Disadvantages of placing the ads in video games? Part III.

No other medium has undergone as many attacks from so many different groups as video games (Sherry, 2006).[1] First came the accusations that playing games may be the root of violent behavior (e.g., as a result of playing violent, first-person shooter games). These accusations were followed by allegations that playing video games is addictive. In addition, the motivations of video game play (such as escapism) were questioned. The stigma that video games are of little value is a concern that is constantly present in society. Video games are considered to be a waste of time and also “a children’s medium,” a perception which in turn poses the question about their desirability for children. Furthermore, they “struggle for acceptance as a cultural form” (Bogost, 2007, Preface). Video games are not the only cultural artifacts that have had to overcome negative attitudes in society, for other cultural forms have struggled for acceptance in past decades, including comic books and rock music.

Although research about game playing is barely adequate for the proportions and possibilities of this phenomenon, both for individuals and society as a whole, there are some scholars who have begun to question whether the stigma attached to video gaming is deserved. They question the argument that there is nothing of value within video games. Gee (2007)[2] concluded that there are some constructive video games that foster useful expertise and “good learning.” He argues that well-designed games present “well-oriented problems” (p. 131). Accordingly, good-level design in games is all about “[w]ork on the mind and learning, which takes a connectionist approach” and leads to an ordering which is crucial for “effective learning in complex domains” (Gee, 2007, p. 155). To make the point even clearer regarding video games’ usefulness for society, Bogost (2007)[3] points out that if the rhetorical use of videogames can make young people interested in international affairs, then it is a noble effort.

The key element of video games’ success among young people is its interactivity. This crucial feature of video games can be put to use in different ways to the benefit of society. Games provide players with an interactive environment that drives them to apply what they have learned within the virtual environment to real world situations or professional practices. Also, as Grodal (2000)[4] argues, “[t]he hallmark of most video games is that they transform…traditional forms of entertainment into an interactive form that enables the player actively to participate in shaping the games” (p. 194). Thus, when considering the promotion of different causes through video games, one should keep in mind that they represent more than just a medium to promote the cause, product or service. Video games possess an enormous advantage over all types of traditional media—their interactivity.

To address the importance of video games for the field of mass communication in particular and for the society in general, Bogost (2007) argues,

Videogames are an expressive medium. They represent how real and imagined systems work. They invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. As part of the ongoing process of understanding this medium and pushing it further as players, developers, and critics, we must strive to understand how to construct and critique the representations of our world in the videogame form (Preface).

Taking into account the above-mentioned misconceptions about the dangers of video games in general and their potential as persuasive and educational tools in particular, I propose  to address this problem by solidifying the classification of what video games are, what they are not, and, particularly, what it means for any game to promote a product, a cause, or an educational activity. Further posts in this blog will clarify the differences between four types of video games, namely, educational games, serious games, persuasive games, and advergames. I will explore the following questions: Is it possible for an advergame to be educational and/or persuasive? What criteria should one use to determine the educational potential brought to the player by a particular advergame? By looking at the core components of educational, persuasive, serious, and advertising games, I will solidify the research that was done earlier on these four types of video games into a holistic classification system.

[1] Sherry, J. (2006). Would the great and mighty Oz play Doom? In P. Messaris, & L. Humphreys (Eds.), Digital media: Transformations in human communication (pp. 225-236). Broadway, New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

[2] Gee, J. P. (2007). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. In P. Messaris, & L. Humphreys (Eds.), Digital media: Transformations in human communication (pp. 173-186). Broadway, New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

[3] Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

[4] Grodal, T. (2000). Video games and the pleasures of control. In D. Zillmann, & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Media entertainment: The psychology of its appeal (pp. 197-214). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

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