Ryan GiviensRenee HobbsChildren in Media28 September 2012 Assignment #3 Can a child tell the difference between a game and reality, between what exists onlyin pretend and what exists in the physical realm? In many cases, I do believe that theanswer is yes. However, what happens when a game becomes a representation of reality, orat least something that can occur in the physical world? These are the types of questionsthat come to mind when I consider how children consume media and how they respond toits evolution over the years. When I was only in middle school, around the age of ten, I invested a large quantityof my time in video games. The Nintendo 64 game console had just been released a fewyears before and I was absolutely addicted. I remember one of my favorite games beingMario Party, in which the players were presented with the options of single or multiplayermodes. One choice allowed up to four controllers to play against each other in a battle towin the most mini games and earn the most stars while the other permitted the use of onlyone controller so that one person could beat mini game levels to win the game. I would lethours pass without stopping and I thought nothing of it. The game was just a game that Ienjoyed playing and I was quite aware that, unfortunately, nothing existed in real life thatwas even remotely similar to this game. Today, I look at the top grossing video games and I am a bit shocked as to whatmedia in which children spend their time engaging. Nearly every best seller is a first person
shooting game, one of the most popular being Halo. Since the original game was released,over half a dozen sequel versions have been produced and put on the market. This game isonly one of many first person shooting games that are most commonly rated MA formature. However, it is not only adults that purchase and play these games. Statistics showthat adolescents still make up at least one quarter, and likely more, of the video gamerpopulation. Most often, they end up buying into the same gaming media that the oldermarkets play. Clearly, there are a multitude of differences between both the games and themarkets of the past and present. During my childhood, the vast majority of video gameswere based upon fanciful ideas that did not closely mirror reality. The only market forthese games were children my age because the technology was so new and could onlyappeal to the small age bracket that could learn how to use it. Contrastingly, today’s videogames transcend all age brackets and consist of much more lifelike graphics and situations.Due to the higher concentration of technology comprehension in the digital age, anyone canunderstand gaming systems, games themselves, and the concepts that they introduce.Although many games still embody the original ‘harmless innocence’ of this particularmedia, many make apparent a presence of serious issues. Demonstrations of violence, war,theft, and uncontrolled driving are just a few examples of the many problems that thesegames so carelessly expose to children. Research proves that these violent games that are being mass marketed today dohave a strong influence on younger gamers. If the game condones fighting then the childrenare inclined to imitate what is occurring on the screen in real life. However, where is theline drawn between what they feel they must imitate and what they know cannot be done?
When I was a young gamer absorbed in my Mario Party, I was aware that it was only agame and could not be replicated in real life. I do not believe that any game on its own hadan affect on my behavior or value system. I can infer, though, that playing video games ingeneral instills in children a sense of ‘passion’ that does not exist in the real world. Were Iever to lose any game, I would throw a fit and become very angry at the game, evenknowing that it was only a machine. There is a noticeable pattern between violence and video games in general; thematter of whether or not the content alone is a determining factor may still not be settled.Blatantly pretend content did not make me violent but the games and the systemthemselves did. However, since such lifelike content did not exist when I was younger,there is no way to compare them in a controlled manner. I believe that what is mostimportant is recognizing that the vast majority of video game content has taken a drasticshift from make believe to a realistic realm and that regardless of the target audience,children will engage in video gaming media: as long as they can get their hands on it, it ismade for them. Mario Party – 1998 Halo 4 – 2012