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“This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games. All games are basically hostile. Winners and losers. We see them all around us: the winners and the losers. The losers can oftentimes become winners, and the winners can very easily become losers. �

-William S Burroughs


TABLE OF CONTENTS-


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PART ONE/ ABSTRACT/

Video games have become very popular among people of all ages, causing a great deal of debate, concern and numerous policies to be passed. This study looks at available research on various areas of video games, including the effects of violence and violent games on the mind, the effects of video game playing on educational performance and the role of sexism in the video game industry. The majority of research shows that, although there is certainly an increase in aggression when playing violent games, there is no correlation between playing games and committing crimes. Research also shows that academic performance has not been hindered by the popularisation of video games and that, in fact, video games seem to contribute to learning and key skills. Also apparent is that while sexism may still exist in the video game industry it is more of a societal problem that is reflected in games. Games have enormous value and have been misunderstood and judged unfairly since their conception.

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PART TWO/ INTRODUCTION/

With every new form of art and entertainment comes the debate over whether or not it is bad for us and whether it affects our children. Video games have caused the biggest concern in history on this matter, and in the wake of atrcoities like the Sandy Hook massacre there has been a huge focus on the effect of violent video games on the mind . Films and TV shows have been accused of corrupting minds in recent years, while previously paintings were vilified. Anti-Game lobbyists have come out in numbers to denounce video games, while the studios making them have fought back in defence of their work. Despite countless studies that show no clear link between playing video games and committing crime, and statistics showing that countries like Japan, which consumes a huge amount of video game media, have lower crime rates than countries such as America, people are still not fully agreed on whether or not video games are bad for our health. The Anti-Game side of the argument seems to present very speculative and mixed studies that poorly demonstrate any sort of point, while the pro-game side seems to have very clear factually backed figures and studies. Most readily available literature regarding the effects of video games on the mind is obscure and never concise or certain. After temporarily declining in popularity, video games are now once again one of the most popular and widely used forms of entertainment. Video game consoles are readily available in all first world countries and are already in over 50% of American homes (14). Fighting games (e.g., Street Fighter), first person shooters (e.g., Call of Duty) and Survival Horror games (e.g., Silent Hill) have greatly increased the level of violence since the days of early games like Pong, depicting more accurate and more visceral violence by utilising ever improving technology. Concerned parents and mass media have numerous wild claims about video games, and some have even claimed them to be amongst the most detrimental items ever to be produced. Despite the Gaming industries very reasonable and respectful approach to the problem, such as adapting voluntary rating systems to better inform parents what type of content a game will entail before buying it for a child ,and making it much more difficult for children to get their hands on games rated for adults, people continue to criticise the industry and accuse it of corrupting minds. Concerned parents and media groups take video games for their surface value and rarely look at what is underneath. They assume the content of a game is merely for gratuitous thrills and claim violent content exists is to sate an unspoken desire for violence.

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PART THREE/ THE ARGUMENT/

The video game business has evolved from its humble beginnings as a mathematicians pet project into one of the largest industries in the world. In the last five years annual video game sales have surpassed both the film and music industries’ sales making it arguably the largest entertainment media in existence. Along with the growing number of video game sales is the production of more violent and realistic video games, which has resulted in the video game industry being targeted by the government, the media and lobbyist groups. As the number of violent games increased it was perhaps understandable that the suitability of their content for children and teens would be questioned and this reaction has not changed. It’s easy to see why a parent might be concerned that violent games are not suitable for their young children, but how did we progress from there to the idea that video games are to blame for tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre? A recent study showed that 56 percent of American homes have a modern games console (14) so how is it reasonable to blame video games for the small minority of people who turn to crime and violence? What many consider to be the genesis of this controversy is the arcade video game Mortal Kombat, which was banned in multiple countries for its excessive use of graphic violent imagery, particularly in the fatality scenes of the game. These decisions were made without any evidence from research. Some people thought that if they didn’t like what they saw then nobody should. Mortal Kombat was directly related to the forming of the ESRB and all other video game rating boards (6). Although the Mortal Kombat controversy was the beginning of this entire subject, what really ignited the entire argument was the 1999 Columbine Massacre in America. The Columbine shootings were carried out by two students, who were supposedly huge fans of the game series “Doom” (7), and the day after this tragedy tabloid papers shamelessly rolled out claims that video games were to blame. With once again no evidence the headlines were ambiguous in the extreme. After the banning of Mortal Kombat, The Columbine Massacre and other key events the American Government began to crack down on the availability of violent or M rated games and severely decreased the number of M rated games sold to minors in only a few years (5). Despite these efforts to crush violent games their number has increased hugely over the last decade along with the hardware capabilities. Games are now not only graphically explicit (Early Mortal Kombat, for example) but realistic enough to heavily immerse the player so that they feel like they are pulling the trigger and killing a target. And why shouldn’t they? War, crime and violence exist in our world so why would we pretend they don’t? Lead Bioshock Designer, Ken Levine summarised this point perfectly in a facebook post: “No individual piece of art has any particular responsibility to fulfil a particular agenda. One of those responsibilities (for art as a whole, not for every example of every art ever produced), should be to show things as they are, for every Rom Com, there are devastating movies about the pain of love, whether that’s Eternal Sunshine or Amour. For every movie that portrays valour in war (Saving Private Ryan), there are movies that focus on its most dehumanizing elements (Full Metal Jacket)” (30).

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FIGURE 1/ FATALITY FROM MORTAL KOMBAT 2

-NOTE: ORIGINAL PIXEL RATIO AND RESOLUTION OF GAME SPRITES-

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