Video game

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A video game is any electronic game, played by means of a video screen on a computer or console, often emphasising fast action [1]. The nature of video games varies, ranging from educational games for children, electronic versions of classic board and card games (such as online poker), through to more violent to war and fighting games. The video game industry is an important part of the knowledge economy and actually grew during the late-2000s recession.

Recently, some video games have been linked to murders and other violence, stress-induced health problems (including unexpected heart attacks), atheism, obesity,[2] and sexual immorality. Several prominent murderers in recent years were inspired by video games, for example.

Nature of Video games

The games vary greatly in type and complexity, but all games are alike in that they translate player input (from a controller, mouse, keyboard or motion sensor) into onscreen actions. Games are usually stored on some sort of digital media - ROM cartridge, CD, DVD, or even cassette tape for early computer games - though older or more inexpensive games may have dedicated chips which are pre-programmed to play certain games only. In recent years, game developers have moved to digital distribution, allowing anyone with a credit card or Paypal account to purchase games online.

Home consoles are classified by generation to indicate their relative power and date of release. The current major consoles (XBox360, PS3, Wii) are considered seventh generation. Handheld consoles are not generally put into generations due to their more irregular release schedules.

Video games have also been shown to help people to become more attuned to their surroundings and increase coordination, and in the future may be used to treat people with visual problems and to train soldiers. [3]

Various genres

Video games in the course of their existence have grown from the simple arcade style games, and have become more detailed and separated from one another. Genres can now include first person shooters, racing, simulation, role-playing, sports, action and many others. Even then, games can combine genres, such as Mass Effect (Role Playing and Third Person Shooting), or not fit nicely into any genre, like The Mystery of the Druids.

Popularity & Controversy

Games have risen in popularity over the years, as is shown in the rise of video games sales from the 1980s until today. This has brought with it a various amount of controversy as the video game industry continues to grow with its original player base.

Video games are addictive activities targeted at teenagers, sometimes with tragic results.[4] Certain genres of games are becoming increasingly violent and offensive, attracting the attention of legislators in many states to protect the exploitation of children by them. Games such as Grand Theft Auto are very violent, sexually explicit, and feature criminal behavior. These games are rated "M 17+" for "Mature," but courts have stricken down laws preventing retailers from selling them to children, under an interpretation that the First Amendment protects offensive video games even for children.[5] After a Conservapedian filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to consider this issue, it surprised liberals by granting certiorari.

However, in 2011, the Supreme Court denied a ban on the sale of violent video games in California, claiming they were protected as they "qualify for First Amendment Protection" and pointing out that there has historically been no shortage of violent imagery in children's fairytales, classical literature, and comics. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia pointed out that "disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression", and continued that any effects of violent video games on children "are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media".[6]

It has also been suggested that it is the role of parents to regulate what their children play, and that laws restricting video game vendors are an effort to replace parents' decisions with the government's decisions.[7] [8] [9]


A number of Norway stores have pulled violent video games from sale - including several Call of Duty games and World of Warcraft - in the wake of the massacre carried out by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22.


Most of the controversy comes from the rising trend toward violence in video games, as pioneered by Doom, Quake, and the Grand Theft Auto series.

Some people point out that violent video games cause violent behavior in some children. The effects of violent video games on the developing psyche of children and adolescents vary greatly and of course have much to do with the mental stability of the subject in question. Serious crimes have often been associated with video games. For example, a 14-year-old brutally murdered a video arcade employee one morning and his cousin stands trial for murdering the store manager when he entered the store shortly thereafter.[12] In the USA, all retail games carry ratings from the ESRB, a video game ratings organization.

Some claim that kids who don't play video games at all seem to show more violent tendencies. Of course, as expected, those who played violent video games for large amounts of time also showed violent tendencies, however the study claims that this is a "risk marker", not an actual cause.[13]

Multiple studies have shown a correlation between violent video games and levels of real life violence, caused by playing some of the aforementioned video games.[14]


Although nudity is not prominent in western video games, there are various products containing sexually-suggestive material. One reason for the relative lack of explicitly sexual material in western games may be the refusal of retailers including Wal-Mart[15] (the leading distributor of video games in the United States) and Toys R Us[16] (the world's largest toy themed retailer) to sell games carrying an "Adults-Only" rating. One notable target of controversy is the Grand Theft Auto series after a third-party mod was released that allowed the player to engage in a mini-game containing explicit sexual material. Mods are, as "third-party" would imply, fan-made and are not the responsibility of the game's developer. Other sources of this criticism relate to the game Tomb Raider as it was one of the first games where a female character (the protagonist) is depicted and advertised as a sex symbol.[17]

Video Games and Society

As video games become more popular, their impact on society becomes ever more present. A prime example of this is the massive ad campaigns for the Halo series, as well as Grand Theft Auto. Advertising, merchandising, and even social pressures have changed in the ever-growing influence of video gaming.

Due to their popularity, various corporations have begun placing advertisements for their products within the context of the game. Second Life, an Internet-based virtual world, has attempted to blur the lines between real-world and virtual world, and companies such as Adidas, Reebok, and Dell have set up virtual stores selling real-world products within the game. Reuters also operates a news bureau reporting news in the game.

Education in Video Games

While most popular video games are experiencing an increase in violence, language, and sexuality, other gamers and game developers are beginning to view video games as an educational opportunity. Firaxis Games, a noteworthy video game development company, has been creating a video game series called Civilization for nearly a decade. [18] Civilization is a simulation game that allows the player to lead a nation from ancient times to modern day. It features a dynamic military system, politics, trading, and historical content. It has been recognized for its unintentional educational properties. [19]

Microsoft Flight Simulator is another example of a video game being recognized for its unique educational properties. [20]

The popularity of several of the favourite sports video games has led to an uptake in children wishing to take part in them. If an adult plays video games with their children, they can learn about their child's personality and interests.

Faith in Video Games

Faith in Video Gaming has, as a rule, either led to the creation of new and dynamic antagonists, or video games that are mediocre, such as Spiritual Warfare and Bible Adventure for the Nintendo, or The Bible Game for various systems. Bible Adventure in particular is infamous for its poor design and playability.

The Bible, or other such religious texts, tell a story spanning many different viewpoints. Turning these ideas into a video game, however, most often leads to games that tend to bore most video game audiences.

Religion has, however, taken a prominent place amongst the various heroes and villains in video games. The Breath of Fire series and the Shin Megami Tensei games, in particular, use a god as a main antagonist in many of its incarnations. Other games to use religion in some way include the Final Fantasy series, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, Black and White, Heaven and Hell, Xenogears, Okami, and the Tales series, particularly Tales of Symphonia. Unfortunately, many (not all) of the aforementioned games (And nearly any Role Playing game from East Asia) present religion (or it's respective church and followers) as evil, fake, or having ulterior and nefarious motives.

The computer game Civilization IV has a religion element that enables players to spread their civilization's culture through religion. Available religions include Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Confucianism and Hinduism.[21]

Games may include a fictional religion as part of the setting if the use of a real religion may invite undesirable controversy.

Video game reviewers have sometimes unjustly attacked and reviewed games where real-world religion plays a notable role. One of the most prominent examples of this is the game Left Behind: Eternal Forces.[22].

Video Games as Art

Recently, video games have gained the legal protections of any other art form due to an official ruling by the supreme court[23], ruling that video games are as protected as any other art form by the First Amendment. Video games are fully capable of communicating moral and social views through tropes universal in other mediums, such as characters, dialog, and symbolism, in addition to it's unique characteristic, interactivity. A Smithsonian exhibit on art in video games is planned for 2012.

See Also

External Links


  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Video Game
  2. Childhood Obesity Department of Health and Human Services, retrieved Sept 18th 2011
  4. Some claim that 2/3rds of videogamers are over 18 years old, but far more people are over that age and a much higher percentage of minors are videogamers.Only a third of videogamers are under 18
  13. New research reveals kids who don't play video games at all are more at risk of violent tendencies
  16. See Toys "R" Us's video games policy
  17. Ashley, Robert. "The Secret History of Videogame Sex." Official Playstation Magazine Feb. 2006: 96-99.