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Video Games

Page history last edited by Jeff Martinek 15 years, 7 months ago

film reel [1P]


History and Definition

The above video shows a brief summary of graphic and design advancements in video games from their beginning to the present. A video game can be defined as "any forms of computer-based entertainment software, either textual or image-based, using any electronic platform such as personal computers or consoles and involving one or multiple players in a physical or networked environment". [8] This very broad definition does not address the issue of what a gaming experience is like, because there are several genres of video games; each involving different interactions. There are ten basic genres of video games: action and adventure, driving and racing, first-person shooter, platform, puzzle, roleplaying, strategy, simulation , sports, and beat-‘em-ups. [8] Action and adventure games typically happen in real-time (actions in the game occur in a realistic chronological fashion, without large pauses in between actions) and show the events affecting a single hero or group (Example: Diablo). Driving and racing games are simulations of racing (Example: Midnight Club). First-person shooter games try to give the player the visual perspective of the "hero" (Example: Halo). These games typically involve the use of firearms, but it is not a requirment, as many games use a similar vantage point, but use melee weapons instead. Platform games usual involve clearing obstacle to get the character to a certain location (Example: Super Mario Bros.). Puzzle games do not require an on-screen character and are usually video representation of games which could be played without the use of a electronics. Roleplaying games are the novels of video games (Example: Final Fantasy). They tend to tell an involved story with encircles what could be called a protagonist, who gets stronger (levels up) as the game progresses struggling with an antagonist (Example:


). Strategy games involve using strategic manipulation of on-screen resources (resources like money, troops, deception, etc.) to gain victory (Example: Civilization). Simulation games often make an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of the performance of a certain action (Example: Flight Simulator). Sports games offer a simulation of a typical sporting event (Example: Madden 2007). Finally, beat-em-ups give the player a simulation of fighting and competing (Example: Soul Caliber). Many of these genres are almost as vaguely defined as video games themselves and this is because most games are not one genre or another; they are a mix of multiple genres. As the medium of video games ages, like all media, it becomes more complex. This is an attempt to define video games through a media ecologist's point of view.

Thought/Brain Functions Evoked by Video Games


In video games, prior to any interaction of player and electronic can occur, the player must first learn a new language. For a player to be able to perform any task in a game, he must know the correct imput to be successful. Unlike human interaction, the language "spoken" to the character has an immediate effect. If the player says to turn left, then (unless other factors within the game prevent it) the character will turn left. As the character moves and its perspective changes (if even a couple of inches to the character), the player is immediately aware of the in information available and can send messages to the character as to how to deal with it. If the player is not fluent with the language, he or she cannot rely on non-verbal communication to achieve a task like in human interaction. Video games require fluency in the language of a system, then fluency in particular game, then fluency in particular situation of games and the list goes on. This constant relearning of language required for a successful gaming experience aids in the development of language skills. "Every game has its own interface and controls, so that anyone who has learned to play a handful of games can generally figure out how to operate almost any high-tech device." [9]
As with all media, video games allow an extension of one’s personal experience. Gaming, however, does engage the mind in ways different from other forms of media. Video games follow many electronic media in soliciting the usage of multiple senses. Marshal McLuhan was a famous media ecologist who believed that many of the conflicts which arose for man were due to an imbalanced development of the senses which came with the development of writing and literate culture. [5] Reading only uses the sense of sight, causing the other senses to be neglected and not function as well. Video games use the visual, oral, and tactile senses, creating a more balanced development of the senses. In a game, the player is required to see the layout of the screens, listen to oral cues, (depending on the game) decipher the cues of vibration in the controller and analyze all of this to determine the best course of action to take in a given event They usually have to do this process hundreds, even thousands of times a minute. With this constant process of analyzing and acting, problem solving skills are being developed. It is true that a child will rarely be chased by a mechanized rapture, but the processes involved in discovering how to avoid and even destroy such a creature translates into many facets of life. Some games use the constant “analyze and act” process with deeper tasks of problem solving. "Games require the players to construct hypotheses, solve probles, develop strategies, learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and erro. Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions." [9] Games such as Tomb Raider, where the player must constantly be on watch for wolves and other creatures of destruction while simultaneously finding and analyzing clues for completion of tasks necessary for continuation of the story.

As games increase in pace and the time for analysis and action shortens, the player is forced to scan the screen for cues of what to do. This is similar to the actions used to scan a page for content that one is searching or scaning a persons demeanor to assess his or her mood. Recent games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Patapon are impossible to be conquer without a sense of rhythm which can be developed through the game-play, not the mention the benefits for finger dexterity. Certain games teach mathematical concepts as well as any math class could. Tanks is a game in which the goal is to destroy the other tank. The player take turns firing back and forth attempting to hit one-another. The player must find the correct trajectory for hitting the opponent by manipulating the angle and power of the shot while considering the opponents positions compared to the player’s own as well as wind direction and speed. The educational abilities are tantalizing in the least. They eliminate the common question of students, “What does this mean for me?”, because it allows them to apply and enhance learned knowledge in virtual spectrums.


Evolving Systems of Interface

The act of playing video games and changed in many ways from their conception in attempts to make the simulated reality of the game more realistic. In tracing the evolution of game controls, we must begin with Pong, designed by Atari (the first video game company) as a type of carnival amusement, which was controlled by a dial. By turning the knob in different directions, the player was able to move the on-screen paddle. [3] Later came the arcade games, controlled by a joystick, giving the ability to move in multiple directions, and sometimes action button(s), which enabled the player to perform various actions, depending on the game. Games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders came with this innovation. [3] The games were made available at home with the same controlls. The home-based game controllers slowly evolved from that point. By replacing the joystick with a directional pad (or d-pad: a cross shaped command beacon on the controller on which the directions of the four points of the pad coincide which direction of commands given to the on-screen character), the player was able to give directional commands with one hand, allowing the other hand more complex operation of the action buttons. This method survived for years, with slight changed, including additional buttons and ergonomics to make the controller more comfortable to hold. All of the additions and changes have been in attempt to make the act of playing a video game more realistic. But no amount of buttons can compare to the emerging realism of some modern games.

Game controlls of this nature began in the late 1980s with the Nintendo video game "Duck Hunt". The controlled was easy enough to figure out, because their was only one button, a trigger. The goal of the game was to aim at the ducks as the flew around the screen and shoot them. Today, there is a movement in video games, where the emphasis is no longer on adding buttons to improve realism, but to incorporate moving. The Wii, also designed by Nintendo, is at the fore-front of this movement. The gaming process is no sedentary like many video games, but physically interactive. The control for the Wii was designed to sense player movement and translates that into actions to be perform on the screen. Nintendo made the game, Wii Sports, to demostrate the physical interaction required on the Wii. When playing tennis on this game, the player must actually swing his or her arm, as if swinging a tennis racket, when bowling, the player must move his or her arm as if actually rolling the ball down a lane. The player is even able to purchase attactments for the controllers to make them look like tennis rackets and many other object that the controller may be representing. The simplicistic coorelation between the movement of the player and the movement on screen makes it more realistic than the most complex video game controls.

Other games have ventured into this world of physical interaction. Dance, Dance Revolution (DDR) is a game where the player is the dance along to music, given steps to perform along with music provided in the game. The controller is much different from any other control, because the player does not hold it, rather he or she dances on it. The goal is to step in the correct direction on the pad at the correct time, which can be difficult. [4V] The physical nature of the game has made the creators add workout feature to the game, so it is no longer solely a form of entertainment, it can serve as an exercise routine. Since DDR, games have come out with different controller, altering the gaming experience for each game. In Guitar Hero (shown in a video below), the controller is in the shape of a guitar and is used by press the correct "fret" and "strumming" at the correct time with music, much like DDR. [1V] As difficulty increases on the game, the playing becomes more realistic to the music. The use of a controller like this increases finger dexterity in ways that regular hand held controllers were unable. With the success of Guitar Hero, came sequels and adaptions such RockBand. RockBand is a lot like guitar hero, except with the addition of more intruments. While Guitar Hero did offer a multiplayer feature which allowed two people to play together, RockBand allows and encourages a multiplayer function of up to four player on different instruments. Now all of the instruments a band are represented including a lead guitar, a bass player, a singer and even a drummer, [5V] making the experience even more realistic. The evolution of game controlls consisted of a steady increase of buttons and now a steady decrease. What the future will hold, only time will tell.

Story Telling

Video games offer a unique way of telling a story. Rather than passively watching or reading a story unfold, the player is actively involved in the continuation and direction of the story. [2] A Role Playing Game (RPG) is a game designed to tell a story, while putting the player as the “hero” of the story. The “Final Fantasy” series (ironically named, since the ‘series’ is numbered at 12) has done this time and time again, delivering plots over several hours of game play. Unlike other story-telling media which deliver a plot in a solid piece of information, RPGs, like Final Fantasy, intentionally draw out the story and suspend within it several hours of game-play. [1] With a book, one can skip to the last chapter, and a movie one can fast forward to see if there is a “happy ending”, but video games must be completed over a high duration of time.


A New Reality


Media are created to extend experience to those who have not experienced. One will read about a drought in Africa, and it becomes a part of them, though he or she did not experience it. Video games allow for a player to experience an entirely different world, making it part of their experience. It is interesting to note that in many RPGs, a large task is to make the character stonger in order to overcome obstacles (usually enemies) in the game. There are many ways in a game to make the character stronger (including optimizing weaponry, learning new skills and gaining allies), but the main way in which a character is improved is by gaining "experience points". I believe that the term "experience points" is, in a way, an attempt of showing a correlation between experience and success (power).

Video games do not only deliver the information of this new world, it virtually puts the player inside of it. Flight simulators, a type a video game, put the player in the cockpit of a plane. The most recent simulators are accurate depictions of the controls and necessary procedures confronted when taking off and landing the plane. It allows the player to learn the full experience without ever so much as jumping into the air. Not only can a video game give the experience of a new location and event, video games have the ability to change reality entirely, putting the player in a world of different rules, culture, physics, and possibilities. Video games can make the most lavish thoughts of life come true. The player can be a peasant, knight, a general, a king, even a god. In games like SimCity, created by Will Wright, the player has the ability to alter the face of the earth, create life and city, and at will destroy it all. It allows the player to not only be someone else, but taste omnipotence.

An Attack on New Media

There has been a large debate over the video game's influence of violent behavior in children. There have been no conclusive studies that shows a direct relation with the playing of violent video games and increased violent behavior in children. "Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general public." [5] In fact, statistics from a nation-wide survey show that violent crimes in children are the lowest in 30 years. [5] An interesting correlation which the attacking side tends to overlook, is that as gamers become more numerous and video games become more violent, violent crimes have declined.


Propaganda in Video Games


Video games, along with other media, often have hidden meanings in games. Video games are often full of biases and political rhetoric which is forced unto the player, often without knowing. In Final Fantasy 10, the entire game is centered around finding and destroying “sin” (Yes, that‘s the actual name of the enemy). Later in the game, the player comes to find out that by destroying “sin“, “sin” is born anew. In the end of the game, the player discovers that “sin” was created and controlled by Yevon, the religion of the world and the only way to stop “sin” and its destructive nature was to destroy the religion. When it is broken down like this, it is easy to see the meaning behind the plot. The US Army has created a new online video game called “America’s Army”. The politics spread in this game are as expected, pro war. The thing I find disturbing about this game is that is it free to download and free to play, so a lot of young people will play the game. The thing that most of the young people do not know is that when playing the game, he or she is being monitored. Anyone who plays the game is being measured in military aptitude. What the army is planning to use this information for, I do not know. [2V] Even a video game favorite is potentially guilty of spreading PropaGanda. The video below points out the many signs that Mario is not quite as wholesome as he seems. At first it seems coincidental, but the evidence starts adding up. I’ll let you decide. [3V]

The Interactive Video Game: A New World of Communication


From the first video games, multiplayability has been an important function. In recent years, this function has been expanded to great lengths. Today, the world of online gaming has becoming a widely used medium. It has made the act of playing a video game become a high means of communicating. The social networking on online video games works in ways that other communications do not. They are designed to encourage cooperative problem solving of in games tasks and puzzles, whether this is figuring out how to get through a maze or how to defeat a large mechanical primate. There are two basic types of online games, being Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) [6] and Multiplayer Military Strategy Games (MMSG).

Games such as Everquest and World of Warcraft are among the most popular of the MMORPG type. In these games, the player creates a character, often referred to as an avatar, and plays along with millions of other players in a full-scale world of magic and orcs. The intent of the game is to complete quests and an important aspect of the game is enlisting the aid of other players to complete these quests. Rather than conversing about the quests, the players are actively engaging in the quest together. Such cooperation tends to lead to new relationship and the player will be likely to seek players which they have worked with before.


On the other hand, in MMSG, such as Halo and Starcraft, the individual games take much less time (rather than one extensive game, the focus is on short matches) and tend to be based in competition rather than collaberation, so relationships are more reluctant to form. In MMSG, the goal is to dominate any opponent in the game. Sometimes in these games, team play can be the rules of a particular match. Good communication skills are a necessity in team matches, because the player is forced to work with a new person and must make strategic decisions with little time. Along with this need has come an evolving language and jargon of gamers. The complexity of online gaming communication is constantly becoming more and more in depth. There are short-cuts for many situations, like "newbie" referring to an inexperienced player of the games or afk, meaning 'away from keyboard', and the list goes on. [7]


Games of both types have a type of etiquette through all of the aggression. Occasionally players will intentionally go against the existing etiquette with no direct gain for him or herself. This is called grief play. For example, when playing a team game it is against game etiquette to kill your own teammates. Another example would be killing other players of a game (usually a MMORPG) where it is unnecessary. Some players will aruge "that his behavior was perfectly consistent with his character's background and movitves. Thus, he could argue that playing an explicity evil thief, he (the player) cannot be blamed for acting immorally in the game." [6] Often when a player is found to be participating in grief play, the other players seek punishment for that player. In an episode of South Park, the children are playing World of Warcraft together. This shows a collision of two modern mediums. While playing, they encounter a player not ad-hearing to the social etiquette set out among the players of the game and he is killing all of the characters. Throughout the episode, the children show great collaberative thinking as they find a way to properly punish this player who has broken too many rules of cooperative play.


[1] Jenkins, Henry. “Art Form for the Digital Age: Video games shape our culture. It’s time we took them seriously.” 2000. http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/12189/?a=f

[2] Jenkins, Henry. “Game On!”. http://www.prjectnml.org/node/306/

[3] Seabrook, John. “Game Master”. Nov 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/11/06/061106fa_fact?printable=true

[4] Thompson, Clive. “I, Columbine Killer”. Jan 2007. http://www.wired.com/gamingreviews/commentary/games/2006/01/72491?currentPage=all

[5] Jenkins, Henry. "Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked". http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html

[6] Smith, Jonas Heide. "Tragedies of the Ludic Commons-Understanding Cooperation in Multiplayer Games". The International Journal of Computer Game Reseach. Dec 2007. http://gamestudies.org/0701/articles/smith

[7] Boria, Eric. Breidenbach, Paul. Wright, Talm adge. "Creative Player Actions in FPS Online Video Games". The International Journal of Computer Game Research. Dec 2002. http://www.gamestudies.org/0202/wright

[8] Newman, James. VideoGames. London: Routledge, 2004.

[9] "Breeding Evil". The Economist print edition. Aug 4, 2005. www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=4247084

[1P] crashspyro150. www.gamespot.com/users/crashspyro150/. http://images.art.com/images/-/Video-Games--C11751589.jpeg

[1V] Guitar hero 3 through the Fire and Flames 881k 13 years old. Apr 6, 2008. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxoN1CW0Zpc

[2V] America's Army In Gaming - video game, iraq. Oct 11, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iedBodvPLiY

[3V] Super Mario Communist. Dec 25, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA3rECiRQj0

[4V] Child prodigy - Dance Dance Revolution. Jan 09, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JzcqALklRs

[5V] Maps (Rock Band Expert Drums 5 Star). Nov 22, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IcFtJWUSIs

[6V] History of Video Games (1972-2007). Apr 25, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMP8OSWGcss


Original Author: Zach Reiter

Comments (12)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:03 pm on Sep 11, 2008

The article could use more discussion about opposition to video games and the proposed negative effects on children, mentally and socially. You did a good job discussing the skills needed to be able to play video games, how they use a number of senses, and how analyzing and problem-solving skills are developed.
I'm not sure if it applies, but you could consider adding a brief history of video games and how they've developed since their first introduction.
-- KathyRodine (2008-04-08 15:07:32)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:03 pm on Sep 11, 2008

I agree with Kathy that covering the history and current controversies are both important in any article about a particular technology.
-- AdmiN (2008-04-08 17:29:30)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:04 pm on Sep 11, 2008

You might want to work on your formatting-set apart the headings and separate some paragraphs. The video you mention doesn't show up for me, but here is one you could use to demonstrate the dexterity required for video games:
You could also link to your McLuhan article in your third sentence. I noticed you have references listed at the end of the article, but there aren't bracketed numbers throughout the article. It's interesting.
-- RobynWilson (2008-04-16 16:38:51)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:09 pm on Sep 11, 2008

As talked about in class, video games are adapting to be used as a kinesthetic way to exercise. From an exercise science point of view, there are organizations that are using video games as a means for sedentary obese children to exercise. Wii is also making games directed at elderly people as a way to stay active and mobilize. I have also heard that the Wii is being used for rehabilitation purposes. Perhaps you would like to research this and add it to your Wiki.

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:10 pm on Sep 11, 2008

Nice work Zach. This update is a major improvement. -- JM
-- AdmiN (2008-04-21 08:54:34)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:12 pm on Sep 11, 2008

You've done well explaining all of the different aspects of videogames. i think that your article's in good shape.
-- KathyRodine (2008-04-21 13:13:40)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:12 pm on Sep 11, 2008

I think you have done good at explaining the different parts of videogames. I also thought you did a good job in siting the source within the text! I looks like you have your article in good shape
-- JenniferCrowe (2008-04-24 12:52:01)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:13 pm on Sep 11, 2008

I think you did a very nice job explaining the different aspects of videogames. I really like the way you presented the History of Videogames.
-- ChrisWalz (2008-04-24 21:25:28)

Jeff Martinek said

at 3:36 pm on Sep 17, 2008

Are Warcraft video games teaching terrorists how to strategize?


Jeff Martinek said

at 11:12 pm on Dec 2, 2008

Jeff Martinek said

at 6:50 pm on Dec 3, 2008

"Why Grand Theft Auto is wonderful for teaching ethics and morality"


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