Archive for February, 2013

While the anticipation builds for the new Sony PlayStation 4 and rumors swirl around and April unveiling of the new Microsoft Xbox 720, or Durango, there’s still a huge undercurrent of anti-gaming from the mainstream media. The recent revelation that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza played video games as preparation for his massacre – something that Oslo mass murderer Anders Breivik also admitted to; has continued to paint all video games in a negative light. The National Rifle Association (NRA) coming out and blaming games for tragedies like Newtown also put games front and center in the current debate around violence in media, the accessibility of semi-automatic weapons and mental health in the United States.

Anyone who watched PlayStation Meeting 2013 saw a glimpse into the future of first-person shooters (FPS) with Guerilla Games’ Killzone Shadow Fall (see video below). The game’s gorgeous graphics showcase the more realistic worlds that PS4 (and likely the next Xbox) will bring to gamers this Christmas. While gamers like myself can’t wait to experience the games developers will create for these consoles, in the current climate, there are sure to be many in the mainstream media (most of whom tend to be as uninformed as politicians) that will focus on the violence of these next gen games. Even current gen games like Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) are likely to receive increased scrutiny this fall.

So I decided to speak to an expert, Dr. Kevin D. Williams, Associate Professor of Communication at Mississippi State University. He’s spent years exploring violent games through research with college students. And he doesn’t believe violence in games leads to the types of massacres that have plagued the U.S. over the past year. He talks about his research and explains why the majority of healthy gamers know the difference between virtual and reality in this exclusive interview.

What have you found through your research on violent video games over the years?

My research has been focused on the moderators of violent video games. While I’m interested in the effects of violent video games on players, I’m more so interested on the aspects of video games that could influence a violence effect. In other words, is it the actual violent content we should be worried about or are there other aspects within the game that are important. One of the first experiments I did was looking at frustration with gameplaying. Ask any serious player and he/she will tell you that perhaps the angriest he/she has gotten while playing was when they couldn’t conquer a certain level. That experiment tested a violent but non-frustrating game against a nonviolent but frustrating game. The nonviolent frustrating game created more hostility than the violent non-frustrating game. Other experiments have looked at “skinning” an avatar to look like the player. When a player uses an avatar that resembles him/her, the hostility effect is increased when compared to using a dissimilar avatar. I’ve also looked at concepts such as identification with the avatar and sense of presence, the feeling of being pulled inside the game. My most recent work, published this month, looked at how using motion controls (the Wii in particular) increases the hostility effect, as well as identification with the avatar and presence, to a lesser extent. Basically, when motion controls give the sense that the avatar and player are more connected, the violence the player/avatar enacts results in an increased hostility effect. However, and this is HUGELY important, that increased effect needs to be interpreted realistically.

Can you talk about the video games you used in your research and why you chose them?

There really is no hidden agenda there. I pride myself on doing pilot studies to determine if the games I choose are actually manipulating the variables that I want to manipulate while leaving other variables consistent. This is an aspect that is missing is many video game studies. For example if I’m comparing a violent game against a nonviolent game, there are several factors I want to pilot test. Do players rate the violent game as truly being violent and is it vastly more violent than the nonviolent game? Now that I know that, can I prove that others aspects are basically equally. Is the pace, difficulty, graphics, perspective, etc., rated to be equivalent? When you figure all that in, sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice. It comes down to a few games you can use. I do like to use games that are currently on the market and available at any big box store. To me it speaks to the validity of the work. People are concerned about the games their kids can buy, so why not use those? I’ve seen some studies where people constructed and built their own games. While I understand that it gives the experimenter total control, it often results in a game that no teenager I know would purchase. That doesn’t invalidate the research, mind you, but it could raise a question of the relevance of the findings.

There’s been a lot of research over the years around violent games. What does it say that there’s been no direct correlation between games causing violence?

It’s all about definitions, statistics, and ethics. My work looks specifically at hostility, not necessarily violence. My feeling is that I can measure feelings of hostility realistically. I have a questionnaire that basically asks them over a series of questions how hostile they feel after playing a game. I can also take measures of arousal to see if they indicate hostility as well. It is ethically irresponsible to conduct an experiment where you allow a participant to physically harm another person. As a researcher you try to get as close as you can to your variable of interest (in this case, violence) without compromising yourself ethically.

What do these research statistics actually mean?

The statistics need to be interpreted realistically by researchers and placed in context. For example, in my studies I claim there is a hostility effect. That certainly is true. Statistically it is a significant result. A closer look may show that a statistically significant result means the difference between scoring a 3 or 4 on a scale which ranges from 1 to 10 on a measure of hostility. So we have some questions here. First, is a measure of 4 out of 10 something to worry about? Does a difference of one point on that scale mean a sizable difference in the real world? The flip side is also important. As a parent, wouldn’t you want to know if a video game is making your child more hostile even if it is by a small amount? Don’t you want to know if it’s making someone else’s child more hostile to yours even if by a small amount? How do you look at a victim of violence and tell them we knew there might be an effect but it was so small that we didn’t feel it to be of concern. If I told you that there was a new educational technique that could turn your D student into a C student, would you want to take advantage of it even if it didn’t turn them into an A student?

Your studies have focused on college students. What can you attribute to younger kids who play violent games based on your research?

I’ve used college students for basically two reasons. First, let’s be honest, as professors we have easy access to them. Second however, is that their particular age range constitutes the biggest population of gamers. That makes them a very appropriate demographic to study. I’m hesitant to answer how my research would transfer to younger kids. Without data, I’m not really sure. I can only speculate. A lot of research points out the violence effects are greater for children. It is believed this is due to the lack of real world experience that children have and also that children sometimes get the lines between reality and fantasy confused. A lot of this is based on developmental psychology, in which I’m no expert. But if the distinction between reality and fantasy is blurred, children may interpret violence on the screen as being appropriate in the real world. Their lack of real world experience blinds them from the full implications of violence.

I would say, however, that frustration with gameplay leading to hostility would be a concern for younger children. I’ve certainly noted my children and others get angry or emotional when they can’t figure a game out. We also know that children are highly imitative. We’ve all seen kids who play “superhero” in which they pretend to fight the bad guys. But I don’t think this necessarily translates into real world violence against another. Again, my speculation is all anecdotal and shouldn’t be treated as backed by my real research.

My response should end in saying that we need more research on this matter. Children are highly protected in most human subject research. They are a difficult population to attain in experiments, especially if you are going to expose them to something potentially harmful. My wife is one of our university’s human subjects’ protectors. I understand the difficulty involved in getting research approved which deals with children. I hope that same difficulty in encountered at most universities. Most gaming experiments dealing with young children have been focused on improving educational techniques, something with immediate positive benefits to the children. An experiment which measures the impact of violent video games on young children would have to be creatively done.

What impact do you think games have on the generations who have grown up playing games their whole lives?

It’s simply a cultural literacy that is present now that wasn’t present 30 years ago. Are there negative aspects to it? Sure, but there are positives as well. I think one of the biggest advantages is that the current generation understands and is more open to incorporating games into other aspects of their lives. If you told my parents that my teacher was going to use a video game to teach my math or science, they would shake their head but be skeptical. When I hear that myself now, I think, “cool!” I think my generation and those following will have a better understanding that games are a serious industry which can have both positive and negative aspects.

If you’re asking me whether I think society will become more violent in the future, I have no indication or reason to believe video games would be solely to blame for that.

The Wii has been impressively successful in drawing back in young children as gamers as well as capturing older audiences. That’s where education efforts should focus. Start with the small children and the parents. Again, my career has focused on the moderators of violence in video games. The industry should help explain those moderators to parents. Educate them as to the ratings and how they are applied. Encourage parents to play with (or at least watch) their children as they game. Educate retailers to restrict sales to those who aren’t age appropriate. Use social media to promote media literacy to teens and young adults. There are several options which could be used, none of which I think the Entertainment Software Association does very well.

Source: Forbes



Most portable electronic devices need to be charged periodically. Typically, this means plugging them into an electrical source–and being patient. Imagine how convenient it would be if you could just slip that cell phone into your pocket and have it charge every time you went out into the sun.
Jinsong Huang, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, believes that day will come, and he is working to ensure it happens sooner rather than later.
“We really need to increase the availability of renewable energy sources,” says the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded scientist. “Fossil fuels are finite, and they aren’t good for the environment. We have a never-ending supply of solar energy, which is abundant, free and clean, but we have to use it in ways that are more efficient and more affordable than what is currently available.”
His research goal is to ensure…

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My Nintendo News

five_player_multiplayer_nintendo_land_animal_crossingNintendo Landdoesn’t feature online multiplayer; however, it includes local multiplayer for up to five players. IGN asked the party game’s director, Takayuki Shimamura, why there is no option to play its multiplayer minigames with other Wii U players online. According to Shimamura, it’s more fun to have players – with different designated roles – to be able to communicate with each other in the same room while engaged in a minigame. Do you wish Nintendo Land included online multiplayer, or are you lucky enough to always have other potential players in your household?

“The biggest mission of Nintendo Land development was to bring across the charms of this new game structure involving a large TV screen and a smaller GamePad in your hand.”

“With the GamePad, it’s now much more fun to have players carry out different roles in the same space. One of the themes we paid…

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