Video Games: Technology and Social Issues

Article excerpt

Introduction

Video games are a major part of the culture of the United States and of many other countries throughout the world. Play is a natural human phenomenon, that leads the person or animal to develop skills to be used later in life, as well as often being enjoyable at the time. Games would seem to involve play plus the addition of more formal rules than is involved in play per Se (Frasca, 2003; Southern, 2003; Kampmann, 2003). Video games help people sharpen their perceptual and/or motor skills, as well as enjoy themselves. The United States military uses things much like video games to improve accuracy of shooting weapons. Thus, video games provide improved human performance. If they take away from people engaging in physical activity, then the perceptual and motor performance is purchased at the price of needed physical exercise ("Education," 2003). But, they are not inherently inconsistent. One could play video games and also get needed exercise when not playing video games.

Video games seem to appeal to the biological reality of human beings. That is, whatever we are, we seem to enjoy playing certain games, and having our skills challenged by certain kinds of play or games. Human beings have evolved to have certain brain and perceptual/motor abilities which respond well to stimuli that challenge people and often help people learn to perform even better (Darwin, 1872; Eisenman, 2003; Buss, 1999). The effects are no doubt due to a large variety of reasons, but one thing we know: motion has powerful physiological effects on people, and holds attention to the image (Simons, Detenber, Roedema, & Reiss, 1999).

Video games are a major pan of entertainment. Entering the terms "video games" into MSN Search engine gave 2626 results. And, there are now electronic journals devoted to scholarly study of video games; two prominent ones are Game Studies and Game Research. Many enjoy video games, even if they have no understanding of technological development, or of social issues such as violent games possibly causing violence in real life.

Technology

I have obtained information from Electronic Arts (2003) about video games that they have published titles for. The following gives the name of the manufacturer; the video game console/platform name; the date introduced in North America; the medium/product base; and the technology (bit indicates how complex the information presented is):

Sega, Genesis, 1989, cartridge, 16-bit

Nintendo, Super NES, 1991, cartridge, 16-bit

Matsushita, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, 1993, compact disk, 32-bit

Sega, Saturn, 1995, compact disk, 32-bit

Sony, PlayStation, 1995, compact disk, 32-bit

Nintendo, Nintendo 64, 1996, cartridge, 64-bit

Sony, PlayStation2, 2000, digital versatile disk, 128-bit

Nintendo, Nintendo GameCube, 2001, proprietary optical format, 128-bit

Microsoft, Xbox, 2001, digital versatile disk, 128-bit

According to Electronic Arts (2003), Sony, with PlayStation and PlayStation2 has been the clear market leader, although facing stiff competition from Microsoft and Nintendo. It seems clear that video games have evolved to be more technologically complex, starting out as cartridges with 16-bit, and now including a variety of formats, with 128-bit.

Marketing

Many of the games were introduced to different parts of the world at different times, but roughly at more or less the same time. For example, Sony released PlayStation in Japan in March 2000, in North America in October 2000, and in Europe in November 2000. Nintendo released the Nintendo GameCube in Japan in September 2001, in North America in November 2001, and in Europe in May 2002. Microsoft first released the Xbox console in North America in November 2001, then in Japan in February 2002, and in Europe in March 2002. So, the video games seem to reach a worldwide market within months of being first introduced. …