Fair Play: Violence, Gender and Race in Video Games, 2001

Dec 01, 2001

Download file: fair_play_2001.pdf

There are probably few adults these days who don’t remember the excitement of playing early video games such as Pac Man, Space Invaders and Frogger. The ability to interact with a machine in a game situation was thrilling-and still is. Today, the little yellow dot-eater and the highly pixilated spaceships have evolved into seamlessly animated characters, graphic images of demons, and lifelike humans complete with lifelike weapons and lifelike blood.

Video games were a $6 billion industry in 2000 and sales are projected to reach as high as $8 billion in 2001. Over 280 million units were sold in 2000 alone, and it is estimated that 60% of all Americans, or about 145 million people, play video games on a regular basis. This level of market penetration, combined with the high levels of realism makes it important to investigate the messages video games send children.

There are some benefits to video games. Studies have found that playing video games can improve children’s visual attention skills, their spatial skills, their iconic skills and their computer literacy skills. In addition, the use of educational games, which are almost exclusively sold for the PC, have been shown to help improve academic performance.

However, many more studies have shown relationships between playing video games and unhealthy outcomes, such as isolation and loneliness, obesity, belief in gender stereotypes and increased aggressive behavior. In fact, video games’ unique interactive capabilities may make them even more likely to influence children’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors than more traditional forms of media.

Fair Play? Violence, Gender and Race in Video Games examines the top-selling video games for each of the seven different game systems. Fair Play? identifies some of the unhealthy social messages that video games may be sending to young players about violence, gender and race and contains ideas for improving games for children.

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