the video game debate

Smart Social Gaming: Why people play social games and other topics non-gamers don’t get

While those of us who write for MassivelyOP do try give you all the scientific resources we can to help you fight back against your family, friends, and co-workers who may still not get your hobby or why you may let your child participate in gaming culture, it’s not our primary function – that’d be covering and analyzing the MMO genre.

Enter SmartSocialGamers.org, an “online resource that provides guidance, tips and expert advice for everyone to have a positive social games experience.” While I’d normally smirk and wonder who really thinks he or she has the clout to do something like that, in digging through it I found that Dr. Rachel Kowert, of The Video Game Debate fame, penned several of the top tips, including one that starts off using Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Model. That’s some clout. Let’s take a look!

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A Parent’s Guide to Video Games: Condensing ‘The Video Game Debate’

Remember The Video Game Debate? The game research book edited by Thorsten Quandt and Rachel Kowert, the latter of whom we’ve been covering here since Massively-that-was? Good. Dr. Kowert’s got a new book out called A Parent’s Guide to Video Games. I was sent an early draft of the new title for review purposes, along with some of the additions going in prior to printing. I originally thought it would be just an updated reworking of The Video Game Debate, but I was very wrong. Dr. Kowert’s new book is much shorter and easier to access for the non-academic than the last one, which might make it even more useful for gamers who aren’t in research fields.

As some readers may know, I spent the past several years in Japan, and while I was there, the only books I read were textbooks, research journals, and manga (language textbooks don’t teach often teach you the slang you need to know to understand high school kids!). For me, The Video Game Debate was typical reading. And when the book came out, I recommended it friends and colleagues, but the journal format was a turn-off for way too many of them. That’s what sparked the idea for me to dissect the findings over my series of articles here on MOP and apply them to topics MMO gamers (hopefully!) care about.

The same won’t need to be done for Dr. Kowert’s A Parent’s Guide to Video Games.

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Massively OP’s guide to understanding video game research

I noticed two strange things in the comments section of our lengthy Exploring the Video Game Debate series: People were angry at research that supported what they were trying to argue but hadn’t read well enough to see it, and people discredited the research because their personal social circles had vastly differently experiences (but also, often, didn’t read the research).

And you know what? That’s normal. While game research isn’t nearly as important as biology, a recent BBC article reminded me the internet has made it quite easy for people to plug into communities that reflect and validate their common opinion, sharing and replicating (mis)information again and again. While most of the core MOP community is between 25-44 and revolves around a shared fandom, it’s still possible to be affected by poor-quality input, as seen with Microsoft’s recent teen AI, Tay, and her venture into Twitter.

However, using some semi-recent research about a 14-year-old learning English through World of Warcraft, we can see how to approach research without being affected by bad data (or needing a research degree!).
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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Are MMO communities real or fake?

We’ve come a long way in our discussion of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, and while this article title might seem a contentious one to wrap up the series, I think it presents a topic and chapter worth debating.

In the book, Frans Mäyrä’s chapter on online communities initially offended me more than any other, but by the end of his thesis, he’d made some persuasive points that we, the MMO community, must consider. While Mäyrä does use a narrow definition of community, it’s to prove a point. It’s not that MMOs don’t contain communities; it’s a question of the circumstances, values, and outcomes related to their rise, fall, and the perception of the outside world.

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Social outcomes and online gamers

Of all the chapters in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, this is the chapter I’ve been most dreading to cover in our ongoing series on MMOs and psychology.

It’s not just because, as I previously mentioned, it’s one of the most difficult chapters in the book. It’s the findings. Dr. Kowert is very balanced in her handling of the topic, both pro and against gaming in terms of social outcomes. But for me, someone who recently had a huge bout with depression and used online games to deal with it, this chapter began as a knock-out punch to my ego before I was able to rely on some other strategies to stand up and tackle my understanding of the chapter, and myself, from different angles.

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Cognitive performance and your brain on games

So far in our exploration of the topics in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, we’ve tackled the state of modern game research, online games and internet addiction, moral panic and online griefing, and the role of games in education (and vice versa). Today, we’ll focus on video games and cognitive performance — your brain on games!

I was recently reminded that for a long time gaming was identified as something that could, at minimum, be used to master reaction times. In 1982, Chevy Chase of all people actually highlighted both the potential and fear of the power of games in terms of their impact on cognitive performance.

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Games and education

We’ve got some really smart commenters here at MassivelyOP, and I think they help keep the fiercer trolls away. But when Joystiq itself went under, I found myself homeless for general gaming news. Sure, there are other gaming websites, but their comment sections aren’t nearly as enlightening. It’s not a big problem, but I feel it’s one that highlights one of my concerns as a gamer who has a non-gaming day job: How do we show “normal people” that games have more value than wasting time on your phone as you wait to buy groceries?

That’s why I was interested in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate in the first place, and it’s why we’ll continue the exploration of its chapters and related texts today. As a teacher, I figure education is the easiest way to get this point across. Read more

Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Moral panic and online griefing

Welcome back to our ongoing exploration of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate. As you can guess, the book itself focuses on games in general, not just MMOs and online games, so I was able to apply today’s chapter on moral panic to recent trending indie RPG Undertale. I’ve argued to educators that not only is there evidence that games can positively affect morals, but that part of Undertale’s charm is that we know we can do bad things yet are emotionally rewarded for acting in a peaceful manner. In fact, the game actively discourages you from committing violence by constantly trying to include you with its cast of characters.

Then someone on Reddit stepped into a conversation and asked, “What about all the griefing in sandbox games”? It’s a great question, and one addressed in this chapter.

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Online games and internet addiction

Massively OP’s overview of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate last month was just the beginning of our coverage of the topics contained within it. I advised MMO players and writers to pick up the book and read it for themselves, but for those who don’t, today I’ll break down some of the ideas expressed in various chapters of the book and try to relate them to the world of MMOs specifically.

We’ll be starting with chapter five by Mark D. Griffiths. The topic? Gaming and internet addiction.

Image attribution: Damien du Toit

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Modern online game research

Late last year, I published on Massively-that-was a set of articles addressing current research on the relationship between shyness and online game friendships, including a detailed interview with Dr. Rachel Kowert, a lead researcher on the related paper. Kowert and University of Münster colleague Thorsten Quandt have now collected and published their work and work by other academics into a new book now available called The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games.

Kowert generously provided me with an early draft of the book to discuss here. Her goal, she says, was to make an accessible book about modern game research for the public, but the results are a little depressing, even though the work and research done make me wish I had enough money to buy a copy and send it to everyone in the professional games and media businesses.

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