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?)
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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!
We’ve all been there. If you’re a gamer, there’s a chance you’ve died. Not literally of course, because that would be silly. Video games test our skills, and more often than we would like to admit: we fail. We fail hard. I know I’ve had countless deaths at the hand of Robot masters, thousands of deaths in the Mushroom Kingdom, and more deaths you can imagine at the hands of Eggman. For most people, failure is a big no-no; we hate doing it, and when we do failure we take it hard. However, gamers are seemingly ok with failing in video games and, more often than not, the failure just makes them want to continue playing.
Ridiculously difficult games have always had their niche audience, but games that are exceedingly difficult have become far more popular this console generation with games like Dark Souls and Demon Souls promoting being the hardest of the hard. Are we masochists for playing these games? What about difficult games appeal to us? Shouldn’t we want to stay away from games that are difficult and make us fail more? Logically, yes. We logically should want to stay away from things that make us fail….And yet we don’t with video games. Why?
It could be that we perhaps enjoying failing. Maybe we’ve always secretly wanted to just lose to Donkey Kong Jr. in Super Mario Kart on the SNES repeatedly until the Cartridge stopped working, but we didn’t because it wasn’t socially acceptable. Sure, you could just pass it off as being bad at the game, but eventually people would get suspicious. Wondering why you, a grown man, couldn’t defeat the adolescent ape who is by far the slowest racer in the game. Things would also get confusing when you’d be miraculously better in Versus mode against your friends, so you’d pretend to lose to keep the lie going; anxiously hoping they don’t find you out for the perverse desire to lose to that tank top wearing ape that was constantly swilling through your mind. You could even try and go get help for this issue, but the looks and stares of the medical professional just makes you sick to your stomach. Eventually they’re moving out all of your stuff out of your room, seeking to find that hidden Mario Kart cartridge you have hidden away in the loose woodplank beneath your bed. “YOU’LL NEVER FIND IT!” you scream from your full body constraint, only to receive another injection of tranquilizer to calm you down. Muttering ” “DK Jr. Just likes the bananas” as you fade out of consciousness, you might even wonder if it’s all just one big trick devised by that dimwitted Donkey Kong……
What? Where was I?
Oh, failure in games. This paradox of why we typically avoid failure, and yet go to video games despite the fact that we often fail at them is what Jesper Juul evaluates in his recent essay “The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video games” . Juul, an assistant professor at NYU’s Game Center,the most compelling video game program in the country, explores what he calls “paradox of failure”
I dislike failing in games, but I dislike not failing even more. There are numerous ways to explain this contradiction, and I will discuss many of them in this book. But let us first consider the strangeness of the situation: every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world play video games, and most of them will experience failure while playing. It is safe to say that humans have a fundamental desire to succeed and feel competent, but game players have chosen to engage in an activity in which they are almost certain to fail and feel incompetent, at least some of the time. In fact, we know that players prefer games in which they fail. This is the paradox of failure in games.
And that’s only the start of it! Is this a valid paradox? Furthermore, how does failing at video games shape us in the outside world? Does it make us more prone to failure? More okay with failing? These are all valid questions, some of which Juul touches on in his essay. He notes that we don’t like games that are too easy, which is true. Most gamers much rather play a game that’s overly difficult, like Ninja Gaiden, than games that are overly easy, like Pokemon Snap.
He describes people having a “separate rule” for video games, one in which people don’t adhere to the same regulations and attitudes in games as they would in real life. That’s certainly true, as if a partner of mine in the video game dies I don’t blink, but the same can’t be said for the real world. Separate rules for separate worlds. Seems fair. Juul is also very much aware that video game failures don’t come at the same cost as real world failures, so the stakes are much lower when one fails in the video game world. Of course this is a determining reason: knowing that you can take another stab at a problem, most of the times immediately in video games, makes failure a lot more comforting. I can imagine it wouldn’t go over too well if in their next game Bungie only allowed you to die once. Gamers wouldn’t be too happy and players would take their failures in the game much, much harder.
I have separate rules for separate worlds:you steal flowers from my flowerbed in the real world and I don’t care, you do it in Animal Crossing and I’ll send your nasty mail for weeks.
I don’t have too many answers on this topic, but Juul’s piece has made me rethink failure in video games. I don’t know if I view failure any differently because of being such an avid gamer, as failure in real life certainly stings, but certainly video games have made me fail quite a bit. If video games do make individuals view failure differently than non-gamers, then something tremendously sociological can be said about the impact that video games have on our socialization. Video games certainly do teach us lessons and ways of life, so perhaps it’s not too far fetched that Video games are teaching us how to deal with failure.
It’s really interesting stuff. I say this because I both think it and hope to score brownie points with Juul for the sake of getting in NYU’s MFA program one day. Mostly the former…because he’ll never see this, and god help me if he did.
Today Club Nintendo released their 2012-2013 year prize list for members who had registered enough Nintendo products to make their way into their gold and elite membership statuses. Platinum and Gold members get to choose one free gift, as a thank you from the big N. This is of course in addition to the prizes members can redeem year round for “coins” earned by registering products.
This rewards program got me thinking, as it’s quite the ingenious program that Nintendo has created. Essentially Nintendo is giving incentives beyond the games themselves for purchasing their products and often times these rewards come in the way of free p. Why do so many gamers care about these types of rewards program? Is it just for the free swag, or is there more at work?
Personal bias upfront: I think the Club Nintendo rewards program is awesome. I already buy a lot of Nintendo games because I generally enjoy most of their games, so being further rewarded for registering games I already own is a nice addition. Plus, their rewards are generally pretty nice. About a year ago I used some of my built up coins to get their 3-set of 25th anniversary posters for the Legend of Zelda, and they’ve made amazing additions to my apartment. In fact, I even framed one of them.
Why do we care?
Yes, it’s partly because of the free merchandise. Ok, mostly. But let’s look at Club Nintendo from a more sociological perspective, mainly because I’m bored and killing time.
Club Nintendo is great example of Social Exchange theory. Economist and psychologist probably can express it better, but essentially SET says that society is a series of social interactions in which people determine their outcome by rewards gained vs. negatives lost. Basically laid out, the thought process behind most interactions can be shown by this equation.
Interaction/Behavior/Act = The Positives or Benefits of the act – The negatives or costs of the act.
GLABIDYGLOOOK, I know. When applied to Club Nintendo it goes something like this: Registering a Product in Club Nintendo = Free rewards from Nintendo – The time and effort it took to register the product. If someone deems there to be more positive outcome from registering a product with Nintendo, then they’ll most likely do that action. So if someone can’t stand to take the 5 minutes to fill out a Nintendo survey, then the free rewards that Nintendo is offering aren’t worth the social act.
This all sounds like common sense, so why am I even taking the time to spell it out? I don’t know. But the theory also goes on to hypothesize that it’s social acceptance and acknowledgement that makes people deem something positive or negative. Like gamer scores or PSN trophies, registering Nintendo games on Club Nintendo is acknowledgement of a task; a badge of honor if you will. Thus gamers are seeking acknowledgement from the Big N in someway when they register their products. Neat O.
What does this say about us gamers?
We like being acknowledged, either by our peers or our developers. Hey, that’s not too bad. Being acknowledge is nice after all, and when companies acknowledge their fanbase it makes for better games. Then again, maybe systems like Club Nintendo are merely way to appease rather than acknowledge, but that’s not for me to decide.
In the end, I just wanted to talk about Club Nintendo. I’m pretty excited for these 2013 rewards. I got the three poster set, and they’re looking to be pretty snazzy. So…Thanks for the indulgence.
“I want to be the very best, that no one ever was!”
It’s not all links and sadness here at the Sociology of Video Games, there’s also deep personal analysis about what Pokemon means to me. No, that’s not true either. However, I did think it would be fun and worthwhile to take the opportunity to examine some popular video game franchises for their messages about the social world. What better place to start than 2nd most popular gaming franchise of all time: Little Masters.
..No, wait. Sorry. That’s the Iphone’s bastard ripoff. I mean of course:
Pokemon is by far one of the definitive games of the 90s, with it being one of the best selling and most popular franchises of all time. 15 years (That makes me feel old) later and the franchise is still white hot, like that Misty’s Sweet short shorts (or Brocks..awesome vest. For the ladies..). For any kid growing up in the last decade, Pokemon may have played an important part in developing their frame of mind when viewing various aspects of the social world. But what are these messages and lessons about social world that Pokemon is teaching our kids? Are they good messages? Is pokemon only teaching our kids to trap animals in balls, and only let them out once and awhile to fight other animals? This isn’t a PETA analysis of Pokemon, but let’s play: Here are some themes and concepts Pokemon is teaching kids all over the world.
One of the more predominant themes that seem to be underlying the Pokemon is Capitalism. Now obviously the game isn’t teaching kids to accumulate wealth (Though there’s a lot of exchange of cash for kids battling bugs in the forest), but the goal of the Pokemon world isn’t that far from the goal of capitalism: Be the best, have the most. Now, one could theoretically go through the game without acquiring a lot of pokemon, but the game inevitably pushes you to catch multiple pokemon to succeed. That’s not a bad message, as it certainly teaches kids to be fiscally motivated (An issue we saw was lacking in games aimed at female gamers: See below)), but it also makes living creatures essentially into commodities. So..That’s bad. Not to mention you’re essentially an intern for Professor Oak; doing all his work for him while you get paid peanuts.
But like Capitalism, there’s never an end accumulation. With new games come new pokemon and the world is seemingly always expanding. Can one really catch them all? Yes…until there’s more. Gamefreak is teaching us to never be satisfied with what you’ve caught. Being Goal oriented isn’t bad though…most of the time.
Once you start thinking of monetary values in Pokemon, you probably will need to take a break from the franchise.
Like the theme that I still hum to myself to get me pumped up for any event ever, the goal of pokemon is to be the very best. Pokemon is all about competition. Every battle is teaching kids to outwit, overpower, and outdo their opponents. There can only be one pokemon master and if you’re not him or her, ya suck.
There’s not much you do in the Pokemon world that isn’t a means to an end: You raise a pokemon for it to be stronger, you trade with your friends to acquire what you need, and battling is the only worthwhile way to be the best. But hey, that’s not necessarily bad- some competition is healthy, and games like Pokemon build confidence and challenge kids to think about their actions. Kids today can become in powered by video games; if you’re the pokemon master in the Pokemon world, adding and subtracting fractions aint shit.
Ok. Ok. You may think is stupid, but Pokemon certainly has a caste system. Not all Pokemon are created equal my friend. In a world filled with thousands of Pidgeys and only a handful of Zapdos, there clearly some Pokemon that are better than others. Now some might argue with me and say “IT’S HOW U TRAIN THEM. MY LEVEL 100 PIDGEY IS THE BEST”, and I’m not going to pretend to know the stat balancing factors in the games, but it’s pretty clear that some pokemon are overpowered. In fact, most multiplayer/tournament rules prohibit certain Pokemon from being used because they are considered overpowered. Yes, it’s silly: Any video game you play will have some characters that are stronger than others, but does that lessen the message at all? Who knows. But certainly the game makes kids think of classifications and place certain pokemon in classes accordingly: These pokemon are strong, these are weak. Likewise, the very nature of game classifies pokemon into types- Fire, water, dragon, bug, etc. But hey, classifications help children learn, so it’s not all that bad.
It’s only when you start making Pokemon HM Slaves that you’re crossing the line and making a pokemon a second class citizen.
You Gotta be Social!
Pokemon was created to be a social game, even back when the gameboy wasn’t the most social things. Most gameboy connector cables were bought specifically for Pokemon, in fact how many mulitplayer games on the gameboy can you even think of? Yeah, ok I can think of quite a few. That said, Pokemon makes you be social, because without being social you can’t fulfill the one main task of the game: catching them all. Version exclusive pokemon and Pokemon that only were available through trading ensured that you were interacting with at least one other game. Gamefreak brilliantly made two versions of the game so that players had to either own both, or trade with someone else. Even if you owned both versions of the game (Which many of us did) you still had to have two gameboys to connect (which many of us did), so really the most efficient and cost effective way to obtain all the pokemon is to have friends. Recent Pokemon games have enabled players to go online and trade, battle, and interact with people all over the world, so Pokemon has really become a global community.
Why there hasn’t been a Pokemon MMO is ridiculous. Nintendo, you monsters. (Official MMOs. Sorry fan mades)
Other Quick Social lessons Pokemon has to Teach
All Animals, regardless of power, control over time and space, or size, can be shoved into a single ball after a series of attacks and coaxing.
We should probably check other parts of the world before we claim there’s only 151 of them.
Some animals are more racially insensitive than others
As a child, you’re very safe going out into the world on your own as long as you have some sort of animal at your side.
Don’t ever walk into tall grass. Things will attack you.
If someone attacks you and beats you, you’ll just black out and wind up in a hospital in the last city you visited.
Healthcare is free, but bottled waters are wicked expensive.
The world is kind of based on you, and people will more or less stand in the same place forever- even after you have interacted with them.
Sailing alongside islands makes crazy things happen.
So that’s that. There’s more Pokemon has to say about the social world, but I’ll leave it at this. Does Pokemon actually convey these messages that I brought up? Maybe, but no one is really being shaped all that much by the games in the manner. In the end, they’re just fun games with tons of replay value and things to do. Just make sure your starters a good one. Charmander for life.
Please let me know if you enjoyed this article by either liking, sharing or commenting. I may do some more in the future. Who knows. Who cares.