ITGS Syllabus

Monday, June 12, 2006

Topic 93

Social and Ethical Issues Relating to Games by Matthew Wilder

Video games today are immensely popular, and for many people, are a part of their lives. In a recent survey (2003) taken in random high schools throughout the United States, researchers found out that every single child that had taken the survey had played a video game at least once in their lifetime. Considering the enormous popularity of video games, it is important to understand what, if any, effects there are to people who play video games.

One obvious possible effect that should be considered rises from the graphic themes portrayed in many modern video games. For example, in the computer game, America’s Army, a player becomes an American soldier, goes through various training simulations, and in the end is sent to fight in a real combat situation along with other players across the internet.

The game, produced and distributed by the U.S. Army, is widely criticized as a means of propaganda and recruitment. Critics often argue that by making the army seem “cool” in the game, adolescents, who make up the majority of the gaming population, and young adults gain a positive view of the armed forces. The critics believe that the game is a sick and unruly way of recruiting people because many of the kids that play the game are too naïve to know other bad aspects of joining the army. Another classic example is the game Grand Theft Auto.

The game exhibits a countless number of controversial themes such as violence, nudity, racism, and prostitution to name a few. In Grand Theft Auto, a player becomes a character in a virtual city, and is able to shoot, stab, and hit anybody the person comes into contact with.

Furthermore, the character is able to receive the services of a prostitute and group up with gangs that are based on race. Critics of the Grand Theft Auto series say that the pernicious acts carried out by the player in the virtual world give the player bad ideas that the player might actually act on in the real world. Critics say that this is what precisely caused the mass killings of the Columbine incident. Two kids who played the graphic shooting game Doom suddenly got the idea to shoot other people just as they did on their computers.

Another possible effect of video games comes from a research done by the American Psychological Association. The research suggests two things. One, that the playing of violent video games by a child tends to increase the child’s aggression. In 2005, the reality television show 60 Minutes took this idea of a positive correlation between gaming and aggression and created a documentary.

In the documentary, the cast took on the case of Devin Moore, an 18-year old murderer who shot dead three policemen in Alabama. The show concluded that Moore was inspired to do such a thing by the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Two, that children who play games lack social skills. Researchers believe that when children stay at home sitting in front of their computers, they sacrifice time spent with other children. Some research shows that there might even be a correlation between games and depression caused by isolation and loneliness.

Another effect of gaming is addiction. Though addiction resulting from gaming may seem silly, the truth is, game addiction is a very real thing. Consider this excerpt from an article on

Dennis Bennett was failing his college classes, his marriage was in trouble, and he wasn't being much of a father to his 1-year-old son. But he had progressed to Level 58 as Madrid, the Great Shaman of the North, his character in the online role-playing game "EverQuest," and that was all that mattered at the time.

Other examples of game addiction are more severe; a man in South Korea died of malnutrition after playing an online multiplayer computer game for more than sixty-three hours, and a man in China lost consciousness after spending more than forty-eight hours in front of his computer.

Facilities have been set up to treat game addiction worldwide. In the U.S., Harvard University Hospital and Mclean Hospital both have full time game addiction treatment centers; in Amsterdam a clinic specialized in game addiction has been set up; and in China, a new massive addiction treatment facility treats alcoholics, drug-abusers, and gamers.

So what is being done to counter the negative effects of gaming on society? Here are some of the things being done in countries around the world today.

In Australia, the Office of Film and Literature Classification created a games section that rates games. The OFLC banned has banned several games recently (Grand Theft Auto, 50 Cent:Bulletproof, and Getting Up, Contents Under Pressure).

In Germany the government is allowed to censor games. World War 2 games are often censored, with games such as Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein leaving out every bit of Nazism in them.

In China, the government is trying to pass a law that allows for people to play a maximum of three hours of consecutive play, with a five hour break between each time they play.

In Greece, the Greek parliament passed a law (2002) that entirely outlawed electronic gaming. Later this was repealed and restricted to only internet cafes.

In Argentina, video games must have the lable, “Overexposure is harmful to health,” on the packaging.

An interesting and somewhat geeky video of what happens when you play video games for too long.


Blogger akirajackson said...

In Japan you cant buy Grand Theft Auto if youre not over 18 anymore because of it's rating. They put a new rating system for games.

January 06, 2007 11:34 PM  

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