Nintendo's Wii has been a groundbreaking experience for gamers, finally allowing us to kick, jump, punch, and golf with a mere flick of our wrists. The innovative technology has brought the Wii to the forefront of the gaming industry and is being praised by the mainstream media. Although most of the publicity surrounding the console has been good, what does the interactive control system really mean for the video game industry?
Already, the industry is highly scrutinized for its interactive violence and occasional sexual content. With games like The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, Prince of Persia: Rival Swords, and Manhunt already in the works for the system, could the video game industry be asking for another media storm over these violent games?
Nintendo has prided itself on being a family friendly company. Most first-party titles still welcome all ages with familiar characters like Mario and Link. Yet, children's games have dominated less of the market as the industry grows up. Some of the most popular games as of late have included Gears of War, the Halo series, the Grand Theft Auto series, and the God of War games. These mature games have found a home in an ever-growing adult consumer population. Although games like Madden, The Legend of Zelda, and an abundance of Mario-inspired titles continue to draw large audiences, no one can deny the growing demand for adult-themed games.
So although Nintendo may still cater to a younger audience with its first-party titles, it has also welcomed adult titles like Resident Evil to its consoles in order to keep up with rivals Microsoft and Sony. Yet, with its unique control scheme, Nintendo is pushing the interactivity of games to a whole new level.
Let's take the upcoming The Godfather: Blackhand Edition as our example. This game allows the player to fully immerse himself in the experience through aiming the Wii-mote at different enemy body parts in order to choose where the bullet will land, tossing the Wii-mote in the direction of the screen to throw an enemy against a wall, pulling the Wii-mote towards the head in order to head butt, and much more. Over 50 executions are possible in the game; they will be demonstrated by on-screen illustrations which the player must follow to successfully perform the execution. Sound fun? Maybe so, but to many this sounds are one step closer to reality. Could this more realistic approach lead to increased aggression in kids who get their hands on these games? In fact, could this also increase aggression in adults?
The American Psychological Association (APA) believes video games "increase a person's aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior both in laboratory settings and actual life." Their position is based on two studies performed on college students.
"One study revealed that young men who are habitually aggressive may be especially vulnerable to the aggression-enhancing effects of repeated exposure to violent games," psychologists Craig A. Anderson and Karen E. Dill observed1. "The other study reveals that even a brief exposure to violent video games can temporarily increase aggressive behavior in all types of participants."
The first study observed 227 college students who had a history of aggressive behavior. After studying their video game playing habits, researchers concluded "students who reported playing more violent video games in junior and high school engaged in more aggressive behavior."
The second study observed 210 college students who played either a violent game (Wolfenstein 3D) or a nonviolent game (Myst). Shortly after playing, players were asked to play a game again. The conclusion? "The students who played the violent video game punished an opponent for a longer period of time than did students who had played the nonviolent video game."
Although most research points to the same conclusion, there are still skeptics. Karen Sternheimer, a sociologist at USC, believes that the link between video game violence and real life violence is overhyped2.
"Politicians and other moral crusaders frequently create folk devils, individuals or groups defined as evil and immoral. Folk devils allow us to channel our blame and fear, offering a clear course of action to remedy what many believe to be a growing problem. Video games, those who play them, and those who create them have become contemporary folk devils because they seem to pose a threat to children. Such games have come to represent a variety of social anxieties about youth violence, new computer technology, and the apparent decline in the ability of adults to control what young people do and know," she argues in her article "Do Video Games Kill?".