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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.