Video Games in Popular Culture

By: Josh Keller

Video games are a massive entity in popular culture today. Most of our generation has grown up with video games in our household, and many of us also play video games on a regular basis. Video games started out as very primitive and basic, but have become much more complex and involved as technology advanced. The introduction of video games actually started back in 1947 with cathode-ray based missile defense systems. A picture below shows the earliest example of this.

In the 70’s, the video game Pong was introduced and immediately became a hit. After Pong’s success, arcade-style video games emerged during that time. In the 80’s, technology advanced even further. Computers were starting to emerge, and with that video game consoles advanced as well. The Commodore 64 was one of the first video game consoles sold massively to the public. With the introduction of video game consoles came the introduction of video game genres, such as role-playing games, first person shooters, action/adventure, etc. By the 90’s, technology was advancing at an even faster rate, and video game consoles began rendering games in color and three dimensions (as opposed to side-scrolling games, such as Super Mario). Nintendo and Sony were big players during this era, selling their consoles Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation respectively. Video games during the 90’s also started to become more advanced and involved, and in turn more volatile towards youth. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was created and placed labels on video games warning buyers of explicit content and requiring only a certain age group to buy certain games. In the present, video games are extremely advanced. Controllers are becoming obsolete with Microsoft’s introduction of Kinect, a motion-sensing add-on to the Xbox 360. Video games are also becoming more interactive with Nintendo’s Wii console. The evolution of video games will never cease, and we may eventually find ourselves placed in an augmented video game reality soon enough.

On the subject of virtual reality, many simulation-genre video games enable players to create their own world. One such example that comes to mind is the Sims. In this game, players can make their own house, decorate it, make their own “Sim” (character), give them commands, and even foster relationships with other Sims. This is definitely a problem. Players will get the idea that their Sim reality is their real life and ignore reality altogether. The video game gives the player a chance to experience the life that they can’t have and the life that they truly want. Also, players feel like they’re in control, or “God” in a sense, because they can manipulate the Sim characters, and even kill them. This is not only true for the Sims video game, but many other simulation/virtual reality video games as well, such as the upcoming fantasy game Fable III, in which players can enter into an online world and even marry other online players. Because of this transition from our reality into the video game reality, our reality may cease to exist one day.

One of the biggest controversies of video games are their supposed negative effects on players. Video games have been touted as causing teenage violence and suicide, among other things. An accusation against video games is that the availability of video games has led to youth violence, which is false. According to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers have found that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. However, it is true young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. Despite this showing, young people in general are likely to be game players. 90% of boys and 40% of girls play video games on a regular basis. According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s report, the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. Clearly, video games are not the cause of youth violence. Conversely, in fact, one benefit to playing video games is an improvement in eye-hand coordination and motor skills, such as their resistance to distraction, their sensitivity to information in the peripheral vision and their ability to count briefly presented objects. Research shows that these enhanced abilities come from playing action games, which involve switching attention from one location to another, not with games requiring concentration on a single object.

The evolution of video games in popular culture has undoubtedly affected people in society. Technological advances have allowed players many different types of control over the video game, including the use of their body has a controller, becoming even “closer” to the video game. Virtual realities are taking over our real reality, and we may all soon enough be living in that virtual reality instead of our own.

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