Monday, 27 February 2012

Notes from The Effects of Videogames on Children: The Myth Unmasked Barrie Gunter

Gunter Barrie, (1998), The Effects of Video Games on Children: The Myth unmasked, Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press LTD


  • 23rd November 1997 called for a ban on 'crimnal' video game Grand Theft Auto
  • 'top' policeman was quoted arguing that this game could encourage young people to glorify the crimes portrayed in the game
  • concerns because they are interactive
  • "the implications of this degree of cognitive and emotive engagement, to common - sense observers, are that there are bound to follow a series of profound and lasting adverse behavioural effects, changing the young people who play these games for the worse." (Gunter, 1998: 8)

1. Video games: what are the concerns?

  • undesirable physical, psychological and social side effects of regular playing
  • unhealthy level of pre - occupation with computer and games
  • 'corrupting influence on youth today' acclaimed critics
  • "Most games tend to feed into masculine fantasies of control, power and destruction (Secunda 1983) " (Gunter, 1998 : 15)
  • early 1980's saw a ban in several cities/ towns in United States of access to video games
  • 1992, Nintendo indicated approximately that 44% of all US house holds had video game systems
  • market penetration allowed video games to go beyond simple one - one relationship with individual child to become part of child and adolescent culture in US
  • effects take on different forms in different countries:

  • Australia - tenosynovitis
  • US - cataracts from radiation by VDU screens
  • Scandinavia - facial rashes

  • potential psychological effects are less tangible and leads to stress - related reactions - rapid heart beat, nausea and sweating
  • "Generalised fears seem to concentrate upon the belief that new technology strips people of their freedom and privacy" (Gunter, 1998 : 17)
  • "Elsewhere, excessive involvement with computer or video games has been discussed as a form of 'dependency' where by playing with such games may not be a major preoccupation, but does serve particular social and psychological functions in player's lives in an especially pronounced fashion" (Gunter, 1998 : 17)
  • young people effected psychologically by violent themes because mass entertainment media passively display messages that they receive
  • some games in 80's e.g Super Mario, Frogger and Donkey Kong was classed as positive - set to be challenging and aim to do good deeds within the games
  • video games also viewed as source of learning - such as the activities that require eye - hand coordination or teaching specific skills in spatial visualisation or mathematics
  • military modified the Atari game Battle zone for use in Military training
  • "Players must figure out what different symbols and items on screen mean or represent and how they behave. In this way, video games encourage a style of thinking that resembles in many respects the kind of reasoning and deductions scientists have to make when investigating an issue.." (Gunter, 1998: 23)
  • video games are more exciting through rapidly changing visual displays and more complex challenges compared to board games
  • games allow children to concentrate on rules and expectations needed to master each level
  • preoccupies a child's time that gives rise to anti social behavioural effects - undesirable physical, mental, social and economic
2. Tapping into Player's Habits and Preferences

  • through extensive surveys - parents and children are less likely to believe in alleged negative influences
  • one discriminating factor among children and adolescents in playing games is gender
  • males play more at homes or arcades
  • gender bias becomes distinctive in themes e.g flying fighter air crafts or car racing
  • men are more expressive when comes to aggression and are more prone to competition
  • more intense experiences
  • violence and action games turn most females away because are more conditioned in emotional response
  • players indicate regular use as tension release
  • video games can generate mood changes in youngsters but can invoke a considerable degree of concentration and involvement

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