Monday 12 July 2010

MED104 - 2.4 Play with me!: Having fun with media

Helen Thornton, (2009). Claiming a stake in the videogame: what grown-ups say to rationalise and normalise gaming. Convergence 15 (2), 135-139. (electronic databases)
Very thorough take on gaming, analyses discourses of gamers, especially gender and sexuality.
Jenkins, H. (2006). The War between effects and meaning: Rethinking the video game debate. In D. Buckingham & R. Willett (Eds.), Digital Generations: Children, Young People, and New Media (pp 19-31). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Ass. (E-reserve)

While I found the lecture by Stewart Wood very interesting, I have to say that... how do I put this nicely - the first reading was one of the most boring readings I've had to do this year! It was basically a very dry sociological study of gamers. I personally thought that the sample size was so small, and the level of detail so great, that the point of the whole thing was a bit lost. But what I think Thornton was trying to say was that male gamers in particular, tend to try to rationalise and normalise the fact that they play games, rather than just saying that they play them because they like to play them, because there are social implications associated with gaming - that is, if you spend too much time gaming, you have no social life. The only sentence I found even remotely interesting was this one: "Gaming, like television viewing, film viewing, or internet use, is tied to wider social and cultural discourses."

The second reading was again by Jenkins, and it was a far more interesting read. He discusses what he calls the Video Game Violence Debate, and the difference between Effects and Meanings. What he's basically saying is that people who espouse Effects believe that video games cause violent and antisocial behaviour, and people who espouse Meanings believe that the playing of video games allows an individual to consciously engage with the ideas behind the game and use those ideas to form or reaffirm their own existing ideas and beliefs - so if somebody was already violently inclined, then playing a violent game may either set them off or may help them to shape their views in new directions. I don't really know if violent games make people violent, or if they just attract people who are already violent - I think it's probably a bit of both. I don't really think that showing violent material to a happy and well-adjusted teen is going to turn them into Rambo or anything. But where I have a problem with the "Meanings" view is with younger people who don't already have existing beliefs, or people in general who don't have (and never get) the ability to work through emotional questions and form their own interpretations. My daughter is only 7 and there's no way in the world she'll see a game like Call of Duty anytime soon, but the point is, she's like a sponge - anything she sees or hears, she takes in and often she believes what she's told, until she's told otherwise. It's all very well for Jenkins to say that shielding children from violence would leave them unequipped to cope with the world - I think it goes the other way too, that exposure to explicitly violent material, including games, can normalise violence. So to answer a question on our Discussion Forum about which side we're on - I think I'm sitting on the fence, but I probably have my legs hanging over the "Effects" side. :>

On a personal level, I have a somewhat addictive personality when it comes to games and nowadays I don't have much in the way of free time so I've weaned myself off but over the years I've played a variety of different games on different platforms. My first introduction to games was the good old handheld Donkey Kong Jr handheld game that my brother had in the early 80's. This was followed by a friend who had an Atari (Space Invaders & Pacman!) and then in the late 80's another friend who had some kind of PC (I don't remember specifically which but I think it may have been a Commodore 64) with games loaded via cassette tapes. Once I got a PC I started off with games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Later on I discovered The Sims - I think on my friend's Playstation first, I wasn't working at the time and was staying at her place, and I remember her hubby who was a tradie, getting up for work one morning and I was still in the loungeroom after an all-nighter - should've recognised the addictive potential right there! Then I got various versions for PC before I finally uninstalled it because I lost too much time. In recent times I got a Nintendo DS-Lite with the mod chip so I have over 200 games. The main ones I play now are single-player things like Scrabble, the Indiana Jones Lego one, Brain Training and Nintendogs (with my daughter). Last year, a friend convinced me to play Mafia Wars on Facebook... what a complete waste of time that was. It got to the point where I'd be on there several times a day just madly clicking, and then a good hour each night... my husband found the whole thing baffling. One day I realised how dumb it was so I uninstalled it. My only game vice at the moment is Bejeweled 2 Deluxe on my laptop.

I play games for entertainment and to wind down, so I do consider them to be another form of media. I don't really play multiplayer games though, apart from my Mafia Wars time. But I know people who play games like that who have made friends with others also playing the game, people they wouldn't have otherwise met. From personal experience I can say yes, if you have that type of personality then it's easy to get addicted to certain games!



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