Thames Valley University,
Faculty of the Arts
Interactive game play – week 06
Social and contextual issues of
Today’s topics:
This lecture discusses social and contextual issues
of CG in following dimensions:
1. Censorship & Violence
2. Addiction to games
3. Mental and physical health
4. Positive aspects of games
Games can teach
Diplomatic games
5. Gender - Women in games conference 2005
Violence & Censorship
Violence is “Sword of Damocles” of CG industry.
Censorship >> auto censorship >> anti censorship.
David Cronenberg interview about auto censorship
Movies: Crash (1996), Videodrome (1983), ExistenZ
(1999), A History of Violence (2005)
Violence & Censorship
David Cronenberg:
"As an artist, one is not a citizen of society. An artist is bound to explore
every aspect of human experience, the darkest corners- not
necessarily-- but if that is where one is led, that's where one must
go. You cannot worry about what the structure of your own
particular segment of society considers bad behavior, good
behavior; good exploration, bad exploration. So, at the time you're
being an artist, you're not a citizen. You have, in fact, no social
responsibility whatsoever.
Violence & Censorship
David Cronenberg:
When I write, I must not censor my own imagery or connections. I must not
worry about what critics will say, what leftists will say, what
environmentalists will say. I must ignore all that. If I listen to all these
voices I will be paralyzed, because none of this can be resolved. I
have to go back to the voice that spoke before all these structures
were imposed on it, and let it speak these terrible truths. By being
irresponsible I will be responsible." -- David Cronenberg, Mondo 2000
Violent video games and real-life violence
2000 USA Health department produced a review of
the possible link between violent video games
and real-life violence.
25 reports of scientific studies were identified at
three age groups:
preschool and elementary school children;
middle and high school students;
and college students and young adults.
(7 to 9 studies per age group)
Violent video games and real-life violence
Study concludes:
“At present the research evidence is not supportive
of a major public concern that violent video
games lead to real-life violence. However, this
conclusion might change as more research is
conducted on more recent and increasingly
violent and realistic games.”
Violent video games and real-life violence
Preschool/elementary school children (ages 4-8)
Research indicates (3 out of 4 studies) that preschool and early
elementary school children show increased aggression or
aggressive play immediately after playing a video game
with aggressive content.
>> Report questions experimental designs (providing strong
evidence of causality) and the realistic outcome measure
(behavioral observations during free-play),
>> studies did not provide evidence that harm was inflicted as a
result of the aggression, or assess whether there were any
long-term effects.
Violent video games and real-life violence
Middle and high school students.
Research indicates that at this time it is not known whether violent video
games have detrimental, positive, or no consistent effects on
aggression in this age group.
(1 experimental study showed no effect 8 others had varying findings)
3 studies looked into “whether more aggressive boys are more likely to
prefer violent video games”.
Results were mixed >> 1 study found the predicted association, 1 found
no association, and 1 found the reverse pattern (boys who preferred
non-violent games scored high on a measure of delinquency and
boys who preferred violent games did not.)
Violent video games and real-life violence
College students and young adults.
Studies showed mixed results.
1 of 4 experimental studies of self-rated hostile mood after violent video
game play, only two showed increased hostile mood.
1 of 4 studies using other measures of hostility / aggression, only 1
showed an association between hostility/aggressions and video
game play.
>>Because of these mixed results, this research indicates that at this
time it is not known whether video game play affects aggression or
hostility in this age group.
Violent video games and real-life violence
Major limitations of the current research include:
1. Lack of experimental studies addressing whether
playing violent video games causes increased
aggressive behavior in teenagers or young adults;
2. Lack of studies addressing whether individuals with
other risk factors for violence (e.g., a history of being
abused) might have more negative responses to video
game violence than other youth;
3. Lack of longer term measurements of behavior in young
Violent video games and real-life violence
findings from experimental studies indicates that playing violent video
games may lead to increased aggression in young children
immediately following play.
>>> additional well-designed, experimental studies are needed.
>>> with levels of violence that reflect games currently available to
>>> studies should focus on moderate to long term effects of playing
violent video games among young children.
>>> more experimental studies for students in middle and high school.
Violence & Censorship
Games Censorship or Self Censorship?
IGDA Position statement:
The IGDA opposes any effort that would treat digital games differently
from other forms of art and creative expression. Digital games are
an expressive medium worthy of the same respect, and protections,
as movies, literature and other forms of art and entertainment.
The IGDA fully stands behind voluntary, industry driven, content ratings
that allow consumers to make informed purchasing/playing
decisions for themselves and their families. Games are part of our
cultural fabric and are enjoyed by diverse audiences.
Addiction to games is a website dedicated to providing
information to gamers on healthy gaming along with
providing advice and support to those affected by gaming
Positive aspects of games
Games can teach!
Nesta -
Learning and Skills Development Agency
Mitchell, A and Savill-Smith, C (2004). The Use of Computer and Video Games for Learning:
A Review of the Literature. Learning and Skills Development Agency; Ultralab; mlearning
Games That Educate, Train, and Inform
Diplomatic, negotiating and games a la “How to save the world
from poverty?”
Games can teach
Learning and Skills Development Agency
Mitchell, A and Savill-Smith, C (2004).
“How “good” computer games are?” >> producers, parents, teachers,
governments …
Many young people spend a significant amount of leisure time each week
playing computer games (often 7 hours or more)
Computer games have become for many children the chosen form of play
Computer games might improve visual intelligence and reaction times
Some complex computer games might incorporate as many as 36 important
learning principles.
Computer games are seductive and the challenge of wining the game is
Frequent gaming help users to adjust to a computer-oriented society.
Games That Educate, Train, and Inform
Dr. Mark Wiederhold, co-founder of the Virtual Reality Medical Center, states
many uses of video games in modern medicine;
to distract patients during painful medical procedures.
to improve rehabilitation.
to improve motor skills.
for therapeutic interventions.
to teach doctor and nurses.
to raise awareness of their health problems (ie. diabetes, asthma).
Games That Educate, Train, and Inform
First CG that merged fitness and computer games was
Konami’s arcade game Dance Dance Revolution (DDR),
(1991) re-released for console in 2001.
Hospitals experiment with alternatives to treatment and
Integrating video games in treatment and recovery
Video games as training tools for doctors and nurses.
Games That Educate.. Distraction Therapy
How much pain a person experiences often depends on how much
conscious attention the person gives to the pain signals?
Video games and virtual reality (VR), with their ability to immerse the
individual in a computer-generated environment, have been shown to
be effective in focusing a patient's attention away from their medical
treatment and the pain they are experiencing.
Immersed in the world of the game, they are not as consciously aware of
what is going on around them, and they miss a proportion of the pain
Games That Educate.. Distraction Therapy
Believe In Tomorrow Foundation (USA charity 1982)
>> uses distraction as a pain management technique
>> virtual reality immersion via headsets
Anticipatory anxiety
>> Children feel this more deeply than adults
>> partnerships between Believe In Tomorrow Foundation
and BreakAway Games (2005) resulted in a new study
in the effectiveness of VR techniques.
Games That Educate… Self-Management
Self-management - key element in the treatment of chronic diseases
(asthma and diabetes).
>> patients adjust their lifestyle and habits to deal with the disease
>> consequences could be health problems or even death.
“Watch, Discover, Think, and Act” (2000), a computer game designed to
enhance self-management skills and improve asthma outcomes in
inner-city children with asthma.
Packie & Marlon, by ClickHealth, was designed to help children and
teenagers with diabetes improve their diabetes self-management.
Games That Educate… Self-Management
Glucoboy (Guidance Interactive Healthcare, 2005) - a
glucose meter that can be connected to a Nintendo
GameBoy. As a reward for maintaining good blood
sugar control, Glucoboy downloads video game
programs into the GameBoy.
Win the diabetes (2001-2005, Slovenian Diabetes society)
awareness games for children and teenagers with
Games That Educate…Health Education and Physical Fitness
Games try to help players stay healthy
physical fitness,
sexually transmitted diseases
Squire's Quest
Dance Dance Revolution (1991) – RedOctane’s Ignition Pad
Sony EyeToy (2003) for the PlayStation 2
Games That Educate…Health Education and Physical Fitness
Squire's Quest – medieval game >> from squire to full knight >> nutritional
content of different foods (40 minutes per week in 5 weeks)
Konami's Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), (1991) - video game that mixes
physical activity with game play. DDR uses dance pad, with four panels,
up, down, left, and right, arranged around where the player stands.
RedOctane’s Ignition Pad (top selling dance pad in 2004)
>> Tanya Jessen, the campaign spokesperson, lost 95 pounds (43 kg) by playing
the Dance Dance Revolution).
DDR is used in number of studies:
>>> increases the metabolism and causes the body to burn more calories.
>>> examines the possibility of cutting claim costs from obesity and how
exergaming products can help reduce childhood obesity.
Games That Educate…Health Education and Physical Fitness
With EyeToy for the PlayStation 2 there is an emerging market for new
controllers and interfaces:
Cateye GameBike and the Reebok CyberRider for PlayStation 2 or
Xbox ($1200).
QMotions >> baseball controller for console and PC.
Other games that involved physical activity i.e. arcade games:
- Pedalling a bicycle (Prop Cycle, 1993)
- Holding ski pole handles while standing on moveable skis (Alpine Racer,
- Sega's Top Skater (1997) >> skateboard,
- Namco's Final Furlong (1997) >> racehorse riding.
Diplomatic games
How to save the world from poverty?
Carnegie Mellon University educational CG that explores the
Mid-East conflict:
-- negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
UN World Food Programme >> online game how to feed
thousands of people on a fictitious island.
MTV announced a contest for a video game that fights
genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Women in games conference 2005
Conference looked into
female representation
female players
female developers
Ernest Adams – Look back in high heels
Women in games conference 2005
Female Representation
woman as icon
“ target of misogyny (hatred towards women)
“ object/plaything
“ damsel in distress
“ sidekick/assistant
“ evil opponent
“ man with breasts e.g Lara Croft (is manish and does not
engage in any female activities/behaviour – does this breakdown gender
boundaries or create man in women body for male audience?
“ herself. This is also known as the fully self-realised woman –
she defines her role and is not defined by it. Her choices are governed
by her character not gender. Doesn’t give up feminity to advance her
aims. Lots of examples from history – Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin,
Margaret Thatcher. These women may struggle against stereotypes in
pursuit of larger goal.
Women in games conference 2005
Sheri Graner Ray, Gender and inclusive game design (book)
Female Players
Purple moon made games for girls but unsuccessful as market driven rather
than being led by a vision. Free games on web attract 1000’s of
women. Women prefer character depth in games. Need to develop 3
dimensional characters in gaming that’ll appeal to women.
0 dim characters – atomic emotional states jump from hate to fear.
1 dim “
- such as bond girls
2 dim “
- 007 bond – no conflicting emotions or emotional
3 dim “
- neutrality, sympathy, antipathy and psychotherapy? –
Captain Aubrey in ‘master and commander’.
Women in games conference 2005
Sheri Graner Ray, Gender and game design (book)
Female Developers
Women bring new perspectives and values to the medium.
– prioritise and plan
– think of your audience not yourself and bring empathy to
the job.
Storytelling is mostly about people whereas games are mostly
about things? Is this really true? Need to learn to make
interactive drama such as ‘Façade –’ is
more about psychological engagement with a story.
Women in games conference 2005
Elena Bertozzi
Self-efficacy – this is the idea that men are more likely to
engage in techy activities and jump in – women hang
back if not confident.
T.L. Taylor
Social network, domestic configurations, different between
girls and women in their approaches needs to be
Identity – are you a gamer first or is your gender first? The
way we understand sex is socially constructed.
Women in games conference 2005
Jennifer Jensen
Its not about making better games for women. Keep games for M and F
and keep those tensions there. Otherwise there are 2 types of
games and no real engagement with gender issue. We’re
producing, co-producing and re-producing these findings and
research. Need to start asking different questions.
Girls don’t have direct access to game playing, don’t have primary
access to tech – access is re-mediated thro male relations.
Cultural assumptions that females don’t like aggressive games is not
found true in research. Can’t make judgements on likes and dislikes
of females especially if they don’t have opportunity to try these
things out! So if girls already feel ‘outside’ what is point of marketing
to them?
Women in games conference 2005
Aphra Kerr
High level of risks/failure in games which is why companies
stick to tried and established genres, sequels etc not a
lot of new ideas in games industry in general – mostly
in-house teams rather than independent makers.

the lecture notes here (Powerpoint)