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The game ‘Death Race’(1976), which was influenced by a controversial movie, marked the first controversy over violent video games and the situation worsened with the release of first-person shooter games like ‘Doom’(1993) and ‘Wolfenstein’(1992). However, the crime rate in the US declined by 44% after 1994 which cannot be related to the more intense form of violence depicted in contemporary video games. The moral panic accompanied by an obstinate campaign by Joseph Liberman against video games in 1993 formed a video game stereotype that lasts till today. Yet the impact of the gaming industry on other industries along with its positive contributions to society has challenged the viewpoints of detractors.
The Columbine High School massacre(1999) has been largely related to games but has been attributed to factors like social outcasts and school security, which suggests the possibility of video games being used as scapegoats. General Aggression Model(GAM), the foundation for many critical violent video games’ studies has been criticized by the Catalyst Model and the improvement of prosocial behaviors of the game participants has been suggested by the General Learning Model.
Online sexual harassment and encouragement of sexual intercourse among teenagers have also been linked with video games because of the sexualized portrayal of female game characters. In contrast, the development of protective behaviors has been noticed in some players and there is no evidence of any stereotype of women formed among gamers. Video games have the potential to connect hesitant parents and children to have conversations related to sexual risk factors like sexually transmitted infections(STIs) and teen pregnancy.
The concept of game addiction emerged with the popularity of online gaming after 2000, and its comparison with substance dependence and gambling has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization(WHO). Also, specialized treatment centers have opened in South Korea and Europe. Still, real-life failures and neuroticism are reasons that individuals use games as an escape mechanism. The impact of games on the academics of children has also raised a situation of concern, but a study shows the minimal deviation found in maths and science skills among related children with an acceptable deviation found in reading skills.
Despite the above-mentioned controversies and incidents, video games and the associated people have been putting sincere efforts to bring the positivity worldwide. Serious games are games used for purposes more than just entertainment and can be used for healthcare, dealing with terrorism, urban planning, disaster management, military training, etc. The serious game movement started with the release of the game ‘America’s Army’ by the US army in 2002.
The medical field is being extremely benefited by computer games, especially in the treatment of cancer where therapeutic play uses games to improve Quality of Living(QOL) for the affected children and Virtual Reality(VR) as a nonpharmacologic form of analgesia has been preferred by 82% of children during treatments. Action Video Games(AVG) are known to improve the reading skills of people affected by Dyslexia. The ethnic and racial minority adolescents can be protected from Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV) by the intervention of serious games. Recently, cognitive enhancements like hand-eye coordination, spatial visualization, visual search strategies, exogenous and endogenous attention, etc. are also being achieved by the use of computer gameplay along with the prevention of cognitive decline in older adults by improving their working memory and mental rotation performance.
Online video streaming platforms like Youtube and Twitch are turning out to be viable income sources for gamers; ‘PewDiePie’, a non-professional gamer earns around $1.4 million monthly with 48 million subscribers.
The serious impact of the gaming industry on the global economy cannot be determined just by its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) which was $24.4 billion and $23.5 billion for China and the US respectively in 2016. While other products are purchased along with video games, like high-end processors and broadband internet, the noteworthy investment by this industry in human capital and research and development benefits other industries too.
The moral panic concept fails to clarify the relation of violent games with actual human behavior and has been stated as a tool to gain political goodwill. Moreover, the first regulatory body setup was the ‘Entertainment Software Regulatory Board’(1994), followed by PEGI(Pan European Game Information) in 2003. Evidently, ‘GTA 5’(2013) was praised for its narrative qualities, and the ban from ‘Doom’(1993) in Germany was lifted in 2011. Any situation of concern depends on many factors and evaluating them all helps to determine the most impactful: gender inequality and religion have been marked as the most prominent factors related to sexuality. Vulnerability to game addiction is subject to the personal and social experiences of a person, and in a case study, a person is found to quit excessive gaming once he gets over with his real-life problems. Similarly, teenagers already with self-harm tendencies were easily drawn to the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’, related to developing suicidal tendencies. Initiatives are being taken by organizations like SGI and Otto-von-Guericke University to uplift the use of serious games and the government of India has taken charge of eliminating the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’. A need for the security of micro-transactions has invited the use of blockchain in the industry and there is a big possibility that the virtual game items will serve as a commodity for the digital market in the future. Other benefits of playing video games include the improvement of Laparoscopy Surgery Skills(LSS), charity, and gamification, alongside more employment opportunities.
The gaming industry has far-reaching implications and while reaching maturity it is prone to face disputes, mainly because of regulatory faults. Now there is a better understanding and a greater acceptance for video games in the broader society and at the same time, the interventions of governments and research institutes will amplify the positive influence of games. Apart from becoming a pioneer in technological advancements, this industry with a substantial socio-economic impact and applications in fields like medical, defense and education will achieve further good for society.
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