Last month, as part of our ongoing dialogue about video games and violence, we covered a brand-new paper that found that playing video games didn’t make adults more violent. The important takeaway was that the study was a longitudinal study that spanned two months of testing, one of the first – probably the very first – to cover that expanded length of time. Down in our comments, our readers argued over whether or not even two months deserved to be called long-term; a lot of gamers really want to see much longer-term studies to more definitely counter the politically tinged anti-video game rhetoric currently festering in the US.
And we’re not the only ones debating that very question. MOP tipster Eliot pointed us to the blog of Columbia University statistician Dr Andrew Gelman, who takes issue with a totally different paper, this one from 2013; its title also claims to represent a “long-term” study and in so doing made it into a peer-reviewed journal (with over 100 citations, not to mention news articles, since), in spite of the fact that it’s not actually long-term at all: Subjects played 20 minutes a day for three whole days.
I love stories. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I love stories not just for their raw entertainment value, but for their ability to teach. It’s not heavy-handed like being in class, but stories teach culture, customs, and character. We visit the past, the present, the future. We experience things through stories we might never get to experience for ourselves. War, I hope, is one of those things.
Andrew Barron, Director of Design at Bohemia Interactive Simulations, has seen war. And war stories. He’s also been in the game industry for awhile, both before and after his time as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. He knows war, but he also knows war simulators. It’s actually his job to help build them. So when he says our games our violent, he knows what he’s saying, but the context for that may not be easily understood. However, once it is, you’ll see that not only do we have some games getting war “right,” but that there’s room for us to grow, and some people are already working on that in a way that sounds, well, fun.
Before we start, yes, I’m sure many of our readers are feeling a big wave of “duh” at the statement in the headline, but remember that testable results carry more weight than anecdotal evidence and feelings. And these results are solid.
As researchers Simone Kühn, Dimitrij Tycho Kugler, Katharina Schmalen, Markus Weichenberger, Charlotte Witt and Jürgen Gallinat note in Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study, the paper here is the “first to investigate the effects of long-term violent video gameplay using a large battery of tests spanning questionnaires, behavioural measures of aggression, sexist attitudes, empathy and interpersonal competencies, impulsivity-related constructs (such as sensation seeking, boredom proneness, risk-taking, delay discounting), mental health (depressivity, anxiety) as well as executive control functions, before and after 2 months of gameplay.” While two months may not be that long, it’s pretty good when you consider the number of shortcomings we see in game aggression research.
What’s going on in the online video games business this week? Let’s dig in.
Steam, toxicity, and Kartridge
The Center for Investigative Reporting (via Motherboard) has a scathing piece out on Steam toxicity this week. Valve has traditionally maintained a hands-off approach with Steam groups, which means that the groups can easily become a toxic cesspit. The platform is accused of being loaded with hate groups, many of which support racist agendas or promote school shootings. Motherboard notes that Valve has refused to respond to questions on this topic since last October.
Meanwhile, Kongregate is launching Kartridge, a potential Steam competitor that says it will embrace indie “premium” titles and small-fry developers. “Our initial plan is that the first $10,000 in net revenue, one hundred percent will go to the developer,” Kongregate’s CEO says. “We’re not coming in just to build another store. No-one needs that. This is about building a platform that is focused on creating a very fair and supportive environment for indie developers” – as well as on social and community tools.
SuperData continues to express confidence in the future of virtual reality – however you want to label it. Last week, the analytics firm updated its paid paper on its expectations for the industry, saying it has “nowhere to go but up.”
“Driven by augmented reality and mixed reality and successful titles, the XR market will reach a combined $7.6B in 2018 across hardware and software,” the firm argues. Revenue from VR software in 2017 was just over half a billion dollars – 55% of which was from games, with Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchisea earning the most. And that other 45%? “Developers are focusing most on fields like design, retail, and manufacturing despite an overwhelming demand for education and healthcare solutions,” says the firm, pointing out that the big VR money isn’t in making people smarter or healthier.
Readers will recall that SuperData called VR the “biggest loser” of the holiday gaming sales at the end of 2016; that was followed by a NYT piece calling for “a reality check for virtual reality” just a year ago. Nevertheless, as of April 2017, SuperData was predicting a “steep rise” in VR adoption and $40B in revenue by 2020. The current report, however, suggests a combined consumer revenue for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality of just under $40B by 2021.
Although the videos are gone now
, a group of Chinese net cafe players apparently resorted to violence in response to rampant speed hacking in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
, “roughing up” the hackers who dared to cheat while their victims watched on from the same room and decided to do something about.
I think we can safely say that violence is probably not the answer to video game cheating, however vindicating it may feel. So what is? I thought it would make for an interesting Leaderboard to find out what you do. Whenever I come upon cheaters, I usually just report and move on with my life, but other people take these things to extremes, I know, and those extremes may actually be more productive for getting the studio to take notice. Let’s hit the polls and find out.
OK, maybe that title is overly dramatic. Still, I feel guilty for liking Grand Theft Auto Online. I’ve touched on this before, as have a number of you in the comments of a previous article, but as it’s the only video game that’s holding my attention here lately, I’m loathe to let it go even though it forces me to run rough-shod over pixelized policemen.
It’s not just the violence, either. Rockstar delights in provoking pretty much everyone, whether you’re a leftist, a libertarian, or somewhere in between. There’s so much irresponsibility assaulting you from every angle courtesy of the game’s NPCs, its radio disc jockeys, and its highway billboards that it’s hard to know where my facepalming should begin.
So I guess I’ll just go back to the violence.