Violence and Video Games Over Time

A large amount can change over 10 years. Take a moment to think about 2002. You’re probably a completely different person than you were then. You’re not the only thing that’s changed. The world around us has changed as well…

According to IMDB’s list of the “Most Popular Video Games Released in 2002“, the most popular video game released that year was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. According to a similar list for 2011, the most popular game is Star Wars: The Old Republic.

This doesn’t quite make the point that our video game preferences have gotten less violent over the years. However, it brings to mind a TEDTalk that I saw recently about television.

The speaker compared the climate of the United States over approximately 50 years to the most popular television shows of these eras. For example, when unemployment was high and the economy was suffering, Zalaznick’s study found the most popular television shows included rich people and lavish things such as Fantasy Island.

I wonder if there is an effect on video game popularity based on the cultural climate in America. Of course, there are franchises such as Mario and Grand Theft Auto that have been popular for many years. But what about games like Call of Duty?

War games have been popular for many years, but are they more popular post-9/11?

Is the popularity of violent video games a function of an anger or angst in American culture today that longs to be expressed? If violent video games were to be limited (more exclusive), should we be worried?

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Serious Simulations

In general, when we speak about serious games we think of games that teach us how to do something outside of the game world. We wouldn’t include such games a Mario Kart or Final Fantasy as serious games because we are not likely to race magical go karts or do whatever it is you do in the Final Fantasy games.

What about simulations? Of course, a driving simulation could be used by a driving school to educate aspiring motorists. But think about a grander scope than that…

Remember those “Tycoon” PC games we had growing up? Roller coaster tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, etc. Although we are not all likely to go out and create our own amusement parks, these games do act as serious games.

Through Roller Coaster Tycoon, I learned at a young age (1) it is very, very difficult to build a successful amusement park and (2) (from my only successful amusement park) it impossible to hire enough custodians to clean acres-worth of litter and roller coaster vomit.

Games like these do not necessarily teach us the appropriate skills needed to do the job in the game. (Otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting my time in college when I could be a roller coaster tycoon.) However, you do learn something valuable from them that you would get out a training course for the position:

An appreciation for the people who do this stuff in real life.

Everyone loves to complain about politicians; it’s almost how you get any interest in politics in the first place. But I like to cut politicians a little slack regarding their decisions because HAVE YOU PLAYED SIM CITY 4?!

I have yet to make a city that the citizens were happy with and didn’t go bankrupt within a half hour of playing it. The experience taught me that budgeting is difficult regardless of how much money you begin with. So, though I may not be a mayor some day, I’ve learned something from the experience that another game couldn’t teach me.

Spoiled Gamers: Taking Bad Games for Granted

I was looking at video reviews of video games on IGN.com and came across this one.

This is IGN’s review of the game, Amy, which they have rated 2 of 10 and “Painful”. The reviewer strongly recommends that gamers avoid Amy at all costs. Personally, from the video gameplay, I agree with everything. The poor visual quality and movement of characters made the video difficult to watch.

However, it makes me think about the evolution of games…

I wonder how “painful” Amy would have been if it were one of the first games released on Playstation 2. Probably much less. In that scope of gameplay history, Amy may have been a highly rated game.

Think about it. The graphics are obviously better than most early Xbox and PS One and PS2 games. There is an element of horror that has always been popular in games. Amy revolves around protecting a little girl. Protecting a helpless character(s), is a fairly new phenomenon found in gaming today that would have been cutting-edge at an earlier time.

This is not to say Amy should be cut slack because gamers have been spoiled by fantastic games like Alan Wake (Rated 9.0) and UFC Undisputed 3 (Rated 9.0). After all, games should strive to be good like them. This is also not to say, games should lose value over time (although they do lose price…) because a good game can surpass its lacking technology.

My point here is to emphasize the need for multidimensional-thinking when rating video games. You can’t simply rate a game on the quality of the technology. You should examine the narrative (if there is one), the replay-ability of the game, how much a game enriches your life, and other aspects that make a game 10-of-10-worthy.

Don’t be so quick to discount a game like Amy because of its poor visual/kinetic quality.

However, Amy in particular, is an awful game for other reasons. 🙂

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