A game is a voluntary activity with rules and some sought-after outcome. A video game is a game played on some electronic device. Playing video games is not necessarily fun all the time. However, succeeding at the challenge of learning the skills to master a game is rewarding.
The computer game industry developed quickly and flourished. Computer or video games have been around since at least 1962 when MIT student Steve Russell programmed Spacewar! There was no keyboard, no joystick, and no sound; instead you toggled builtin switches to move the rocket ships. Ten years later, Nolan Bushnell, Atari founder, successfully introduced a version of Pong (electronic Ping-Pong). The first home console units were introduced in the 1970s and the well-known arcade game PacMan was introduced in 1980, followed by Donkey Kong in 1981. In 2005, the industry saw more than US$7 billion in sales. Almost 85 percent of the games sold were rated T for Teen or E for Everyone. Puzzle, board, card, or trivia games are played most often. The typical player is no longer a teenage boy playing violent shooter games. In 2005, the average age of video game players was 33; almost 40 percent are women and 25 percent of game players were 50 or older.
Cable television is a good place to start looking for examples of how video games have become a part of our culture. G4, a channel launched in 2002 and available in 53 million US homes, is devoted to video games and the gamer lifestyle, at least the part of the lifestyle represented by males aged 18–24. SpikeTV, another channel targeting young men, hosts the Video Game Awards show annually. And USA Network announced that they would air the Professional Gaming League competition, with announcers and commentators in the style of professional sports.
Video games have influenced movies, too. One of the earliest movies based on a video game was Super Mario Brothers; based on Nintendo’s games, it made more than US$20 million at the box office. Five Pokemon movies have been released in the United States; the first one made US$85 million at the box office. The two Lara Croft movies grossed approximately US$200 million. In 2005, three of the top ten bestselling games were based on the Star Wars movie franchise. There is even a video game called The Movies, in which players become producer and director of their own animated movies. Not all video game movie productions have been successful. The debacle that was the 1982 video game based on ET: The Extra-Terrestrial is legendary, with hundreds of thousands of unsold copies of the game cartridge being dumped secretly at night into a landfill. Most video game historians mark the release of the ET game as the beginning of the crash in sales from 1982 to 1984.
The amount of attention paid to video games as a part of popular culture is mirrored by the attention paid by academics to video games and the effects they have on the people who play games. Academic research suggests that video game use leads to less pro-social behavior and more physiological arousal, hostility, anxiety, and aggressive thoughts, as well as increased aggressive behavior after playing violent video games. There have been several unsuccessful state government efforts to limit sale of violent video games to minors.
However, there is a lack of real evidence that playing violent video games causes harm to minors, and some studies point out that in the United States youth violence has been going down steadily while use of video games has been increasing, suggesting that there is no connection between playing violent video games and violent behavior. Experimental research is criticized, especially when using children, because unnatural settings tend to lead to unnatural results; studies using more natural surroundings have found few violent effects from playing violent video games. Other studies suggest that children need opportunities to experience fantasy violence to distinguish between real and fictional violence and to deal with the real violence in their own lives. Some games are associated with enhanced learning. They engage students and reinforce curricular content. Serious games are being designed to teach emergency response skills, government budgeting, and city planning, as well as health and wellness topics such as biofeedback and asthma management.
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