Video Games: Comm 240

Video games and video game consoles have evolved a great deal from their early days on the Magnavox Odyssey. According to Communication Technology Update and Fundamentals, the Odyssey was the first generation of video gaming. Introduced in 1972, it was the first dedicated gaming console. Built on switches instead of a microprocessor, it included “a variety of analog components to be used in playing the video portions of the game, such as dice, play money, and plastic overlays for a common touchpad,” (Communication, pg. 204).

Video games, as the textbook describes, is used as a “catch-all” term to include games with a visual and audio stimulus that are played through a “digitally-mediated” system. They’re available in three forms: a) as a standalone system such as an “arcade cabinet”, b) as a software for gaming-specific systems such as an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, or c) as a software for other digital systems such as computers or cell phones.

According to the textbook, a video game system has some form of display and some form of input device, along with a microprocessor and the game software itself. For example, a PS3 (microprocessor) is connected to a television (form of display) and a PS3 controller (input device) is used to control the football players if you were playing Madden 11 (game software).

Primarily used for entertainment purposes, video games and video game systems can be used as an educational tool as well. Some, such as the Wii Fit, can even be used for exercise. Regardless what the reasons are to playing video games, they are likely to have an effect on the user. The most talked about effects are usually in the form of negativity, for example, violent video games influencing violent behavior in the people who play them. However, not all effects that video games have on people are negative.

An article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examines the effect that prosocial video games have on prosocial behavior. The article, “Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behavior,” discusses the results of a study intended to measure the effects that prosocial video games have. Participants were randomly selected to play one of four video games (two considered prosocial, one considered neutral and one considered violent) and then the experimenters would do something that would require the participant to either help them or another person out. For instance in one experiment the experimenter would “accidently” knock over a cup of pencils and see if the participant would help pick them up after playing their selected video game.

The study concluded that the participants playing the games deemed to be prosocial were more likely to help another person in some form after playing their video game than the participants playing the neutral or violent video games. Therefore, according to the study, “While exposure to violent video games increases aggression and decreases prosocial behavior, here, we have presented evidence that exposure to prosocial video games increases prosocial behavior.”

Greitmeyer, Tobias & Osswald, Silvia (2010). “Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), 211-221.


11 responses

  1. Anna

    Video gaming is such a popular topic today. I have recently become more interested in the topic because I will soon be working for a company that uses a type of virtual reality training program for athletes to really target their sport specific goals. It amazes me how much video games have evolved and become more and more life-like and realistic. What I find the most stimulating is the newer technology of actually putting yourself into the virtual world of a “game”. With systems like Kinect and Wii, gamers are able to actively participate instead of just staring at the screen. I am excited to see what new dimensions will come with gaming, and looking forward to being able to actually work with a virtual reality program in training athletes.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:34 PM

  2. Andrew

    Video games have evolved greatly from the original square pixel blocks of Pong, to today’s breathtaking visuals and complex stories. In a time when the film industry is hurting from illegal download and poor storytelling, video games have greatly expanded on ideas of storytelling and have examples like the Final Fantasy series that is now in its fourteenth installation. The movie industry is under fire now because of its declining business and video games rapid climb to the top. Within the next generation of systems to come (i.e. PS4 etc.), video games could being to look and feel like fully interactive movies, and Hollywood’s big stars could find themselves no longer making conventional movies.


    May 30, 2011 at 10:56 PM

  3. Evan

    I have always hated the negative view of video games on society. Growing up having two older brothers, I was exposed to video games at a young age, and must say, I play them to this day. There have been no negative side effects on my life, and I can say I have played the most violent of the violent games there are available. I have probably learned more from video games then I could even begin to give in detail, and I am glad you shed a positive light on the influence of games.


    May 30, 2011 at 11:59 PM

  4. Patrick

    Video games have come a long way since the days of pong in the 1970s. Video games are what describe our generation I believe. Everyone plays video games, everyone has a game console, or at least has had one. Things have changed though since the days of Mario Cart and Diddy Kong. Violence and sex have come into the video game scene I believe has made today’s society at least in a way, a bit more violent. Now, with the invention of programs such as fitness workouts, and fitness type games, video games has grew back its reputation, and I believe the video game business will continue to grow.


    May 31, 2011 at 7:04 AM

  5. Ainie

    Video games have become so popular in past couple of years, in a few more years it will become almost impossible to imagine a time when they did not exist. I remember when I was younger we used to play super Mario and that one game where you shoot ducks with a gun…does anyone remember what that was called? (As you can tell, I was never really into video games). However, the games they are coming out with now like guitar hero and Kinect and all the interactive games on Wii – if we had those games while I was growing up, I would be a video game junkie.


    May 31, 2011 at 7:55 AM

  6. Matt

    Video Games have certainly come a long way since the Odyssey. From simple games like Pong that have only one objective to some of the MMO’s or FPS’s that have nearly and endless amount of goals, there is always a game out there for everybody. But I think what scientists are discovering nowadays is that extended exposure to a video game, no matter what type of game it might be, can have effects on the human brain. Where violent video games increase aggression, pro-social games, like you said, can have positive effects. It’s simply a matter of how long one is exposed to the gaming environment.


    May 31, 2011 at 9:51 AM

  7. Andrew Kirby

    Being a psych major, I have read quite a few studies about the behavioral effects of video games. Like you said, even though most of the studies are aimed at examining the link between video games and violence, there actually are a great deal of other studies showing the positives. In addition to the exhibition of pro-social behaviors following video game playing, there have been many studies suggesting that playing a cooperative game drastically increases the connection the person feels to the people they had to team up with; ratings of agreeableness and positive feelings increase significantly even if the video game is violent (think the study was about Halo 3). So I definitely agree with you that video games bring a lot more to society than violence/aggression and I can’t wait to see what new directions the industry goes.


    May 31, 2011 at 10:53 AM

  8. Cameron Faulkner

    Ainie, that game was aptly called “Duck Hunt”! Great article. Many different articles written by students on the subject of video games make me ponder my history with them. From what I’ve lived through and been able to see during these current trends of extreme popularity, it seems that recently, many games are treading a little too far away from the base of what makes a video game a video game. This is only to compare video games to what they used to be many years ago. Many of us would swear that we were watching a movie while we play games like Uncharted or Heavy Rain for the PlayStation 3. Is this bad? Video game developers are being supplied with MONSTER budgets to make these games, each one pushing the envelope further in immersion, graphical prowess and gameplay perfection. Does this aim for the pinnacle of entertainment cloud a video games goal as a medium? Being a firm believer in video games as an expression of art, I’ll say no but I’m watching you video games, I’m watching you.


    May 31, 2011 at 12:16 PM

  9. Mitch White

    The market of Video Games are bigger than ever today. The spotlight about video game effects are also bigger than ever today. I have been playing video games ever since the PS1 came out. Video games have definitely changed since the days of pong. Now parents are concerned greatly with some video games, sex and violence are now a big part of the video game industry. I truthfully don’t believe video games to effect the human brain at all. I have played first person shooters , Grand Theft Auto games, and many others that have been under the spotlight. I feel they haven’t changed me at all. I just think that when anything gets popular then there will be people who try to stop it, I think the video game industry will continue to grow as it is today.


    May 31, 2011 at 12:52 PM

  10. Caitlin

    Video games has become a very popular topic these days. Video games are being examined so closely claiming that video games are having negative or aggressive effects on kids and/or teens. As a college student it seems crazy that videos games could be the cause of anything in the real world. As a kid I grew up playing video games and still do play video games every once in a while. Although graphics and animations on video games have become more advanced creating more real life experiences, the reality of bringing a video game to life seems unreal to me. I believe that in order for the video game to truly effect an individual they would have to have been exposed to the game for long amounts of time and have very little connection to the real world.


    May 31, 2011 at 1:11 PM

  11. Kevin

    I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember, all the way back when I first got my Super Nintendo as a kid. They have most certainly come a long way, and while we are seeing much bigger and better games today, with it comes a lot of criticism. A lot of the non-gaming public are blinded by bogus reports are violent video games turning people into killers and how games will turn you into a fat, lazy slob with no friends, when in reality some of my fondest memories have rooted from playing games with friends. I couldn’t imagine my life without them and I pity anyone who looks down upon them.


    May 31, 2011 at 2:19 PM

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