Technological Affordances in the Eight Generation

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Gaming is still relatively new in both fields of technology and communication. Today, we have come to the eight generation of game consoles. The first of these to appear was Nintendo's release of the Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming device in 2011, which as the name suggests brought 3D capabilities to Nintendo's previously successful Nintendo DS device. This was followed by so far unsuccessful launch of the Nintendo Wii U in 2012, and a year later Sony and Microsoft released the PS4 and Xbox One systems respectively. How successful Sony and Microsoft's new consoles will be is still yet to be determined, as the consoles have only been out for a little over five months at this point.

So what's new with these new consoles, and how have they been able to differentiate themselves from their predecessors? There are many ways in which they are different, but one of the best ways to discuss these differences is to look at their technological affordances. As defined in class, an affordance in reference to technology is basically a capability. To help us understand technological affordances in video games, Dr. Downs introduced us to Sundar's MAIN model. The MAIN model looks at four different aspects of affordances: modality, agency, interactivity, and navigability.

To discuss these terms, I will refer to my experience and general knowledge of eight generation consoles. So far, the only eight generation console I own is Sony's Playstation 4. I bought the console on the day of the release, so I've had a good five months to warm up to the machine. Other than that, I have logged a very small amount of time on the Nintendo 3DS thanks to my roommate, but I have little experience regarding the Xbox One of Nintendo Wii U; so most of my experience will be coming from the Playstation 4 and 3DS.

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The first affordance of the MAIN model is modality. In it's most basic form, modality can be thought of as how a medium (consoles in this case) appeals to the users senses. As you might guess, most consoles try to use a variety of modalities. According to Sundar, multimodality allows for greater immersion (Sundar, 2008), which is a large goal of consoles today. The multimodality of eight generation consoles manifest in a number of ways, with the most basic being audiovisual capabilities. In the new consoles, the audiovisual capabilities have been enhanced slightly; we have better graphics and games are increasingly supporting surround sound features. Many games, especially those for the 3DS, are also supporting 3D visuals, which help further immerse us in the game world. Although the modality of touch has been implemented since the 90's in the form of controller vibration, Playstation's Dual Shock 4 controller also has a new touch pad in the center, which allows touch controls in a variety of ways. Another big change coming to new generations is the idea of virtual reality hardware, which allows a level of motion control as well as presenting the user with an interesting new twist on the visual modality which will strengthen immersion even more

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The next affordance of the MAIN model is a little harder to understand, and that is agency. Agency, when referring to video games, is what the user perceives as the source of information and whether or not they find it credible. Like modality, this can manifest in a number of ways. A user can perceive themselves as a source of information, or they can perceive the game developers as a source. In the video game world, we may also view different in-game characters and other players as sources of information, so defining agency in terms of video games is a little more difficult than other mediums. It's also hard to note any change in agency with the new generation of consoles; there's really not a change of agency that can take place as far as I know.

The third and arguably most significant affordance for video games in the MAIN model is interactivity. As the name suggests, interactivity is how much the user can interact with the medium, or in this case the game environment. Interactivity has high value in the video game industry, and is often what differentiates it from other audiovisual mediums such as television. Interactivity in video games basically comes from being able to interact with the game environment through the use of the controller, and also the level of which a user's avatar can interact with the game environment inside the game. With virtual reality headsets, we are presented with a new level of interactivity because we can translate our head movements into the game, allowing our avatar to look where we're looking and further increases interactivity. We also have more motion tracking hardware, so the rest of our bodies can be translated into the game environment as well. What I feel will improve the most with the new generation is interactivity between the avatar and the game environment, because higher processing power will allow for more levels of interactivity; such as destructive environments, AI of the bots, and being able to manipulate random objects in the game.

Finally, the last affordance in the MAIN model is navigability. Like agency, I feel like navigability really doesn't have a whole lot of room for change in the new generation. Again, as the name suggests, navigability is how we are able to understand our orientation in the game environment. With consoles, this can range from navigability of the systems user interface (UI) to being able to know where you are and where to go in a specific game's environment. The UI is probably where we see a lot of change in the new generations, as most consoles are always trying to make navigability easier. The PS4's UI, for instance, is very simple and easy to navigate through the menu to find games to play or apps to launch. In game navigability usually comes in the form of onscreen maps, which is the part that hasn't really changed in this generation except for one very interesting exception. Some games, one being Assassins Creed 4, allow the player to use a companion app on a smart phone or tablet, so that the player can have a full map on a different screen than the one they are playing on. This new change seems to be growing in popularity, and I foresee that more and more developers will take advantage of this capability.

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So by looking at the MAIN model, we can see how the new consoles already have many of the technological affordances made popular by previous systems, and by improving the processing power and games in general we are already seeing an increase in perceived affordances. As time goes by, it will be interesting to see how the technological affordances of these new systems are pushed by game developers to see just how capable these new systems are compared to the seventh generations.

Source:

Sundar, S. (2008). The main model: a heuristic approach to understanding technology effects on credibility. Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility, 73-100.

Types of Players and Why We Play

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For this entry, I'd like to go over the different types of players we discussed in class as well as hypotheses for why we play video games. As I have been playing video games for a large majority of my life, I've seen a lot of different kinds of players. When we discussed the different types of players in class, it really made me think of all the different personalities that people adopt when they play video games.

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So, to discuss what kinds of players I see, I think it's important to note that most of these types of players aren't usually playing the same game; people will play games that tend to suit their play style. There are certain ones, however, that I have a lot of experience with because I played a lot of Halo and Call of Duty in my middle and high school years. So the different kinds of players that we discussed in class that I tend to see in these multiplayer shooters are:

Competitor: As we discussed, these people play to be better, and by better we usually mean better than everyone they're playing with. Because of this, they are usually the ones who take the game more seriously and are very invested in the outcomes of matches.
Explorer: Now, when I saw this one at first I thought "yeah, definitely didn't see that in shooter games." However, I had completely forgotten a trend that occurred in a lot of early COD games and Halo (though I don't see it much anymore). A lot of times we would set up private matches, and explore past the boundaries of the map using glitches. This was actually a really fun thing to do, because you could get onto rooftops in games that weren't supposed to be accessible.
Joker: Also known as a "troll," is someone who would play the game for fun and laughs. In COD or Halo, this usually took the form of team killing. This became really popular in COD:4, because there was a certain game mode (search and destroy) where each player basically only had one life. In hardcore mode, where friendly-fire was on, at the start of a match a player would whip out their rpg and shoot it at the ground, effectively killing everyone and causing the team to lose the match. Everyone went batshit crazy over this, and the developers eventually found ways to prevent this in later games.
Performer: The performer was usually someone who was pretty good at the game they were playing, otherwise it wouldn't be very entertaining to watch them. So more often than not, someone who was a good competitor eventually turned out to be a pretty good performer as well.

Although the other types of players obviously exist, these were the ones I seemed to have the most experience with playing online shooters during my high school years. For extra laughs, here's a link to a video showing different COD players stereotypes (that is pretty accurate).

So, onto some of the hypothesis of why we play.

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We went over a couple ideas of why we play video games, ranging from biological to psychological theories. Personally, I believe it's mostly psychological and is based on uses and gratifications. I do believe biology plays it's part as well, but mostly in the form of releasing happy molecules into our brains when we play. We also discussed some other general reasons why we play, including arousal, challenge, competition, diversion, fantasy, and social interaction. For me, I think the main reasons I play are fantasy, challenge, and diversion. I really like being able to do things that I can't normally do, and enjoy playing challenging games because it's really rewarding when you finish it. And of course throughout high school and college it's been a great source of distraction and procrastination, so there's that.

I also read a very interesting article on Game Informer regarding why we play video games. These were mostly psychological needs, including: competence, autonomy, and relatedness (Reeves, 2012). Interestingly, it also showed how sometimes video games can be a form of work; the activity of sorting spreadsheets and the like could be compared to crafting in WoW or Skyrim. I thought the ideas from the article were pretty interesting, and it was pretty good for a Game Informer article.

Overall, I think we play video games for the same reason we do any other form of play: to have fun. It can be psychological or biological, but overall I think we just want to do something to relax and enjoy ourselves. Though we might not be challenging ourselves physically as we do with sports, we are challenging ourselves cognitively and are sharpening our reasoning skills and reflexes. It's also fun having a certain thing you can enjoy collecting, and over the years we can accumulate a collection of games that when we get bored we can play for the nostalgic feels.

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Now, moving onto the next generation consoles, I don't think there will be much change in regards to what kinds of players there are, or why we play of course. However, I do think there will be a shift in the population of certain types of players and the different types of games that are put out change. By this I mean that, as we discussed in class, shooter type and competitive games seem to be losing momentum, while story based and narrative driven games are gaining popularity in the new decade. As a result, I think we will see a lot more people expressing their fantasy, storytelling, and director player personalities more than the competitive types. I think there will be a rise in a new kind of player that wasn't really previously mentioned: the art enthusiast. One thing that you can immediately observe nowadays if you watch reviews or let's play videos is people are judging and appreciating the artistic aesthetics of video games more than before. I myself am increasingly buying games that have good artistic style, which is one thing that indie games seem to be really good at. One game I recently bought for the PS4 was a fifteen dollar game called Child of Light, which is best described as a poetic video game with amazing artwork. Below are a couple screenshots from the game.

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So, overall I think the types of players generally won't change in the eight generation of consoles, with the exception of the art enthusiast becoming more popular. Through my experiences playing video games I've come across nearly every type of player we discussed in class and more, and it's always interesting to see different personas manifest in people when they play. I think what type of player a person is is also very dependent on why a specific person plays video games. A person who isn't looking for a challenge or competition most likely doesn't want to play online shooters and would more prefer a fantasy game or something. So it's interesting to see how the types of players we are is affected by the personal reasons of why we play.


Source:

Reeves, B. (2012). Why we play: how our desire for games shapes our world. Game Informer. Retrieved from: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/11/20/why-we-play-how-our-desire-for-games-shapes-our-world.aspx

Presence in the Eight Generation

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Presence in video games is a particularly interesting concept, because increasing presence seems to be one aspect of gaming that we are always trying to improve. Just in the last decade, I feel like presence in video games has drastically been increased, especially in gaming consoles. Presence, as applied to video games, is the ability to project ourselves into the video game environment. For some people this might be something that is conceptually difficult thing to do, especially when you're sitting far away from a screen, and using a controller to mediate actions in the game. In my personal experience, I haven't found it to be that hard. Ever since I was a kid and playing games on the SNES and N64, I've never found it difficult to be drawn into a game and forget about reality despite small screen sizes and poorly designed controllers (looking at you, N64). The biggest side effect of presence that I've almost always experienced is losing track of time, and it's usually rare for me to play a game and not have that happen.

Moving forward, in class we talked about different kinds of presence in class. The first, and what I would argue is being improved upon the most in current generations, is telepresence. This is basically making you feel like you are physically in the game environment, by means of appealing to our senses. We appeal to our sense of vision by having larger screens, or screens with full fields of vision, as well as making games 3D. As time is moving forward, the "next big thing" for this generation in my opinion will be the advent of virtual reality technologies. With the Oculus Rift in development as well as Sony's own "Project Morpheus," I think we'll see virtual reality devices hitting gaming consoles in the next few years for sure. But this kind of technology isn't completely new, as I remember having played an arcade game that took advantage of a virtual reality headset more than five years ago, but it will be interesting to see it come to console gamers at home. Along with this we had surround sound, which although it is common in many video games already I think it will have to become standard for big budget video games in this generation. Also we have force feedback in the form of controller vibrations, which at least for the Xbox One they seem to have improved upon by putting vibration motors in the triggers to allow more definition in the feedback. Below is a picture of the VR arcade game that I mentioned earlier.

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Next up we have copresence, which is our ability to sense another quasi-intelligent being in the virtual environment. This is also something that I feel will become better in the eight generation, but not just because the technology is better. Simply because developers have had a lot of time to enhance and better AI to make them seem more real. There are still too many times in video games when you're playing and it's painfully obvious that your teammates or enemies are simply just coded with preset actions. It's really awesome when you find a game that has a well made AI, where you actually feel the people you're playing with or against could be actual people you are playing with in the virtual environment. I've noticed this increasing with newer games, and it definitely makes games more fun.

The next type of presence we discussed was social presence. Social presence in video games would be the ability of the console or game to facilitate a relationship with bots, avatars, or other players. Unlike the other areas of presence, I don't really see this improving in the next gen consoles as much. Video game consoles had already jumped a large gap by allowing players to game and talk together online, so I just don't see any areas in which we can improve social presence (though I could definitely be wrong). It would, however, be really interesting to see if developers were able to find a way to increase social presence in games somehow.

The last type of presence that we mentioned was spatial presence. This kind of presence is interesting because it is our awareness of our virtual body inside the gaming environment. This type of presence will also be improved by virtual reality headsets, because it will allow gamers to look down and see their virtual bodies. Although some games already have this, it would just be really interesting to do it with a simple head motion. Along with this is the idea of movement tracking controllers or technologies, that would allow you to move your arms and hands and have that translated into the real world. The Nintendo Wii had already allowed this to one extent, but from what I know it was never really in the first person (although that's not necessary for spacial presence, it would just improve it). One game that comes to mind that utilizes this would be surgeon simulator, which is a hilarious game which as the name implies you simulate surgery. If you use motion tracking controllers, it's just awesome. Here's a link to a video of Pewdiepie playing it using Razer Hydras (also if you don't know who Pewdiepie is, he's the most subscribed to channel on youtube and he's basically famous for lets play type of videos). I think we will also see spatial presence increasing with the PS4 at least, because a lot of Project Morpheus discussions and pictures also have models using the Playstation Motion device which would facilitate an awesome experience (picture below).

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So, in conclusion I foresee a lot of improvement in this new generation in terms of presence. Although video games have a lot of presence as they are, it will be interesting to see how much more we can increase it overall by improving telepresence, copresence, social presence, and spatial presence together to make an entirely new experience from what we're used to.

Flow Theory

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So today I'm gonna be discussing a concept that we very briefly went over in class, but I feel like it has an important place in the future of gaming. The concept I wish to cover is regarding Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's flow theory. This is a really interesting concept, especially because he didn't originally intend for it to apply specifically to video games, but it fits in perfectly. Because I didn't have enough information in my notes from class to discuss the concept in depth, I got most of the information from a website that provides an accumulation of knowledge from articles discussing flow theory. Csíkszentmihályi's concept of flow theory is a psychological concept, originally stating that flow is basically a state of total immersion, in which an individual is so engrossed in an experience that they focus only on that and nothing else (Flow theory, 2013). Below is a pretty interesting Ted Talks video where Csíkszentmihályi discussed how flow helps reach happiness.

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Moving on, there are eight dimensions of flow that Csíkszentmihályi gives. These are:

"Having clear goals and immediate feedback
Equilibrium between the level of challenge and personal skill
Merging of action and awareness
Focused concentration
Sense of potential control
Loss of self-consciousness
Time distortion
And self rewarding experience"
(Flow theory, 2013)


As you can see, these dimensions have a few similarities between the concept of presence that I discussed in my previous post, but seems to go a bit further into what makes a really optimal experience. It's also hard to look at this and not think of videos, because it fits so perfectly.

So, how does this fit into the concept of the gaming in the eight generation? As time goes on, I feel more and more developers will end up reading up on this kind of research to help make their games better overall. There is already one game company that has developed their games on the idea of flow theory. Thatgamecompany, an indie company originally made up of a couple of college students, based their original flash game Flow on Csíkszentmihályi's concept, and went on to develop the award winning games Flower and Journey. Right now, both Flow and Journey are available on PS4, with all of them being available on PS3 (as far as I know). Now, I've played a little bit of Flow and own Flower on the PS4, and from my personal experience these games are very fun, and it's quite evident that a lot of what they put into their game concepts stem from Csíkszentmihályi's original idea.

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Here is a link to the website of one of Thatgamecompany's founders, Jenova Chen, discussing some of the aspects of flow that went into the original flow game, along with links to either download the game for free or play it online.

With so much success on the companies games being attributed to the concept of flow, I wouldn't find it surprising if more and more companies follow suit. I highly suggest looking into these games if you have a PS3 or PS4, they are very fun and the new two games are also very nice to look at :)

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Here's a link to a video of Jenova Chen talking with IGN about Flower

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And here's a link to a IGN's review of Journey

Enjoy!

Learning Theory applied to the Eight Generation

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So the first topic I'll be discussing today is regarding Learning Theory and how it can be applied to video games, and how I think it will change or not change in the eight generation of consoles. This is an interesting topic because it applies psychological concepts to video games, and help us determine whether video games affect us in negative or positive ways. Although a lot of studies looking at video games are critical of the lessons they teach, I'd also like to examine how video games can also help us learn positive ideas and behaviors.


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In class we briefly went over social cognitive theory, which was theory Albert Bandura devised based off of earlier social learning theories. This theory, broadly explained, states that our social environments affect our cognition. By and large, this means that we tend to learn a lot based off of our observations. This was also made apparent by Bandura's famous Bobo doll studies, in which he found support that children learned and produced aggressive behaviors from an adult model.

Moving on, we also discussed self-efficacy, which is the belief in ourselves that we can do a certain behavior successfully. This is a pretty big factor when it comes to learning behaviors, because if we feel we cannot adequately do something, we are less likely to attempt it. We can build this efficacy in a variety of ways, the two we discussed being enactive performance and symbolic rehearsal. Enactive performance is learning by doing something, so for example if you want to learn how to snowboard you actually go out and try it. Symbolic rehearsal is learning something through the use of representative symbols. Learning to snowboard via symbolic rehearsal could be learning through instructional videos, or perhaps by playing a video game and picking up cues you learn in the virtual world.

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The last concept of learning theories that I will discuss is the different between implicit and explicit learning. As you could probably guess, implicit is basically learning by accident; by playing a variety of shooter games you may have come to recognize certain guns without intentionally trying to do so. This is in contrast to explicit learning, which is intentional learning. As explained earlier, one might go and play a snowboarding video game to specifically try and learn some tips for snowboarding.

With some basic knowledge of learning theories, it's easier to understand how they can be applied to video games. Video games, in some sense, are like our teachers. Because of this, it is important that video games teach ideas and behaviors that are beneficial to our society. Unfortunately, for the last couple decades video games have come under much scrutiny for some of the questionable content and ideas they portray (lookin at you Duke Nukem). As discussed in class, some known possible exposure effects to video games include eating disordered, low self esteem, body dissatisfaction, acceptance of sexual myths, objectification, and violence. Unfortunately, there are a lot of studies showing the negatives that video games can teach. Aggression is one behavior that seems to be linked to video games, but I'll discuss that in a later entry.

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However, I don't want to focus on the negative aspects of social learning in video games, but rather how our society can benefit from it. In the last decade, I've played a lot of games that carry very positive messages and life lessons. In the right hands, video games have the potential to be a very useful tool to teach adults and children prosocial behaviors. One obvious use is also the explicit use of educational video games, which are a very good way to encourage young children to learn. We can also teach our children about what we find important, such as friends and family. From my personal experience, more plot-based narratives and a lot of Japanese games seem to do a really good job in that aspect. Kingdom Hearts was one game I played that really resonated with me, because the main plot of the game surrounded trying to save your best friends.

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In the eight generation of consoles, I don't foresee any drastic improvements in terms of what our video games are teaching. However, I do believe that we will continue to see a rise in more accurate depictions of sex and gender, along with less negative stereotypes in regards to race and mental illness as well. Another thing that I have noticed is that video games have a unique ability to virtually put you in another person's shoes. One game I recently played on the PS4 was Infamous: Second Son, in which the main character you play as is Native-American. What's really cool is that the developers did not really focus on this fact, as very little of the game has to do with anything regarding your race besides the goal of trying to save your tribe. Looking at some concept art, they started out with a more "stereotypical" looking character with long hair and a headband kinda thing, but eventually settled on a more common looking guy. I think that as time progresses, we'll see a larger abundance of non-white, non-male main characters in games to come. Below are some pictures of the early concept art for Infamous, as well as what they ended up settling on (pretty big difference in my opinion).


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Violence in Video Games

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Today I'll be talking one of the most popular topics in video games: violence in video games. As discussed in our last entry, there seems to be strong evidence that we are learning from video games whether we are conscious of it or not. The biggest concerns are about the violence that children are being exposed to in video games. So in this entry I'll be going over some the theories and statistics we discussed in class, as well as what role violence will play in the eighth generation of consoles.

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The first theory we discussed in class was Gerbner's cultivation theory. This theory hypothesized that prolonged exposure to televised media will cause people to believe that what is being portrayed is reality. So from this definition, we can also say that cultivation is positively correlated to exposure. We also discussed some a few of the things that heavy viewers might overestimate as a result of prolonged exposure, which include: the likelihood of being victimized in crime, how large the police force is, and the amount of people who are devious or are not trustworthy. The last three are likely a result of the amount of crime shows, which usually revolve around one violent case per episode. Those individuals who believe these are real representations of the real world may come to believe that there are grizzly murders and serial killings happening every week in these areas.

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Although there's a decent amount of support for cultivation theory, it does come with it's criticisms. The first is that it makes a causal claim, that this exposure alone is what leads to this beliefs. This is problematic because it does not address any other variables that could go also explain the phenomenon. Going along with the causal claim, it also does not have any explanatory mechanism describing how this exposure leads to these beliefs; it just assumes it happens without saying why. Finally, the last one we went over in class was oversimplification. Studies on cultivation seem to look at a very limited number of variables, as well as not addressing individual differences among viewers. It is missing some cognitive variable, which would allow people to critically think about the content they are watching and decide whether or not it's believable to generalize what they're watching to the real world.

Still, video games are still frequently looked down upon by the media. As a result, there is legislation in multiple states trying to ban violent video games. Almost all modern game consoles also come with parental controls, so parents can decide what their children are playing and for how long they can play. The media also seems to blame violence in video games for some aspects of real world violence, most often school shootings. Because of this, there is a constant push for more research regarding violence in video games, so today there is a vast amount of research examining it. Overall, studies find that about 71% of video games have violent content. This is rather alarming for a lot of people, especially those that believe in things such as cultivation theory. With how many kids that play video games and how long they play them, it's no wonder that parents are concerned about the content of which they are playing.

In class we looked at one study which examined how many acts of violence exist in a variety of video games, as well as the context that the violence exists in. They found that teen and mature rated games averaged about 4.6 violent acts per minute, while games rated kids to adults or everyone had about 1.2 per minute. To me, this was rather surprising because even kids games designed for the youngest of our children still displayed a relatively large amount of violence. Playing for one hour, they might witness around 60 violent acts, and even more for those games rated teen or mature. Moving onto the context of the violence, they found that a majority of violence was done by white males, which isn't surprising because that seems to be what the average character was in video games when this study was done (early-mid 2000's). They also found that an astounding 91% of violence was justified, meaning that in that context it was an okay thing to do. Going along with this, 56% of the violence lead to rewards, while 98% of violence was left unpunished. This itself is rather alarming, because we are rewarding people for committing violent acts and very rarely punishing them for it. If learning theories hold true at all, this is definitely a cause for concern.

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So, what seems to be the biggest concern regarding violence in video games is the potential to lead to real world violence. However, no studies can really make this kind of connection, because most of them look at aggression (which my next entry will discuss). Still, if games are teaching that violence can be justified, it can teach young kids the wrong messages. As we discussed in class, it also can lead to desensitization among young and older gamers. BUT, how is violence doing in the new consoles?

In my opinion, it's not improving. I think this is mostly because violence in video games is a big selling point, and as of yet there are no laws keeping developers from putting certain content in video games. So why would they try to take out something that makes them money? I have, however, also seen a rise in video games, especially indie games, that aim to make games that don't include violence. Looking through my game library for PS4, most of the big name video games I have (Killzone, Assassin's Creed, Battlefield 4) have a LOT of violent content. I do have a few games though that don't really have violence, such as Contrast, Flower, Daylight (although jump scares, yeesh), and some other more puzzle-based games. Although I don't foresee a fall in the popularity of violent video games, I do think we'll continue to see a rise in more games that try to avoid violence because people know that's a niche area that doesn't have a lot of games in. And if you can make a game that a kid's parents would be okay with them playing, as well as appealing to adults, that's a pretty big market you can have. So overall, I'm thinking we'll see more and more games trying to make a non-violent approach but who knows.

Here's an interesting video from Adam Sessler discussing violence in video games (also mentions aggression which I'll talk about in the next entry).

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And here's a screenshot from Contrast, an indie game which revolves around solving puzzles using shadows.

Aggression in Video Games

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Alright, so this entry is going to be on aggression. Aggression, loosely defined, is any behavior directed towards the goal of harming an individual who seeks to avoid harm. Many people are concerned about the effects that video games may have in causing aggression among users in the real world. Of course, there is an abundance of studies covering this as well. Today I'll go over the three different kinds of theories of aggression discussed in class, as well as my own personal experiences with aggression caused by video games. I won't be talking too much about the eight generation in this entry, because aggression is more about the gamer than the games.

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The first set of theories we looked at were instinct theories, made popular by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Instinct theories suggest that aggression is a natural reaction for humans, and that perhaps we are programmed to be aggressive. It's not that far-fetched if you think about it, because the vast majority of animals seem to display aggressive behaviors, even household pets such as dogs and cats. However, this is the least supported of the three theories because it does not account for any of the other factors that could lead to aggression, the range of aggressive behaviors that can take place, and the fact that the patterns of aggression among the population varies.


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The next set of aggression theories to become popular were drive theories. Rather than being an instinct, drive theories suggest that we have an internal drive to harm others, that when we are exposed to certain external conditions, this drive becomes active. There's the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which suggests that aggression is the product of frustration. However, because it explicitly states that frustration leads to aggression, this hypothesis is not heavily supported. It fails to account for other variables that cause aggression, as well as the fact that frustration does not always lead to aggression. There is also the heightened arousal and excitation transfer hypotheses, which basically suggested that aggressive behaviors builds up, and can transfer from one situation to another. This theory seems to have some ground, because it definitely does happen. I think everyone knows how aggressive we can become when someone is being distracting while we're in a difficult part of a game. However, it still does not address what causes these aggressive thoughts or behaviors, and why we sometimes do and don't act on them.

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Finally, we have the modern theories, which consist of the Cognitive Neoassociation Model (CNM) and the General Affective Aggression Model (GAAM). These two models differ from previous models because it acknowledges that aggression is affected by multiple variables. First off, CNM suggests that we cognitively prime ourselves for aggression by being exposed to aggressive behaviors. By this, it means that when we watch an aggressive act in video games, we associate the situation it was presented in in our brain, so when that situation occurs we are more likely to react aggressively. One example I have experienced would be from the Assassin's Creed game, which has a lot of sneaking up behind people and assassinating them. After playing these games, a lot of my friends have ended up sneaking up behind each other and performing a sort of "mock assassination." Although it's usually friendly in nature, it's still a behavior that probably wouldn't have happened if we weren't exposed to it so much.

We also have GAAM, which improves upon CNM by introducing individual differences, has more complex relationships, and has short and long term effects. Theorized by Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman, GAAM says aggression is based on knowledge structures, such as the ones used in CNM, that are activated based on the current situation AND personal interpretations. It also accounts for instances where aggression does not occur, because individual choice allows us to decide whether aggression is appropriate or not for certain situations. In the short term, it can focus on recent consumption of media and certain aggressive events that may have been witnessed. In the long term, it shows how aggressive scripts can become larger in quantity and more readily available as a result of more exposure to aggressive behaviors, whether it be real life or virtual. We learn from each situation we encounter, in which we think "okay, in this situation I did X, so I'll do X in future similar situations as well." Below is a diagram explaining the GAAM model.

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Moving on, it seems to be the case that video games would increase the amount of aggressive scripts in individuals, thereby increasing aggression overall. There also seem to be a vast amount of studies supporting this. However, I personally have not seen a whole lot of these aggressive behaviors in myself or my friends, who have played a lot of video games growing up. The only time I remember doing these aggressive behaviors was when I was younger, and more impressionable. For instance, after long sessions of playing the Legend of Zelda, my friend and I would go roam the woods and get into "sword fights" with sticks. However, I'm not sure that would necessarily count as aggression because both of us were voluntarily engaging in this activity. So it seems that I more often acted out aggressive behaviors I saw, but never really did them in an aggressive way (harming an individual who seeks to avoid harm). I've also been very frustrated in games, especially some multiplayer games such as Super Smash Bros. Out of all the games I've ever played, Super Smash Bros was the one that frustrated me the most when playing with friends. Yet, I never resorted to violence outside the game as a result of it. So it's hard for me to believe that video games cause aggression, because I've personally never seen anyone I know because commit aggressive acts because of a game. Yes, I've definitely seen people become frustrated, and have seen people throw controllers at their TV's and break came discs, but never seen anyone do anything to another individual. Which makes me question how studies can conclude that video games lead to aggression, because if the definition of aggression is the act of causing harm to another individual who seeks to avoid it, it would seem that no study would be able to conduct a study that would allow that behavior under the IRB. So are these studies really examining aggression then? Or just aggressive feelings? It's hard to say without looking at one.

Here's an interesting video in which a former FBI member discusses the problems of blaming real world violence on video games.

Video Game Avatars in the Eight Generation

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Alright, this entry will be on AVATARS! No, not like the popular movie, or the cartoon character who manipulated elements. The definition we used in class for an avatar is a synthetic image, static or animated, which is used to represent a person in a mediated environment. In the video game world, this takes the form of playable characters. It can be the character you play as, a character you create, a character a friend plays as, or just some image or being that represents you such as the Mii in Wii games or the similar avatar you could make for Xbox. An avatar is basically another self, that when you are in the video game environment, that is YOU.

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The origins of the term "avatar" come from Hindu religion, in which the god Vishnu had multiple avatars which were sort of like his incarnations. It was then used by Farmer and Morningstar in a video game in the way we know it today. Since then, the idea has spread from playable characters in video games, to basically any image that represents ourselves in a virtual world (your picture in a forum, for example). There is also a variety of research looking at how our avatars can affect us.

One way is identification. We identify with our avatars whenever we share a perspective with them regarding something. An example could be that when you play a game that has a really evil antagonist, you usually end up sharing the feelings with the main character about bringing them down; you're identifying with them. This is important because when we identify with a character, it leads to further immersion and increases the influence the game has on us. It can also cause us to try and be more like the character, whether through behaviors or ideas. This psychological desire to be more like another person or character is also called wishful identification. Like the guy below, who identified so much with pong that he BECAME pong.

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Moving on, there are certain things that we can do with avatars that help increase immersion and identification, and one of those is similarity. By increasing similarity between the game avatar and the user, we increase the user's identification with the avatar. This is often seen in game that allow you to create your own character, which seems to be becoming more popular as time goes on. Related to physical similarity is homophily, which is being similar on more social dimensions such as status or ideas and values. So the more like your avatar you are, the easier it is to project yourself into the game world and relate to the events that your avatar is participating in.

Between the avatar and the user we also see parasocial interactions, which are media interactions between the user and the avatar that strengthen the user-avatar relationship. This can range to simply playing the game together, or "going through the motions," to going about completing difficult tasks in sync with each other. It seems like everything we go through could strengthen this bond, but there are times in video games when the game can cause this relationship to weaken as well (more focused on faulty controls and glitches). Through parasocial interaction, our relationship with our avatar becomes stronger over time.

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(An anime character [right] standing next to his in game avatar [left])

Personally, I have a lot of favorite avatars to play as, and it's really hard for me to pick one. I really like Link from Legend of Zelda, and a lot of that probably comes from time playing as him (parasocial interactions?). I also have other characters I play as that I enjoy playing mostly because they're fun to play as (Assassin's Creed protagonists, Master Chief, Mario). I also really enjoy games that let you create your own character, but that's where things get weird with me (and a lot of my friends). As far as I'm concerned, there's not really a lot of gamers in my friend circle that want to create characters that look like themselves. This is odd because it seems that if we did, it would increase immersion in the game. However, I think being able to make the character who you want to be rather than who you are can create a more significant attachment. This, in some ways, also increases ownership identification, which is identifying with a character through the process of creating them.

With the eight generation, it might seem that avatars don't have much further to go. I don't believe that however, and I can see a lot of room for improvement. First, I think being able to create a character will keep becoming more and more common. It increases immersion, and also does something else I think is really important. In games that have one static main character that you don't create, you're forcing people to step in a certain person's shoes (usually some buff guy). By allowing people to create their own characters, games seem to become more open to wider audiences. Games like the Elder Scrolls series that allow people to choose between male and female characters are important because it allows both boys and girls to make a character that better represents themselves. Avatars will also improve because the better graphics and technology will allow more realism. By making more character creation choices and making graphics more realistic, we are getting closer and closer to making our avatars resemble us in far greater ways ever imaginable. With the advent of virtual reality and motion sensing hardware, we can expand this even further to create environments where we are more in touch with our virtual selves than ever. Below is an awesome gif of some technology that allows real time facial movements.

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Personal Experiences in the Eight Generation

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So getting down to the last of my entries, I feel I should have one entry discussing my personal experiences and thoughts I've had regarding gaming on a next-gen console. Before the E3 events that surrounded both consoles plan in detail, I was still an Xbox fanboy. I've been playing on a 360 since the Xbox 360 came out, and for the most part I loved the experience. So I figured that I would end up getting the next-gen Xbox because I was a loyal follower, and also hated Sony's dual shock 3 controllers for the PS3. And then E3 happened last year, and Microsoft just seemed to make itself look bad with a variety of things such as the required internet connection, the vast focus on making it a complete entertainment system (I don't have cable where I live so that really didn't do much for me), among other things. My reaction was this in a nutshell:

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So after watching Sony's E3 announcement, I saw a few things that really influenced me. First was the $100 price difference. As a college student, any amount of money I can save is important. It was also important because a lot of people attributed the price difference to the fact that the Xbox One was packaged with the Kinect, which wasn't something I wanted because it just seems gimmicky to me. The second thing that influenced me was their emphasis on gaming. The PS4 is not designed to be a media hub, but is designed specifically for gaming. Because that's what I want in a game console, that was important to me as well. After this I was also just a lot more open to trying a new console, and thought it would be good to expand my horizons. As many people have illustrated, Sony blew Microsoft out of the water at the E3 conference, and it seemed a majority of my friends also seemed to be gravitating more towards the PS4 than xbox one as well.

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So, after months of deliberation, I was still on the edge of deciding which console I wanted. It eventually came down to price, which console my friends bought, and features of the console that I liked. As the Xbox One seemed less and less attractive, I eventually decided on the PS4. However, it was relatively a week before the console released that I decided this and as such had not made a pre-order for the console. Assuming that it would be instantly sold out, I figured I would wait a few months for bugs to be worked out and for it to be more available. Then release day happened, and just out of boredom and curiosity in my 8am class, I checked out Target's online stock of PS4s. I was astonished to see that they still had some available for non-preorders, and my impulsivity kicked in and I ordered one of the last few available. I was pretty stoked because I would be getting the console before some of my friends (a few had pre-ordered it and picked it up on release day) and also I was just stoked to get a shiny new console and games. The console game bundled with a controller, so I went to Target which was running a buy 2 get 1 free deal and got Assassin's Creed 4, NBA 2K14, and Battlefield 4 to play. Before I even got the console I pretty much already had 3 new games ready to play. I was STOKED. Expecting to have a lot of games eventually, I even went out and bought a 1-terabyte hard drive to fit more games than I need. I was also really happy that because I ordered it online I wouldn't have to go through this:

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So, it was a friday that I ordered the console and it ended up arriving on Tuesday. All kinds of excited, I plugged in the HDMI, plugged in the power cable, turned on my TV, and powered up the PS4. Except no signal was being sent to the screen. Looking at my console, the blue LED light on top of the console that is supposed to turn white upon startup stayed blue. "Ohhhhhh no" I thought. Between the day I ordered and the day I received my console, I had seen multiple posts on forums regarding a new "blue light of death" problem that seemed to be affecting a decent amount of new PS4's. I was in disbelief at first, and went through a series of tests to determine it was the PS4 that was faulty. Changed TVs, changed the HDMI cable, changed the power cable with another one of the same kind, all with no change. Then I became irate. I ended up calling Sony, and after describing what I did to troubleshoot it they didn't even make me do anything else, they just said "we'll be sending you a box to ship it back in and we'll send you a new one."

Whatever, I thought, it's what I get for buying a console the day they came out. I wasn't too worried at this point, so I just focused on my school work for the time being. A day or too after my call, I got white box, or "coffin" as the online community called it, to send my PS4 back in. So I sent it back and it ended up going to a facility in Texas to be fixed, and they would send me a new console instead of a refurbished one, so I figured it would be a quick process. It wasn't. With the influx of damaged PS4's, it took about a week and a half for them to send me an email saying they received my console. Two days after that, they sent me an email with a tracking number saying they just sent out the new console. "Okay, great" I thought. I looked up the tracking number, and it was being sent from Texas to some city in Georgia. Seriously, Georgia? So I immediately called them because UPS said it hadn't picked up the box from the facility, so I figured I might get that fixed before it got sent out. I called up support and told them my problem, and after going over my address they insisted that they had my correct address and that I should just ignore that tracking number. A few days go by, and eventually nothing comes to my house and the shipment had arrived in Georgia. I called support again, and this time they seemed more concerned. They indeed confirmed that it was sent to Georgia, and said they would have to run an "investigation" which would take two weeks to do before sending out another console. Again, I was beyond furious, but whatever. I'd just wait longer.

So eventually, the investigation was over and I got a new email with a tracking number going to the right address. It arrived in a few days and I was pretty excited again. Until I plugged it in, and got another blue light of death. At this point I wasn't even surprised. By this time, it was mid-December so it was around a whole month that I had to go through this process just to get another broken PS4. Went through the whole process again, but this time it was sent to a facility in Illinois, which was much closer so the delivery was faster and a lot of the screw ups seemed to be coming from the Texas facility. After shipping my coffin out, the whole process took three days from there. It was awesome. It was christmas eve that I finally got a working PS4, and I LOVED IT.

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Since then I've acquired a (relatively) vast collection of games already. For my troubles, Sony sent me a copy of Killzone: Shadowfall for free. Which is a visually stunning game, and definitely looks next-gen. Overall, I already have 17 games in my PS4 game library because of games released for free for PSN users as well as a bunch of indie games I've bought through the PSN store. The UI in the game is amazing, and it's really cool that you can go to the main menu in the middle of a game with no lag in between, and go back into the game just as easily. In the months I've had the console, they already had about 3 updates so they're constantly tweaking the system to make it better and adding features that gamers are asking for.

Altogether, I've still only had a few months playing the PS4, and the console is still very young so there's not a whole lot of games out or anything showing off what potential it really has for the future (the topic of my last entry). The graphics look amazing and although not drastically better from the last generation, it's definitely noticeable and I'm sure can still be improved in future games. My first encounter with Sony support was pretty bad, but considering the amount of PS4's they were dealing with I can't really blame them. My support later on was phenomenal however, and I'm no longer worried about my PS4 breaking down again. Overall, I've enjoyed my personal experiences with PS4 and am happy to see what awaits me in the future.

Here's a picture that is proof of how many times I had to send in my PS4:

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Final Entry: The Future of Eight Generation Consoles

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My last topic to be discussed will also be the last topic we discussed in class, and that's the future of gaming. We went over a lot of predictions in class, and I think we will see a lot of these predictions played out in the eight generation of consoles. In this entry I'll discuss some of my own predictions of what the future holds for gaming in the eight generation.

The first thing I already notice happening is the decline of first person shooters. The last decade seems to have given rise to a large popularity of shooters such as the COD and Halo series, but recently there seems to be a move away from this trend. This such big titles such as the Last of Us, Beyond Two Souls, and some other plot based games, I think we'll see a move towards these kinds of games.

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I feel like games are also going to be increasingly focused on including wider audiences in games. Games that have female lead characters, and games that include non-heterosexual characters seems to be on the rise because of vocal communities. One thing that comes to mind is the Last of Us DLC, which focused on the main character Ellie, who we find out had a relationship with her female friend. This is HUGE because it breaks down some of the stereotypes that we see in characters and as far as I know it received widely positive reviews because of what they did. I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of this in the future.

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Another thing that seems to be on the rise is the popularity of buying games digitally. Although it was available in the last generation, it seems to be becoming more popular with next-gen consoles and they're increasingly pushing it on users. Digital games are beneficial because they do not require a disc, and some game are even cheaper in their digital form than buying the game physically. Although a majority of people still seem to be buying physical games, I think we'll see a rise in this area.

In tune with digital content, I also unfortunately see a rise in "pay to play" or "pay to win" games. However, I think games will start doing this in a different way. When I was still playing Xbox 360, one thing that really pissed me off was Gears of War. What they did, is they would make a variety of things that were already programmed in the game locked, and you had to pay money to get them. This was ridiculous. This kind of incentive to buy in-game items is very unpopular compared to DLC that costs money, or buying things that aren't already available in the game. One game that I'm currently playing that seems to do it right is Warframe. Warframe is a free to play game, meaning that you can download the game for free online. You can get everything in the game by playing it, and there is nothing in the game you have to pay for to get. You can buy things in the game to get them quicker however, but still the point is you can get them all without having to pay. I think this is the way to do it, and doesn't piss of gamers as much.

Finally, the biggest game changer that will occur this generation is the advent of virtual reality (VR) gaming. With things such as the Oculus Rift, and Sony's own Project Morpheus which seems to be progressing along quite quickly, I wouldn't be surprised if some virtual reality hardware is released in the next two years. This is HUGE because it will change the way games are played, as well as how they're developed. It offers a completely unique experience, and from footage I've seen watching people use the Oculus Rift the level of immersion is intense (especially with scary games, ahhhh). I feel that along with the release of VR games we will also see a change in how games are developed. As mentioned in this video by Adam Sessler, VR games won't really have to do a whole lot to make these games immersive, just the technology itself makes it so much easier to put people in an environment. Here's another video of a Project Morpheus game that looks really intense called The Deep, in which you play as a diver in a shark cage. From the video, there's not a whole lot to the game but it's obvious that this experience could be really cool.

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So in the future the biggest thing I see coming out is VR gaming, and in the next decade or so I see that medium improving upon itself as it becomes more popular (although I don't see it being that difficult to market it). Although I think motion controls are still gimmicky, if they work with VR hardware it will be much more popular itself so I think a VR market will be much more successful than what Kinect or PS Move offer by themselves. It'll also be nice because to get the most optimal experience of gaming we won't need huge TV's or projectors, just a VR headset that takes up little space and will most likely cost much less.

It seems that second screen gameplay is also becoming more popular, specifically in the Nintendo market. This trend isn't too appealing to me, but it does seem to be crossing over into Microsoft and Sony territory as well with games that allow connection with an tablets and phones, so it will be interesting if this trend is continued in the eight generation.

One thing I'm really personally excited about is how popular indie games are becoming. I've always been a fan of indie games because I'm a firm believer that a game doesn't have to have amazing graphics to be a good game, it just needs awesome and innovative game mechanics. A lot of my favorite games on my PS4 currently are indie games, or games like Child of Light that aren't 60 dollar games. I don't care if a game is super long or looks amazing, if it's fun and relatively cheap there's a better chance of me buying it.

Although there are some other trends that might potentially happen, these are the trends that I'm personally looking forward to. I hope you enjoyed these blogs and thank you for reading!