounds overlaying real life from their games after particularly engrossing play sessions. Having gathered evidence from over 1000 testimonials of gamers who have claimed to witness this phenomena, they claim that nearly 13% of gamers experience this phenomena. Obviously collecting testimonials for forums and from such a low number is only anecdotal, but it is an interesting finding. Earlier in the year we blogged a study that was looking into a similar phenomena that dealt with hallucinations, so there seems to be some backing to the findings. Similar research was apparently done in the mid 90s with the very addictive handheld title “Tetris”.

THERE IS NO NES, ONLY TETRIS.

So should we start expecting to heard phantom banjo strings after playing an engrossing game of Banjo Kazooie? Probably not. It’s really not that unnatural for the brain to replay or responded in different ways after having done any task for an extensive amount of time. If Game Transfer Phenomena is anything, it seems to be the brain dealing with the event from earlier. But what do I know about the brain? Nothing.

What does this have to do with sociology you might ask? Well, not much. But it is interesting that video games may be effecting in ways we never knew they could; biologically and psychologically. Certainly video games are effecting us as a population more than ever.

The Guardian has a better take on this subject, so take a look at their article for real justice to the research. Let us know if you’ve ever heard, seen, or even tasted anything gaming related that shouldn’t have been there. WE WON’T REFER YOU TO A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, I SWEAR.

Polygon’s “No Skin Thick Enough:The daily harassment of women in the game industry”

No Skin Thick Enough

Today Polygon posted this piece on their site. It’s an piece about the myths and realities of harassment against women in the video game industry by Brianna Wu. It features the real life experiences of several women in the gaming industry that have faced harassment and threats from gamers and consumers. I’m not going to try and make any witty comments on this one, you should just read the article. Warning: There is some pretty graphic language in the piece.

These are some pretty harrowing experiences that are laid out in this piece. Being a public figure, especially a female public figure, in the gaming industry is still one that carries a lot of hurdles and hardships. The gaming community is slowing shifting and becoming more and more accepting, but we still have a long way ahead of us. We got some real dicks still out there, and we probably always will, but it is how we as a community respond to these types of actions that make us the community we are. Gamers have to hold up those who are being oppressed in our community, and until we do we’re all failing as a community.

 

NPR’s “All Things Considered” piece on Gaming Diversity

NPR’s “All Things Considered” piece on Gaming Diversity and Video Game Violence

NPR’s “All Things Considered” has a new piece on video game diversity that reflects on their experience at this years E3. For those who don’t listen to ATC, it’s a segment show on NPR in which the correspondents go out and explore different things. This week Arun Rath reflects on his experience at E3. Spoiler alert: He didn’t spend his entire time there playing the new Battlefield.

Listen to the piece on their website or read the transcipt, it’s less than 7 minutes and an interesting insight from someone who clearly is a foreigner to the gaming community. He raises some issues we already know about, but are important nonetheless. His major focus in the lack of diversity presented in E3 among presenters and protagonist, which is true and fair. However, using E3 as a temperature for the community as a whole isn’t pragmatic. Despite this, he does an interesting enough job of bringing the issue to his listeners, a populace of people who probably don’t know much In addition, he brings up is  the amount of violent video games revealed/shown at this E3 and the amount of sequels at the show. These are fair reflections, but they may not necessarily reflect the entirety of E3. He glances over a lot of the new and unique things coming from specific developers and instead focuses on how the Oculus Rift is the next “revolution” in gaming. EH….I don’t want to comment on what I think about the OR, but I think it’s fair to say that  Rath didn’t get the full scope of E3 in the article.

It is fair to say that E3 has become dominated by violent video games. This graph, created by user timetokill on Neogaf, shows the breakdown of reveals of games that focus on shooting:

GAMERS JUST WANNA SHOOT

This generations focus on shooters is interesting, but that’s a subject for another day. E3 has always been about appealing to the console gaming masses, and this year’s was no different. With the gaming demographic expanding, hopefully in future years we’ll see the console population diversify as well. Until then, big shows like E3 are still going to be directed at their main audience: males who love shooters.

At least Nintendo is doing something….not shooting?

New Tropes VS. Women In Gaming Video: Women as Background Decoration Part 1

Anita Sarkeesian has released a new installment in her Tropes Vs. Women in Gaming video series that explores women as decorative objects in gaming. Her videos tend to be controversial amongst the gaming community, but I think she does great work to exposure a lot of the sexism and bias in the gaming community. Others may say “LOLWHATEVER”, to which I would reply “touche” .  Warning, some content in the video can be a little graphic and NSFW. Anyways, here’s a description of the video from  The Feminist Frequency website.

“In this episode we explore the Women as Background Decoration trope which is the subset of largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavoring into game worlds. These sexually objectified female bodies are designed to function as environmental texture while titillating presumed straight male players. Sometimes they’re created to be glorified furniture but they are frequently programmed as minimally interactive sex objects to be used and abused.

Sexual objectification is the practice of treating or representing a human being as a thing or mere instrument to be used for another’s sexual purposes. Sexually objectified women are valued primarily for their bodies, or body parts, which are presented as existing for the pleasure and gratification of others.”

Let me know what your stance on these videos are. Please  no “SHE STUPID. SHE NO NOTHING BOUT VIDAJ GYMES”.

Father’s Day In Gaming

Video games are full of dads. Dads over here, dads over there. And why not? Games reflect society and guess what society has a lot of? Dads. Thus, in honor of father’s day, I thought we’d look at some the best and worst fathers in video gaming history. I’ve decided to break these dads into three categories: Bad dads, Sad dads, and Rad Dads.

BAD DADS

Dads sometimes like to be bad. Could be rebellion against the feelings of being tied down by a family, or pent up anger over their favorite sports team losing the big match (THE DENVER SLIM SLAMS GOT ROBBED, HUH HONEY!?), regardless there’s a lot of bad dads out there in video games.

-Heihachi (Tekken franchise)

Kazuya Mishima, my son, this is where you die. I will see you in hell!

Fighting games seem to have a lot of bad dads, but none seem worse than Heihachi from the Tekken franchise. I know the Tekken universe is a little insane, but let’s put that all aside and look at the terrible father that is Heihachi. Let’s look at some of the fatherly things hes done over the span of the series.

  • Throws his son into a ravine and forces his son to make a deal with the devil.
  • Throws his son into an active volcano.
  • Adopts a second child to fight his biological son.
  • Enters a tournament to beat up his son and adopted son.
  • Betrays his grandson to experiment on him.
  • Shoots his grandson into space. INTO SPACE.

So there you have it. His son wants him dead, his adopted son wants him dead, and even his grandson wants him dead. That said, he has a pretty sweet bear that loves the hell out of him.

-The King of the Cosmos (Katamari Series)

“It is not your fault. It is our fault for believing in you.”

Now you may be saying ‘THE KING OF THE COSMO IS THE GREATEST!”, and yes you’d be right. However, The King of The Cosmos is a terrible father. He’s constantly destroying the cosmos on accident on either drunken binges or haphazard tennis games that make black holes and then has the nerve to make his son clean up the mess. That would be all fine and dandy, but he doesn’t give his son the credit he deserves. He constantly talking crap about all of prince’s work making stars and then takes the credit for making the stars. WHAT THE HELL!? Nothing is good enough for this bad dad, not even creating an entire sun.  He’s just a lazy, glory hogging, careless, tyrant.

Honorable mentions:

  • Kratos: Killing your wife and kids, even if being tricked by a God, is still pretty bad.

SAD DADS

Let’s face it. There’s an odd amount of sad dads in video games. This could be because video games inherently make dads sad because they remind them of their forgotten youth, or because game developers use childrens’ death as a motive for plot progression and more developed characters more often than Mario saves Peach.

Joel (The Last of Us)

READ NO FURTHER IF DON’T WANT SPOILERS!

Joel is a mix of a sad and rad dad. The game starts with Joel desperately trying to protect his daughter from the onslaught of a mysterious outbreak. He tries hard, and in his attempt you see how much he loves his daughter even as she lays dieing in his arms. 20 years later he’s a sad, hardened dad. Unlike a lot of sad dads who sit around looking at pictures of their children, this sad dad has become the ultimate survivor. Of course, throughout the game he bonds with Ellie, a young girl that is thrust into his life, and shows that he still has the fatherly nature in him. DON’T BE SO SAD, SAD DAD.

END SPOILERS.

 Bowser (Super Mario Series)

Bowser isn’t a sad dad in the normal sense of a sad dad; you’ll never see him weep into a swansons tv dinner or grow a slovenly beard over missing his kids, but he is a tragic dad. Why? Because he’s a constant failure to himself and his kid/s. All Bowser ever wants to do is capture Princess Peach so she can be the mother of his kids. He’s desperate for a female role model in his kids life. Unfortunately he’s always foiled by Mario and his goons, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Time and time again he fails, only to rise up again and again. He’s so tragic that his own kids have disowned him (See the Koopa Kids) and his only remaining son is now deranged in his own right. It’s Okay Bowser… It aint easy being king.

Honorable mentions: 

-Doctor Light: Doesn’t have kids, so he build some. They have to save the world and almost die with each step they take.

RAD DADS

Some dads are pretty rad. Hopefully your life is filled with Rad dads; dads who go to your ballet lessons and wait in the car listening to talk radio without batting an eye. Dads who give their Sundays up to take you to some kids party you’ll realize you hate years later. These are the rad dads that make up certain video games.

Octodad

Octodad is a pretty rad dad. Why? It’s not only because he’s an octopus disguising as a human man to live a normal dad life of taking care of a wife and kids, it’s because he’s damn good at it. Contrary to naysayers who say “Octopuses can’t be good human dads!” or “He’d be as good at being a dad as an octopus could possibly be” Octodad blows all presumptions away by being an awesome dad regardless of being an octopus or not. Not only that, he does it while trying not to raise suspicion that he is an octopus; how many dads out there have to do that?

-Big Daddy (Bioshock Series)

Not all dads have blood relations to those they’re dads to, and Big Daddy is a great representation of that. What’s there to say that hasn’t been said about these massive, monstrous, creature dads in  metal suits whose sole purpose are to protect the hideous and evil little children that dwell in a post apocalyptic underwater city? Regardless of what’s been said, i’ll say it again: these dads are rad. Like mad sports dads who fly off the handle when their kids get fouled in a game, Big Daddies protect their young at all costs, and that’s a damn honorable trait.

Honorable mentions:

Hagger (Final Fight): He’s a the mayor of the city. That doesn’t mean he won’t kick some ass to save his daughter.

 

There’s some dads for ya. Let me know who your favorite video game dads are and why they deserve the respect of their peers and unsupportive children.

Fans Disappointed With Ubisoft’s Lack of Gender Choices in Upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity

Fans Disappointed With Ubisoft’s Lack of Gender Choices in Upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity

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.

BLOG NEWS!

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