Monday, June 16, 2008

Patricia Greenfield Summary

Patricia Greenfield’s chapter on “Video Games” focuses on the downsides to video games and the possible solutions to such problems. The main arguments against video games seems to be the lunch money teenage boys appropriate for arcades, their “apparent” addictiveness, and associated aggressive behavior. However, studies have shown that families with gaming consoles spend an average of 42 minutes a day as opposed to an average of TV habits which double time spent on gaming. Another concern is the price of such a habit, though, it is shown that kids spent only 5 dollars a day and skill is rewarded with increased play time. But what is the attraction?
It can be most closely associated with the everyday use of TV and its dynamic visual imagery. Games that see more users usually possess a higher level of dynamic visual imagery. Also, games provide of interaction with the visual imagery. Being able to actively control what occurs on the screen has an attraction to children because they make a personal connection to what is going on.
Violence in video games has been associated with aggression of the player, but other factors are important in this subject. Video games that involve the presence of two players, whether cooperative or competitive, seem to act as catharsis for users instead of provoking aggression. Also, the popularity of games does not depend on violence. So, instead of creating games with undesirable social themes, game manufactures should aim at action games without violence because popularity will not be at a loss.
Another benefit to video games is the skills involved with them. Gamers are presented with obstacles, but not just static physical ones. They have to account for the computers programmed movements. Two primary skills are hand-eye coordination and parallel processing, especially in action games. Some games, such as fantasy games, involve creation and a multi-dimensional character structure. If the benefits of games are employed correctly they can be transferred to actual life skills.
Vital to gaming is the challenge it puts forth. Having a series of levels greatly determines the amount of interest and time a player will spend on one game. Having a series of levels may be responsible for addictiveness, but it can better be described as long term appeal.
Video games definitely have a function in life, though bad does come with good. If game manufactures design games wisely then the skills learned from them can be carried over into other aspects of our lives.


Nick S said...

This post caught my attention right away with the quote by the mother of two teenagers when she said that video game arcades reminded her of smoking. I wasn't around during the peak of video arcades, but I thought she was over exaggerating the seriousness of the arcade "problem".

I was pleasantly surprised when Greenfield countered the addiction allegation by saying that most the time spend in the arcades was due to socializing.

Another interesting part of this article was the "Problem of Violence" section. I found it funny how violence was an issue in games like Space Invaders or Mission. It'd be entertaining to see what those parents now think of GTA 4.

I also enjoyed when Greenfield explained how difficult she thought it was to master these games, when today we find them elementary.

Jon72585 said...

One thing that caught my attention in this article was the way that the author put forth the argument that action, not violence, would keep a player coming back. It is on page 104 of the article where it says "action, not violence in itself, is what attracts young children to the screen." Later on the same page she says, "There is a clear message for the manufacturers of video games: they should forsake violence because of its undesirable social consequences; they can use other action themes without sacrificing the popularity of the games."

This really rang true with me when I thought about the Mario games. Mario games are maybe a little violent (you do squish goombas to death), but they are more action adventure than anything else. And still, Mario has been around for the longest time. We talked in class yesterday for a minute about how the Mario brand has crossed over to include racing. It has also crossed over to tennis, soccer, golf, and even a fighting game (if you count Smash Brothers as a 'Mario' game). Yet still, none of these titles are explicitly violent. They are, however, top selling titles.

Adrian said...

I think that Nick and Jon both put well what I thought was actually really present in the Patricia Greenfield summary: it isn't so much that she is an advocate of the critiques that people are putting on video games. She doesn't seem to find them addictive or having problematic violence. Rather, she notes that this is a critique, addresses it (largely in the favor of the video games), and moves on.

I think that a lot of us, raised in the shadow of videogames, are largely defensive of them. We are ready to see someone looking at videogames and demonizing them. It becomes easy to misread her addressing of these topics as the same kind of demonizing that others are doing, even if she actually comes to the opposite conclusions.

Marlon Heimerl said...

I agree with much that has been said by the other members of the class in that the most interesting section of this article was Greenfield’s assessment of the violent components (or lack-there-of) of video games and how that has affected their assimilation into society.

Indeed, gamers have come a long way from the older days of the smoky, sticky-floored, black walled sores on the street corner or at the end of the mall filled with unsavory characters vulnerable to attack by the many moralists out there who need a new scapegoat to, well, ‘scape.’ I am glad the Greenfield took more of a subjective stance when addressing this issue, as it has been, and certainly will be, an enduring debate in terms of the video game revolution, which, according to Moore’s Law of computation power, may only just be taking root.

Indeed, graphics are improving, as are computation power, etc. This means that the ability of video game creators to depict more and more realistic scenes of violence (etc.) are certainly on the rise. From Doom to Duke Nukem’ (sp?) to Halo and Resident Evil, the question commonly arises as to whether violence in video games should be tolerated. Did the fact that my Mortal Kombat didn’t have blood or fatalities in the earlier years (being a Super Nintendo aficionado) save me from a traumatizing experience or did it give me a taste of blood lust being the luscious cherry off of the forbidden tree? No, most certainly, neither.

I, like Greenfield and the majority of the class (from what I’ve heard so far) agree that video games, the same as violent music (“Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” of any Marilyn Manson toon) provides me with a means for catharsis. Am I any more violent due to my exposure to blood and gore? I think not, if anything, I am more desensitized and relieved by my gaming experience to the possibilities of the imagination. Does this at all match up to the experience of one who viewed first hand the horrors of war on the battlefield? Of course not. The same way as a Beethoven symphony may arouse a sense of sadness in my chest so might a video game get my adrenaline pumping. However, as soon as the experience comes to an end, when the controller is set aside, I am able to remove myself from the fiction the same as I am able to go about my life when the record stops spinning.

Indeed, the enduring debate about video game violence has only just been touched on in this article, but I feel that Greenfield’s portrayal was a fare assessment of the broader strokes of this issue. No, just because Liu Kang ripped out Subzeros spinal chord does not mean that I want to do the same. All that it means is that I figured out the code in the game to do so, and look forward to doing it again. Because, it is just that—only a game.

Sarah. R. said...

One of the interesting things about this article were the number of times that the author made some pretty strident gendered assumptions, without any kind of backup - as in, "boys are better at x" vs. girls, etc. I wonder what actual studies out there say about these issues; a lot of what the author said on this topic felt a bit like dated assumptions.

I did really like her early and overt call for analysis of games and gaming. I thought that suggesting that people become game-literate (much like they do with other types of media) was a very progressive viewpoint.

Eric M said...

Even though this article is old, I think it is very useful in analyzing the problems and benefits of video games. Most of them still hold true today. First, the problems. I'm always left with a bad taste in my mouth when video games are criticized because of their violent nature. Back then, the fear wasn't that kids would duplicate the violence in Space Invaders, but it is today due to the increase in realism, etc. I just don't feel and can't be convinced that video games are huge factors in making kids more violent. I think it's already in them and it may contribute, but the sole contributor, I don't think so.

Another interesting benefit that has evolved is hand-eye coordination. This is a benefit that I think is tremendously underrated when discussing video games. For example, today, NASCAR drivers are able to use the games because they are so sophisticated and real, that it's just like a real race. I saw a piece on ESPN where Dale Earnhardt Jr. was talking about how he uses it to train because it's just like being in a race car today. The game trains him in his hand-eye coordination along with many other skills. Personally, I think that playing games have helped me in my reaction time.

Overall, I think this article does an excellent job of looking at problems and benefits, trying to give both sides of the argument, which is seen so little in mainstream media coverage of video games. I would like to see more positive portrayals of what can be learned from video games in the future.

Jasun said...

While I agree with much of what is said by other's in the class, I do have a one to pick with this article, namely the reliance upon anecdotal and unsupported conjecture to make a number of the authors points.

For example, when discussing the link beteen visual-spatial skills and computers, Greenfield provides the example of how Matthew and his fellow campers took a Rubik's Cube to camp, stating that this is evidence of a link between spatial skills and computer games. However, it is just as easily argued thtat the Rubik's cube is simply a part of geek sub-culture, or that at the time of this article that the Cube was something of a cultural phenomenon and was likely found at many other camps.

The other concern I have, and I know I will be bringing this up time and time again throughout the course, is the lack of distinction between causation and correlation. If, and I do mean if, video games require a certain level of visual-spatial skill, does it not make sense that those children with higher pre-existing skills will be drawn to them?