This article is the third chapter of our eBook The Future of Gaming, in which KeenGamer writers discuss how the game’s industry will change. If you enjoy our work, please consider sending us a donation via PayPal on [email protected]. Every dollar will help us fund future projects. Feel free to download the full book in PDF. Or you can read the chapter of your choice in the list below:
Chapter 1: The Future of Video Game Distribution
Chapter 2: The Future of Virtual Reality Games
Chapter 4: The Future of Video Games Platforms
Chapter 5: The Future of eSports
Chapter 6: 11 Companies that Can Build the Road to the Future
Although video games have been around since 1958, they still are in their infancy, when compared to other mediums, such as film, literature and theatre. Likewise, research on the psychological effects of gaming has been sparse. However, due to the media’s infectious attraction to the negative, most studies have aimed to highlight the negative influences of gaming, rather than the joy it brings to lives worldwide.
It is likely that most non-gamers believe gaming is bad for society, because news outlets show us stories of teenagers shooting up schools, children killing their parents, increased violence, decreased attention spans, and hermit-like anti-social tendencies.
The media shows these stories, instead of the child who uses games to escape from bullying or the children who learned how to share and retrieve information.
The limelight in the media isn’t given to the children who develop cooperation and teamwork skills through gaming, the infants who learned how to read through play or the kid whose passions and creativity blossomed because of the universes video games can take us to. Therefore, rather than the darkness purveyed by mainstream media, this chapter will focus on the latter and reveal the light and hope of the video game industry.
GaMING OUR WAY TO A BETTER WORLD
Video games are a powerful storytelling medium. They can take people to magical universes far from reality. They can move people, make them feel courageous, loved and worthy. Above all, they have the power to tell stories worth telling. Video games have a positive effect on human beings as individuals and on our society, with applications in the medical field, cognitive development, prosocial behavior and aiding in developing positive attitudes toward failure.
GAMES ARE EDUCATIONAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL
According to Isabela Granic, Professor and Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology department at Radboud University, in her article The Benefits of Playing Video Games, a video game titled Re-Mission (below) showed positive effects on children with cancer. Developers designed it specifically for infants undergoing treatment for the disease. It allowed “the player to control a nanobot that shoots cancer cells, overcomes bacterial infections, and manages signs of nausea and constipation (common barriers to cancer patients’ treatment adherence), the game aimed to teach children how to best adhere to their cancer treatments,” and the results were encouraging.
Before Re-Mission, doctors struggled to get through to young patients regarding strict adherence to their treatment plans. Doctors found that giving children rules to follow does not work well when they did not fully understand the importance of their doctor’s orders. Some patients believed skipping a chemo session to party with friends was not such a big deal in the scheme of things, but Re-mission helped them understand that treatment is not something to be turned off and on at will. According to a controlled study conducted in 34 medical centers, patients who played Re-Mission showed enhanced benefits when compared to patients in the control group who were assigned to play a different game. “Adherence to treatment protocol, self-efficacy, and cancer-related knowledge were all significantly greater in the intervention group. The game has now been distributed to over 200,000 patients and continues to be viewed as a successful treatment approach.”
Citing another example from TIME magazine online, where a game held educational benefits, Foldit, a chemistry-related title, has helped scientists understand the structure of an AIDS-related enzyme, which had before baffled researchers in the field. The game pits gamers against complicated protein and amino acid puzzles. The only difference is that solving the challenges in this game could lead to scientific breakthroughs and potentially save lives. Furthermore, it’s possible that merely the act of play in general contributes to neurological growth. Also stated in Granic’s article, “Experimental laboratory studies indicate that play fighting results in the release of chemical growth factors in the parts of the brain that are coordinated for highly social activities (e.g., the orbital frontal cortex),” which means that playing video games, or just games in general, could result in the player having enhanced social abilities.
GAMES BUILD BETTER PEOPLE
Video games have the power to build strong, pro-social, intelligent and creative human beings. Contrary to widespread belief, gamers are not the hot-pocket-eating, greasy-faced hermits who live in their parents’ basements. The Entertainment Software Association (2016) states that over 50% of frequent gamers play with other people, friends or family, online or in-person. With the incalculable rise of social media and social networking video games have adapted to include such connectivity.
“I learned how to read faster due to video games as a child, my mother told me she would read books to me and one day I started reading them to her out of nowhere. All I had been doing previously to that was playing video games with a lot of text. As a teenager, video games helped me escape the pressures of middle school and high school. It gave me a chance to unwind and get lost in another world and help fuel my creative side. As an adult, it’s definitely therapeutic, as my day can be very stressful, so games give me a chance to shut off and get lost in the game world.” – Douglas Bogart (Limited Run Games)
Video games are not lonely activities. They are shared and enjoyed globally. Many players use them to connect with friends or family members, sometimes using them as a means of contact with loved ones halfway across the world. People can chat through video games with strangers, friends, and family alike, sometimes forming lifelong friendships. There have even been cases of people finding love in online games. One example that made Daily Mail headlines was about a couple in the UK who met online playing Final Fantasy XI, an online MMORPG from Square Enix, and later married. Furthermore, it has become increasingly easy and common to share video game activity online and through social media.
“With this unlimited amount of gaming opportunities, we can use it as a tool to build up new relationships, learn about trends, and communicate globally.” – Tetsuya Kishigami (Former Square Enix Project Manager)
Aside from the social capabilities of gaming hardware, Granic’s studies show that “children who played more prosocial games at the beginning of the school year were more likely to exhibit helpful behaviors later that year”. Furthermore, “adolescents who played games with civic experiences (e.g., Guild Wars 2, an MMORPG, or massive multiplayer online role-playing game) were more likely to be engaged in social and civic movements in their everyday lives (e.g., raising money for charity, volunteering, and persuading others to vote)”.
“Looking back at my NINTENDO-freak days, I remember playing many RPG games. Since we didn’t have the internet those days, I naturally learned how to share and get information at a time with a limited amount of media, help friends out, think about tactics to move on, and even share the game cassette itself. These factors built up skills to enable teamwork and fetching new knowledge.” – Tetsuya Kishigami (Former Square Enix Project Manager)
Furthermore, games with a large online community encourage interaction among players. This gives the chance to judge people in a safe environment. Ms. Granic states that “In these virtual social communities, decisions need to be made on the fly about whom to trust, whom to reject, and how to most effectively lead a group. Given these immersive social contexts, we propose that gamers are rapidly learning social skills and prosocial behavior that might generalize to their peer and family relations outside the gaming environment”. More than that, players can do this in a relatively safe space where trusting the wrong person would, at worst, lead to a game over screen. In real life, there is no place where people can improve such social and interpersonal skills through trial and error without consequence. Yet, perhaps the most rewarding benefit of videogames is enhanced creativity.
“New evidence is emerging that playing any kind of video game, regardless of whether or not it is violent, enhances children’s creative capacities. For example, among a sample of almost 500 12-year-old students, video game playing was positively associated with creativity” -Isabela Granic (Chair of Psychopathology, Radboud University)
Possibly the most difficult attribute to instill in someone is creativity and it may be a skill or ability that no textbook can teach, and student can memorize from a flashcard. Creativity is needed in every field of the world and it’s what sets human beings apart from other species. From our ability to create tools, to ponder our own existence, to create innovative technologies and revolutionary medical advances, creativity is what colors the world.
“I think games can teach kids to have an imagination, sometimes learn history, social skills, and how to be creative.” – Douglas Bogart (Limited Run Games)
Creative development and enhancement is where video games are the spearhead in the entertainment industry. There is no other media in which the consumer is required to produce creativity of their own more than in video games. Movies allow you to bask in the glory and brilliance of directors like Stephen Spielberg, but video games seek to extract the Spielberg from within yourself. Whether it be designing a character’s appearance, choosing dialogue options in an RPG, forging the storyline in games like Skyrim or Fallout or even creating entire worlds of your own in the sandboxes of Minecraft, video games push you to create your own entertainment and, the more creative you are, the better and more enjoyable your gaming experience will be.
GAMES ENCOURAGE FAILURE
Video games create a positive attitude toward failure. Many games teach players their rules not through dialogue, instruction manuals, or text overlays, but rather through trial and error. This promotes a constant system of failure and success, learning and relearning throughout the game. The Mario franchise (below) is famous for this.
This gives players, especially developing children, a sense of security in the face of failure, making them be comfortable with it. This may sound bad, but it’s not. It’s the only way to achieve success. One of the most influential inventors in human history once said:
“I didn’t fail. I just found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” – Thomas Edison
And it is precisely this way of thinking that video games can instill on players. Failure is evidence of your effort, you can’t fail unless you try, and it is this mindset that create the geniuses, the CEOs and all the great people of the world. Therefore, video games promote failure, which can create individuals who are willing to make mistakes. Ms. Granic’s study found that “If intelligence or ability is presumed to be a mark of effortful engagement, failure signals the need to remain engaged and bolster one’s efforts. In turn, this positive attitude toward failure predicts better academic performance.”
THE MOST OPTIMISTIC FUTURE
However, this not only improves one’s academic performance, but overall chances in real-life situations and trials, be it the strength to offer an incorrect answer in the classroom, the motivation to try new hobbies or interests, or even the courage to get shot down asking someone on a date, promoting a positive attitude toward failure can only create a stronger human society. Video games can create a generation of people willing to invent new things, teach our children in new ways, and dare to go where people have not gone before. We can create a society of educated individuals, not only skilled in memorizing facts but like in video games, able to find multiple solutions to a single problem. These are the type of people that will make a better world and video games will help us get there.
THE MOST PESSIMISTIC FUTURE
We live in a world where we can uphold and fight for our democratic rights. Freedom of speech in most countries has led to quite an open-field in terms of game development and censorship. There have been more than a few controversial titles released in The West with no signs of strong censorship rules coming in the foreseeable future. When I say controversial, I refer to entire series such as Grand Theft Auto (below), or even just certain parts of games, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s airport massacre scene. These titles have created public outcry in some cases. One New York grandmother even sued developers over hidden sexual scenes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, claiming she had bought the game for her 14-year-old grandson, with no warning that it had such sexual content
Despite all the controversy, these games can still be bought online or from store shelves with ease. Furthermore, in 2011 the US Supreme Court ruled that video games are works of art and are thus protected under the 1st Amendment, regarding freedom of speech. Therefore, it is evident that we currently have no fear of games being censored to hell and back. However, that brings us back to the question: what am I afraid of? Or what should we be afraid of? The main thing that comes to mind is mainstream media. It has already painted games in a negative light, when it serves their ratings. One article by CNN, regarding a case of a young boy who shot his grandmother in the head, delved deeply into the evidence supporting that the boy’s love of Grand Theft Auto IV was the cause of the incident. However, the article failed to go into the details of gun safety and why the boy was able to access his grandmother’s gun in the first place.
The media has a strong effect on society. Humans are drawn to accept the word of authority figures and just because someone is given a teleprompter and air time, most people are inclined to believe what they say. The media can affect the outcome of presidential elections, create legislation, and even alter one’s beliefs. Therefore, the worst that could happen is a media witch hunt on the video game industry. For example, on February 22nd, 2018 U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that there is a need to censor and consider “do[ing] something about” violent video games and movies. He, although vaguely, offered violent movies and video games being experienced during the developmental stages of childhood as a reason for the violence we are seeing in youth. Mind you, these statements came shortly after the Parkland Shooting in Florida where 17 people lost their lives. It’s exactly that sort of thinking that can harm the video game industry without cause or reason.
the likeliest future
Video games are a metaphor for life. They all come in different forms with diverse sizes, lengths, and all holding unique stories of their own. Just like life, some games will hit certain players harder than others and some might struggle where others won’t. Yet, regardless of the game, of the story, gaming does something that other storytelling mediums don’t. They require you to press a button, move forward on the d-pad, leap over the gap and duck under the danger. Video games require you to forge your own destiny within their creative worlds and in doing so they teach the gamer that it’s okay to fail and that there’s always a solution to the problem, regardless of the difficulty.
Children develop confidence in the face of failure, gain social skills, and enhance their creativity through video games. They are the escape people need at the end of a tough day, and they tell stories that will mold one’s morals and ethics for the rest of their life. For many people, they provide tales of hope. More than that, they let gamers create hope with their own two hands.
However, video games are not so well respected by many people. Many parents still see them as a waste of money and time. Some people strongly believe that games can cause addiction. In early 2018, the World Health Organization made national headlines, labelling video gaming addiction as a disorder to be published in the ICD-11.
Although there have not been enough studies to support this belief, anything in excess is a bad and just like any other source of entertainment, the gamers must enjoy it responsibly. Yet, in the end, I will maintain the stance that video games have done more good than harm and will continue to lighten the individual worlds of players and the global society, rather than darken it. The interactive environment provided in gaming is unparalleled by any other source of entertainment and the revolutionary advancements in technology will further enhance the power of games and likewise their benefits in society.
This article is the third chapter from our eBook “The Future of Gaming,” in which KeenGamer writers discuss how the game’s industry will change. Feel free to download the full book in PDF.