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Walter Condon
Steffen Guenzel
ENC 1102-14A003
Final Draft
Video Games: The Unfortunate Victim
In recent years, there has been growing sentiment that video games are becoming a
detriment to society. So much so, that several politicians have proposed legislation to either
heavily regulate or outright ban most games. Critics have frequently complained that video
games often encourage those who play games to live an unhealthy lifestyle and often over-
sexualize and demean women. Furthermore, in the last couple of decades, video games have
gained the inaccurate reputation of inciting real world violence. Whenever a violent incident
occurs, such as a shooting or stabbing, and a violent game is linked to the perpetrator, many
people are quick to surmise that the game prompted the perpetrator to act in that manner. These
issues have caused some to conclude that video games should be banned from society. In reality,
video games are not nearly as harmful to society as the critics contend. As with anything
exceptions exist, but in general, video games are almost always harmless and often have many
positive benefits that should be considered as well. Once one considers the actual facts regarding
the criticisms of games, and the positive benefits games can provide, it becomes evident that
video games are not nearly as detrimental to society as some critics suggest.
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Video games have earned the ire of many politicians concerned with public health such
as Barack and Michelle Obama. They assert playing games dulls the players intelligence and
contributes to obesity problems. This can be true, but not of all games. Studies have shown that
many video games can increase cognitive ability and encourage healthy habits. Some of the
mental benefits of playing games include giving players a sense of achievement, social
interaction, and immersion (Kneer 604). In Kuhn et al.s research, "Positive Association Of
Video Game Playing With Left Frontal Cortical Thickness In Adolescents," revealed that
frequency of playing video games led to cortical thickening in the areas of the left dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex which is the core correlate of executive control and strategic planning and left
frontal eye fields which deal with visuo-motor integration and visuo-spatial attention, terms
which we know as hand-eye coordination and reaction time. Some games directly force a player
to think critically to solve extremely difficult puzzles such as The Bridge, which deals with
changes of gravity and momentum, and Antichamber, a Non-Euclidean geometry game where
players use life lessons as hints to solve non-intuitive puzzles. Besides the mental benefits of
playing games, video games can positively affect a player physically too. Wii Fit, for example, is
a game with a sensor bar and a balance board that teaches players various yoga poses, breathing
techniques, and other exercises, all while keeping track of such things as calories burned, in
order to make them healthier. Another game, Wii Sports, requires players to move to play virtual
sports, such as swinging the controller to swing a bat in baseball or a tennis racquet or punch an
opponent in boxing which are fun ways to keep healthy. Since Wii Sports is the best-selling
game of all time as of 2009, it holds that it is effective as well (Walton). Other games are healthy
just because of the way they are played. Take the game franchise Rock Band, for example, where
a player can choose to play the singing or instrumental part of a song. Professional rock
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drummers have, on average, a 140 to 150 beats per minute heart rate when performing and can
burn 400 to 600 calories in just an hour (Rock drummers). It is not a stretch to assume that a
gamer playing the drum part, which is the most similar of the instruments to the real thing, for an
extended gaming session could have similar health benefits. A game does not have to burn
calories or puzzle a player to keep them healthy though; sometimes a game can just be the
healthier of two options. Case in point: it is well known that full tackle football can be
dangerous, especially when played in peewee leagues. If a parent wants to get their young child
interested in the sport, it might be better for the child to simply play a football video game with
the parents or friends until the child grows old enough to safely play tackle football. While
accounts remain of gamers dying as a result of gaming marathons, which are when gamers
play a game for an extremely long, continuous period of time that some have died from, it should
be noted that this is an issue with the victims not being informed or educated enough to realize
the risks of attempting such an activity for over 24 hours with little sleep, food, water, change in
posture, or bathroom breaks and not necessarily an issue with the game itself. Despite what some
critics affirm, playing video games is not an unhealthy activity in itself. They only become
unhealthy when gamers play certain games for extreme lengths of time while some games, on the
other hand, can be beneficial to the mental and physical health of the player.
Perhaps the biggest ethical issue facing the game industry is the claim that some games
over-sexualize and demean female video game characters. Many critics believe that games treat
women as sex objects, with long hair, large breasts and butts, flat stomachs, skinny legs, and
scantily clad clothing (Videogame Vixens). They also allege that women are demeaned such that
they are rarely portrayed as being strong, leaders, or respectable. While there are some
exceptions to this, on the whole, these accusations do not reflect the vast majority of video game
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titles. The industry includes many popular games that have plenty of strong, capable female
characters in games. For example, females have critical roles as fighters, healers, and summoners
in the Tales franchise. They are also given pivotal roles in the Dynasty Warriors franchise
games, which are based on ancient Chinese stories where women were barely ever portrayed
outside of a brief mentioning. In online polls of three prominent fighting games, where several
thousand players listed the fighters they valued most according to tier, Super Street Fighter 4,
Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and Soul Calibur V all had the majority of their female characters in
top tiers (GamerBees; Tekken; Tiers for). Skull Girls is a fighting game composed
almost entirely of females with only one male character added to date. Faith of Mirrors Edge,
Samus Aran of the Metroid franchise, and Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider franchise are each the
strong, capable main characters of their respective games. These women are not being demeaned
and to say women in games are over-sexualized also holds little merit. Tassi, who publishes
articles on games he rates according to a critic score, addresses this issue by explaining the
idealized hero form.
Its a type of anatomy that represents the pinnacle of human perfection, and even
extends far beyond what any flesh and blood humans are capable of building themselves
into youre not going to find many heroes of either gender with a less than ideal body.
The men are hulking with chiseled abs and broad shoulders. The women have flat
stomachs and perfect breasts. These are the ideal forms of each of these characters. Yet
only one of them is ever viewed sexually to outsiders, the women.
One can hardly assert that a female game character is sexualized while the male counterpart in
the same game is not; in fact, many games do not sexualize females at all. Many of the females
in the Tales franchise are depicted as ordinary adolescent or young girls. Aurora, the main
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character of Child of Light, is a very young girl. Fat Princess is a game where the main character
is an extremely obese princess. With the way Samus character looks, she would be considered
sexualized if she were not usually in her full-body armor. Most people who see Samus for the
first time actually think she is a man due to the style of her armor. Kat-B320 of Halo: Reach and
the only female member of Noble squad is not sexualized either. In the game, she is always
shown wearing her bulky, heavy armor, retains a buzzed head covered in scars, and possesses a
robotic prosthetic arm. In Smite, a game where the player can choose to play as gods and
mythological figures from various mythologies, many of the goddesses are very tastefully
depicted compared to how ancient art commonly depicts them. Change and Scylla wear
eloquent gowns, Artemis employs a rugged practical outfit, Athena and Nemesis are suited up in
armor, and both Aphrodite and Kali are covered much, much more than they are historically
depicted. In fact, the case can be argued that the males of Smite are over-sexualized compared to
the females, with many of the male characters bare-chested and muscular. The characters Ymir,
Hercules, and Sobek wear little more than a loincloth, and both Fenrir and Geb are actually
naked. Only the Egyptian pantheon really wears scant clothing but this makes sense considering
the arid and hot climate from which they originate. Simple logic can be applied to Lara Croft too,
as she is often criticized for being a product of sexualization. It is logical to assume that someone
who mountain climbs, runs, jumps, and swims as much as she does would have her physique.
Given the hot, humid, and rainy climates she frequently visits and the physical feats she performs
there, her light clothing also makes sense. So, while games that truly sexualize women are
available, most games do not and there are often logical reasons for a female characters
sexualized appearance.
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The most controversial issue, by far, with video games is the belief that game violence
incites real world violence. This is the reason many politicians are attempting to pass legislation
to heavily regulate or ban a lot of games. Violent video games were thought to be the cause of
horrible acts such as, the Sandy Hook Massacre, the Norway Massacre, and the Columbine
shooting. It should be clearly explained, however, that each of the perpetrators of these violent
events were revealed to be mentally unstable or, in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, the
shooter of the Norway Massacre, acting on extreme political views. The perpetrators possessed
video games but there is no conclusive proof that the games caused their violent behavior
(Griffin; Rubinkam; Anders). Markeys extensive studies have shown that video games do
indeed create feelings of hostility or aggravation; however the negative feelings produced are
minor and negligible (In Defense 1). In actuality, video games have such a minor effect that,
unless the person is mentally unstable, playing a violent game will not cause prolonged hostility
(Markey source 2). Most of the grievances toward game violence come from how little the
general public understands of the testing for negative effects of games; they only hear that
negative effects exist, not what they actually are (Markey 1). Dr. Patrick Markey, who is an
associate professor of psychology at Villanova University, the director of the Interpersonal
Research Laboratory, and a former president of the Society for Interpersonal Theory and
Research, explains the process.
The average experimental study in this area involves having one group of people play a
violent video game while another group plays a non-violent video game. After a short
game play session (usually around 15 minutes) participants' aggressive thoughts or
behaviors are assessed. Using such a methodology, researchers have found that
individuals who play violent video games are more likely to expose others to loud
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irritating noises, report feeling more hostile on a questionnaire, give longer prison
sentences to hypothetical criminals and even give hot sauce to people who do not like
spicy food.
It is extremely unlikely that these minor aggressive effects could jump in intensity to become a
desire to commit violent acts. Critics might still argue that, although these are minor effects,
these make game violence a risk factor like poverty, gun availability, etc. However, it has been
observed that over a recent time span of 16 years, sales of games have gone up while violent
crimes have gone down (Markey In Defense 1). Additionally, studies have shown that even
if the game is violent, if the protagonist is of good character, the game will have a positive
influence on the player. (Happ, Melzer, and Steffgen). In fact, as Kneer et al.s research shows
children seem to be relatively unaffected by any negative games they play anyway. Being a part
of the net generation is sufficient to suppress negative game-related concepts and to support
positive game-related concepts to protect digital games as common leisure activity among
peers. One concept that the public underestimates is the weight of importance of choices in
games. Several games such as Dishonored and Thief offer players the choice of lethal or
nonlethal gameplay and even reward players for choosing the nonlethal route. Other ways games
prevent inciting violence include promoting creativity and life lessons. Playing video games can
[foster] initiative in youth and lead to positive outcomes such as flow, cooperation, problem
solving, and reduced in-group bias (Adachi and Willoughby). Games such as IF and The
Social Express are games working to accomplish this by making the main focus of the game
about teaching children social skills like listening, managing emotions, or expressing gratitude
(Tynan). Opposite to violence, games often encourage creativity. Project Spark is a game
completely centered around creating worlds and adventures for others to experience. The first-
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person-shooter Halo franchise includes a forge mode that was intended to give players the
ability to create unique maps on which to fight on but resulted in an explosion of unique and silly
game modes such as an ATV race on platforms surrounding a reproduced Star Wars battle, as
well as gamer art from pictures to elaborate and surprisingly detailed sculptures made from
blocks and platforms. The game industry itself is a haven for creative artists who are employed
to create the artwork for games, acquiring a respectable income and stable job (Duffy). Not only
does game violence have a negligible effect on mentally healthy people, but many games
counteract their own violence by featuring positive characters, rewarding nonviolent acts, and
promoting people skills and creativity. All these factors provide evidence that games do not
incite real world violence.
In conclusion, video games are falsely labeled a detriment to society when, factually they
are not. While some games can be needlessly violent, sexualize women, or appear to promote
unhealthy habits, those games are largely in the minority. When looking at the whole picture, it
becomes clear that many video games actually provide beneficial contributions to society that are
often overlooked. Video games can increase cognitive functions, burn calories, teach players
skills, promote creativity, feature positive role models for females, and give players a sense of
achievement. These positive contributions, as well as the fact that the negative connotations of
games are greatly inflated by public opinion and false assumptions, prove that video games are
not harmful to society. They are not perfect, but they are not terrible either.
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