Gaming Has Positive Effects On Your Health… So Where’s The Hype?

By Sparling Wilson

In class, we have discussed how video games incorporate many different philosophical, artistic, historical, and social issues across their many forms and types. For some games, relaying information or a critique to the player is the end of goal, while others incorporate these elements more subtly to make a deeper and more complex gaming experience. Even first person shooter games incorporate high though, such as Bioshock’s blatant critique of Ayn Rand’s objectivism. However, even games that are not as cerebral can benefit the players.

Heath and mental benefits of these games range. According to Dr. Daphne Bavelier players’ eyes may actually benefit from looking at a screen for hours, improving the ability of people who play most to distinguish gray scale and the definition of objects. She also indicated that playing certain kinds of games have positive effects on people’s ability to multitask and on their attention.

Here is the video, where you can see Dr. Bavelier giving the talk..

Ted Talk On The Benefits of Gaming

This Ted Talker spoke about designing games to be useful for rehabilitation or specific learning purposes, which of course is valid. At the same time, I must offer a critique on her idea, and specifically her presentation of it. While she just spoke about the benefits of playing video games, and most importantly first person shooter games, which have long been considered the most extra-regular of the gaming family (minimal story line, all focused on simple, repeated task of shooting enemies), she just took a major step back and gave a large blow for the gaming community. Sadly, she separates games played for pleasure from games with a practical application. If you watch the video, she spends a great deal of time relaying how these pleasurable games actually do have a practical application, and yet, she does not consider games played for pleasure to be completely as applicable as a game designed with a more scientific purpose.

Personally, I am constantly befuddled at the mainstream community and scientific community to continually write off gaming and gaming culture,  especially after seeing the great deal of high-concept thinking that video games employ. Why can’t we accept that games are a valid form of media, and event at their most basic form, they provide health and mental benefits when used in moderation?

I have come to view gaming as awesome: it incorporates visual art, audible art, narrative, philosophy, history, culture, participates in remediation, and critiques itself, probably more than any other form of media. What’s more, I’ve come to regard it as one of my favorite forms (although I’m still new) because it’s interactive and challenging: I am able to participate in the art and narrative in a way that is unique to gaming.

I guess going back to my previous question about people accepting the validity of gaming in the mainstream, I can relate to the haters. A few months ago, I didn’t really understand much of the hype or the depth that games can possess; I merely thought of gaming as entertainment. My assumption is that as gaming continues to attract more and more followers, both through a diversity of genres and increasing accessibility because of platform integration (hello, mobile games), people will begin to see games as a more valid form of media. As a result, more scientific and sociological research will be done on games, and then, once the artistic and scientific communities fully accept games, the medium will receive the respect it deserves. It is sad that acceptance necessitates this kind of validation, but I really hope that it comes soon.

Advertisements

A Musing About Games and Gender

In a relatively recent video series on youtube, PBS Game/Show, one of the videos discussed was “Are You Weird if You Play as the Opposite Sex?” (source below). In it, there was quite a bit of discussion into a genre of roleplaying games that allow players to design their own characters. These game include many MMORPGs and single player games, such as World of Warcraft, Mass Effect series, the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and many others. After watching the video, I have been thinking a bit about why I sometimes play as opposite genders in roleplaying games.

It would be lying if I said I often play as female characters in games. If one looks at my Mass Effect save files, the ration is something around 2:5 female to male. As a man, I still usually default to being a man in video games as well. While I do not consider this skewed ratio an issue, I have seriously thought about this particular behavior. Is it simply because I am a guy, or because I am uncomfortable playing a women, or perhaps I am unconsciously gynophobic? That last one is a joke, mostly. After thinking about it and getting nowhere, I decided to jump in and start a female Commander Shepard, back when I was playing Mass Effect 2. And I enjoyed it just as much as playing the male Shepard, even when I am getting her…romantically involved with other men, or male aliens (yep, you can do that). The experience was fun, engaging, and maybe even a little bit enlightening.

So understandably I was sorely disappointed with other games such as Skyrim, where playing male or female characters hold no difference whatsoever, aside from the occasional pronouns. In Skyrim, and most MMORPGs, the sex difference is very glossed over, and have next to no bearing on the gameplay or the narrative. At this point, I have actually surprised myself, because I am now actively trying to learn more about the female perspective from video games.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this little habit of mine has contributed to my sense of gender equality. Unfortunately, I still can’t come to any sort of productive conclusion about playing games as the opposite sex, but nonetheless, it has me intrigued, and of course I am not going to quite anytime soon.

-SyC

Sims 3: Blast from the Past

Playing Sims 3 in class on Thursday immediately made me feel like I was 10yr old again, fighting with my sisters for a turn to play.  Although it was a different version of the game (we played Sims 2), most of the controls are the same, which made it easy to pick it right back up pretty easily.  Molly and I spent the whole class creating a family because of the extensive details that go into creating a sim.  We ended up only fully creating the mom from scratch and randomizing the dad.  From there we used the genetics button to create a child with characteristics from both. This is a new, super cool feature in the Sims 3 and it is awesome. So far I have loved playing the Sims game again.  I really think it is a good game choice for our presentation because of its highly mediated nature.  The screen is always full of control bars and buttons and when you click on anything in the game, multiple options appear for different actions.  You can also see a sequence of actions for each character on the top of the screen.  However, the nature and purpose of the game is to create a family life and invest in the characters’ lives, enriching them with relationships, careers, and housing.  In this way, it is ironic that the game is so mediated instead of attempting to be more transparent and realistic.  This game is very interesting because of this contrast.  I am very excited to explore the relationship between the game’s narrative qualities and its mediated qualities for the project!

-Emily Blake

Risk over Halo anyday

By Aneel Henry

8 cans of Red Bull, 10 cookies, 6 treaties and 2 broken friendships later the game of risk ends in world domination. The winner runs around the table in a sort of victory ritual, hooting in excitement and beating his hands on his chest to clearly display his newly earned alpha male status.

I’m sure that most who have ever played an extended board game (like Risk or Monopoly) have witnessed a natural phenomenon much like the one I just described. The victory against the opponent, the conquering of the planet, and the complete and utter genocide committed upon all who stand in the victors way culminate in an immense rush of accomplishment and ecstasy for the victor. This degree of emotional investment is critical in creating a successful game. It is not the map design, or the quality of the pieces, or the rolling of die that makes board games like Risk fun. It is the intense competition that springs from direct person-to-person relations that make Risk and Monopoly universally appealing.

Unlike board games, console and online games are not direct interactions with other human beings but interpersonal competition reproduced through a medium (the TV or computer screen). Although this competition can be just as intense, it is much harder for a video game to produce the level of personal interaction achieved while playing a board game. Many companies have tried and succeeded in stimulating personalized competition with inventions like Xbox live, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). These games link each unique avatar directly to a person, thereby stimulating intense competition that admittedly has the capacity to equal or surpass that of board games.

Despite attempts at recreating the intimacy of board games, I feel video games have not captured the universal human spirit of competition. Although many love video games, there is a large percentage of the population that finds the medium through which the competition is stimulated (TV, PC, etc) too confusing or not engaging enough to capture their attention. There is no equivalent to a board game. In a video game, it is impossible to fully personalize an opponent to the degree a board game achieves. There is nothing like watching the excitement melt off of your opponents face as your army wipes him off the map. Or just watching a player truly debate over the best strategy to win, concentrating so hard that you can practically see the gears turning in his/her head. Although video games, to some extent, have captured the competitive spirit of a select group of people, they have not been able to emotionally engage the player as board games have successfully done.