Video games have been through drastic changes over the years. The market has gone from a harmless game of Pong to hardcore matches of Modern Warfare. The more video games have advanced studios push the limits to achieve better graphics and more realism. As a result, the more realistic the games have become the more violent and sexual content have become a topic of controversy amongst gaming activist and the media. Gaming has come a long way from where it has started. With the good there will always be some bad as a result.
Origin of Video Gaming
Dating back to 1949 the spark of video games has been a topic of interest. An engineer by the name of Ralph Baer was tasked to build a television set. He had to create the best television set. He wanted to incorporate some kind of game into the device, but his employers soon pulled the plug on the project. It would take him eighteen years to make his vision become reality. By the time he did create his design, there had been other companies that came forth with their own inventions. In 1961 a man by the name of Steve Russell had developed a game called “Space wars.” Russell was a researcher for Massachusetts Institute of Technology. News spread quickly throughout the university and other gaming developers that were around. Back then researchers would circulate games via shareware for free. This fueled the passion for other researchers and gamers to create new prototypes for many different genres. These genres to this day dominate the gaming industry, including Role playing, First person shooters, action-adventure, and different types of simulators (Video, 2010)(Hermen, 2002).
In the early 1970s a man by the name Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, decided to ship a game called “Pong.” Originally he was going to name the company that was going to be shipping out the game, “Syzygy” (a metaphysical term meaning magic energy) but he changed his mind and that is when the birth of “Atari” happened. The company quickly became a kingpin amongst the pioneering of video games. Bushnell’s company grew so big in such a short amount of time that he was able to sell the company in 1976 to Warner Communications for 28 million dollars! This is a lot of money considering the time they were living in. Atari also ventured into a new Pizza Time Theatre, which was a combination of an Arcade and restaurant. The restaurant had a rat for a mascot and was named Chuck E. Cheese. The sales for Atari sky-rocketed the home gaming market in 1977. The first system was the Atari Video Computer System; later named the 2600 model. Atari did not just stop there, just a year later they produced two computer systems, the 6502 based 400 and the 800, which went face to face with the Apple II that was out at the time (Dvorak, 1997).
An iconic game released in the 1980s was “Pac-Man.” Pac-Man was created by a young game designer, Toru Iwatani, who targeted everyone’s favorite thing to do, eating. The game originally was going to be released as “Pakkuman”, (slang for ‘Paku-paku’ the sound his mouth makes when it opens and shuts). Japan ended up releasing the game as “Puck-Man”, but developers had never imagined that it would become as popular as it did. When the game came to the United States it was renamed to “Pac-Man.” This was due to the company fearing that their machines would be vandalized and changed to inappropriate names, limiting the likelihood that parents would allow their children to play the game (Pac-Man, 2010).
Also in the 1980s Atari released version of “Space Invaders,” which was produced exclusively for their consoles. The sales went through the roof once again. It was during this time when other companies started to emerge and actually gave Atari some competition. Mattel Electronics, being the first serious contender, released their own console by the name of “Intellivision.” The graphics were better, but the price of the unit was very expensive. At this time Atari took a major blow to its original development team. Atari does not give individual credits to their programmers, as a result, several of them decided to break off and develop their own company, and named it Activision. Activision recognizes the work of their development team members by listing the names on the back of gaming package (Herman, 2002).
Major advancements in video games are still evolving to this day. Activision has come a long way from its Atari days. They have become one of the largest third party video game and personal computer game vendors. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” is one of the more recent titles released to date. This game alone has brought in 1 billion dollars in its first fifteen days in stores and pulls more in each day. It has broken industry records of making the most money in such a shortest period of time, the first 24 hours made 400 million dollars. Activision has since merged with Blizzard Entertainment. Activision Blizzard is dominating home console and PC gaming sales. They are responsible for the biggest online multiplayer game in the history of gaming, “World of Warcraft.” This power house company does not show any signs of slowing down (Other, 2011).
Video Game Genres
Video games fall into different genres. Certain games mix gaming styles and could be put in more than one category. If these mixed combinations are successful other developers make more games that are similar which becomes a new genre. Shooter games have been around for a while; they can be dated back to the early 1960s by a game called “Space Wars.” Shooters are games that allow the gamer to blow up things up and kill their enemies in order to survive. This genre has evolved to First Person Shooters such as “Modern Warfare 3,” which gives the player freedom in a realistic 3D environment. This places the player in the middle of all the action and it gives them the feeling as if they were really in the heat of combat (Stahl, 2005).
The adventure game genre has also been around for a while. Adventure games are set out for players who love to solve puzzles and explore different worlds. Popular games that people are familiar with are “The Legend of Zelda”, “Super Mario”, and “Donkey Kong.” These games are really popular because of the lack of violence they have. Parents are more comfortable letting their children play cartoon games with magic mushrooms and monkeys over violent games. These games are marketed to target the younger generations of gamers (Stahl, 2005).
Role-Playing Games (RPGs) are games that revolve around character development and quests. The more the time the gamer puts into playing the game, the better gear and upgrades they can access. A hybrid of RPGs is MMORPGs, which stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Pioneered by a game called “Ever Quest”, these games have become widely popular with millions of people. Players spend countless hours to reach a certain level and gear up their characters just to spend more time trying to kill high level bosses in hopes of getting higher quality items. The most popular MMORPG is “World of Warcraft,” this online sensation has made billions of dollars and has the strongest following of fans to this day.
Sports games are games that simulate popular sports people play. These games allow players experience a virtual competition of their favorite sport. Fighting games are player vs. player games, which places two opponents in a match to fight one another until one of them depletes their health bar. Dancing games are games like “Just Dance” or “Dance Dance Revolution”, which allow gamers to dance to their favorite songs while following the dance patterns on the screens. It is also a great form of exercise in the form of a competition. With many diverse titles, there is something for everyone’s preference. With the graphic advancements in modern video games the more realistic, crude, violent, and sexual some games developed into (Stahl, 2005).
There is a lot of controversy surrounding video gaming and its players. There have been certain issues that have happened in the past that have shed a bad light on gaming. One such case happened in 2007. The parents of a young boy Daniel Petric had taken his “Halo” video game away from him. They had told him he was not to purchase the game but he still went behind their backs and bought it. When he returned home he was caught and his father placed the game into a safe box that also had his gun inside. As a result, when Daniel found a way to get into the box, not only did he take his game back but he decided to take the gun as well. He then asked his parents to come into the living room and close their eyes for a surprise. Daniel proceeded to shoot both his parents killing his mom and wounding his dad. Clearly this kid had far more issues then his parents taking away his game. Video game addiction can happen to anyone. In most cases it is the environments these kids live in but in this case Daniel’s father was a minister and was brought up in a loving home (Zurowski, 2011).
Another well-known incident would have to be the one that happened in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado. Two heavily armed students went on rampage in the school’s cafeteria, killing 12 students and 1 teacher within a 45 minute time frame. After wounding other students they then turned their weapons on themselves taking their own lives. In the aftermath of the shootings parents were blaming video games for the massacre. The two students played a game called “Doom”, which is a first person shooter which puts the gamer in the shoes of a soldier killing monsters and demons. Just because it is a very gory game that does not excuse their actions. There were plenty of other warning signs that could have been put into consideration. Society can easily point the finger at video games but they overlook the fact that these kids were picked on daily. They chose to ignore those warnings and did nothing to prevent this from happening. Since these incidents have occurred many games that have been made have been less graphic. As with movies video games are now have ratings on them as a warning to parents to look at what they are buying their kids (No Killer, 2011).
Positive Aspects of Gaming
On a positive side of things it is not true that gamers are anti-social, overweight, and violent. The media paints these pictures into society’s head to try to steer kids away from video games but it is only pushing them toward them at a faster rate! Parents believe that video games rot their kid’s brains but there are many positive effects that they need to consider before taking away their games. Current games demand a lot of interaction from their controllers. The more the players relate them self to their characters has shown to be a good effect on them. Not only are they interacting more with the game but they are building their hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and heightens reflex time in the players’ anticipation of their opponents. Children with self-esteem issues have also shown great improvement as well. With these interactions through video games, the child gets the feeling of achieving goals, participation, and it also builds up their confidence. It also keeps children out of trouble, meaning they are not out terrorizing the world. Rather they can do it from the comfort of their own homes where parents can keep an eye on them (Oak, 2011).
In conclusion, the video game industry is not going anywhere. In an industry that makes 10 billion dollars a year there are sure to be many more advances in the games. Although there are some extreme cases that have made the industry look bad, the game rating system has made it easier for parents to identify these explicit titles. Just like with movies and music parents really need to pay attention to what they are giving their kids money to buy stuff with. As with alcohol and cigarettes there is a certain age to purchase these games. Parents have no one to point the finger at for which games their kids are playing. The more graphic video games are no longer sold without proof of age. From “Atari” to “PS3”, video games have come a long way from where they started. With the good there will always some bad as a result.
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Herman, L, Horwitz, J., Kent, S., Miller, S.(2002). The History of Video Games. Retrieved from http://gamespot.com/gamespot/features/video/hov/index.html
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Stahl, T. (2005). Video Game Genres. Retrieved from http://www.thocp.net/software/games/reference/genres.html
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Zurowski, C. (2011). Daniel Petric Assassinates Mom, Shoots Pastor Dad. Retrieved from http://www.truecrimreport.com/2011/06/teen_daniel_petric_murders_mom.php