Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gamers are "more social, more active, and more valuable as consumers" than non-gamers

A new study conducted by Ipsos MediaCT on behalf of IGN Entertainment concludes that gamers are, unlike their stereotype, more active, and social than their non-gaming peers.

The nerdy loner stereotype doesn't seem to have any basis in reality when applied to gamers as a group.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gamers Bill of Rights

PC game developer, among other things, Stardock has come up with a Gamer's Bill of Rights. It only applies to PC games, but the ideals are pretty universal to all video games.

Here it is:

  1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
  2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
  4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
  6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
  7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

It is encouraging that at least one game developer is thinking in such a consumer-centric way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Register to vote on Xbox Live

Starting Monday 25th of August, users of Xbox Live in the United States can use the online gaming service to register themselves as registered voters for the US Presidential elections later this year.

Microsoft, the owner of the Xbox Live service, is partnering with Rock the Vote for the initiative. Rock the Vote is hoping the campaign will help them reach their goal of registering 2 million young Americans before the elections.

Let's get out there and register, gamers!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Could violent video games reduce violent crime rates?

That's an interesting thought, but that's exactly what Patrick Kierkegaard from the University of Essex claims is the only logical conclusion one can make from comparing video game sales and violent crime rates objectively.

He's published a study that says there's no evidence to support the claims that violent video game playing causes violence. He says:

"With millions of sales of violent games, the world should be seeing an epidemic of violence. Instead, violence has declined."

He further claims research into the topic is inconclusive and many existing studies are biased in one way or another. There's need for more comprehensive research, he concludes.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Video game industry self regulation working better than in any other entertainment industry

Every year the FTC conducts a secret shopper study on various entertainment products at leading retailers to find out how well the retailers are enforcing the ratings found on the products. 13- to 16-year-old "undercover shoppers" try and buy R rated movie tickets, R rated DVDs, unrated DVDs, PAL music CDs and M rated video games. The FTC has been this since 2000.

Today the FTC released its 2008 secret shopper study results.

And boy, are they an impressive win for the video game industry!

20% of the underaged shoppers were able to buy an M rated game. That compares favorably to ALL other products in FTC's study. 36% were able to R rated movie tickets, 47% were able to buy R rated DVDs, 51% were able to buy unrated DVDs, 54% were able to buy PAL music CDs.

Not only that, but the video game retailers have improved their enforcement year after year, from 86% in 2000 to 20% in 2008. Since 2000 the movie theatres, for example, have not improved their ratings enforcement practically at all while the other retailers have all improved roughly 50% within the 8 years.

Even more impressive was that the only video game specialty chain store included in the study (GameStop / EB Games) refused to sell M rated games to the kids 94% of the time. Not one retailer scored higher in this study on any product group.

The study shows undeniably that the self regulation within the video game industry and the video game retailers is working exactly as intended. There is no need for expensive and restrictive (as well as unconstitutional) legislation.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Harvard Business Review on what massively multiplayer online games can teach business

Harvard Business Review has a feature article on an 8-month study on leadership in games and work commissioned by IBM and conducted by Seriosity. The full report can be downloaded from Seriosity's website.

IBM is trying to answer a question of what kind of changes do business leaders in an increasingly distributed and virtual business environment need to prepare for and what kind of people would be best suited to lead in that kind of an environment. They went about studying potential impacts of such changing business environment by studying the behavior of large guilds and their leaders in World of Warcraft.

The study has a number of conclusions, well summarized in the HBR article and in the executive summary of the research report:

Conclusions include the following: leadership in the games includes all skills currently identified in the Sloan model, but puts a premium on the dimensions of Relating and Inventing. Leadership in the games happens fast, it encourages risk taking, it promotes temporary rather than permanent leadership roles, and there are numerous opportunities for leadership practice. The most important conclusion, however, was that game environments make leadership easier. Critical leadership features in game environments include virtual economies, transparency of metrics, and connection methods for inter-group communication.

We conclude with predictions about the future of games and leadership in the enterprise, including comments about how games will highlight qualities of digital interactions increasingly important for online leadership, and qualities of leadership unique to games.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grand Theft Childhood

Adam Thierer has posted a thorough review of a new book about violent video games and children called Grand Theft Childhood - The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do.

Written by Lawrence Kutner, PhD and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD from Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media the book is, according to Adam Thierer, "...the most thoroughly balanced and refreshingly open-minded book about video games ever penned."

The book points out many of the points heard before:

  1. Research on the affects of violent video games is simplistic and makes conclusions without proper proof
  2. Violent video games are played by pretty much an entire generation or two of the entire population, yet violent crime rates are down significantly
  3. Violence in kid's play and literature is as old as humanity, yet video games get singled out

It's good to see established scientists come out and say what us gamers have been saying for quite some time already.

Update: G4 TV had the authors of the book on their show. The interview is a great summary of their work.

Selected quote from the interview:

The big concern that you hear the politicians and the pundits argue that playing violent video games will somehow turn your child into a criminal or a violent person. There's absolutely no evidence for that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 - two teenagers sending handheld video games to US Marines serving in Afghanistan and Iraq is a non-profit organization started by two 15-year-old kids from upstate NY. Peter Gallagher and Jack Wilson started the organization earlier this year after finding out portable video game systems and video games for the systems are the most requested items from US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The organization accepts monetary donations and donated video games and portable video game systems on their website.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The cultural impact of video gaming

Back in August 2005 The Economist magazine wrote a long feature article on the cultural impact of video gaming. The article is no longer available on The Economist website, but you can read it over here instead. It's a great, multi-faceted article written about video games. It's rare even for the gaming journalists to write such a well written article and it's as relevant today as it was in 2005.

The article discusses the generational gap between video game critics, who by and large have never played video games, at all, and the "digital natives", people who have grown up surrounded by technology and video games. The article also accuses politicians criticizing video games of political opportunism made blatantly obvious by the lack of similar criticism towards other types of entertainment, such as music.

The studies on video games are mentioned to be woefully inadequate in addressing the complexity of video games and difference between different genres of video games. The studies done on video games usually concentrate on a single genre (typically first person shooters), and so they fail to make any reasonable conclusions on video games in general, nor should they even though many critics do.

The article talks a great deal about the diversity of video games and how games can be used in many different ways from pure entertainment to teaching kids to learning business skills through simulations. Also mentioned is that even when the video game isn't an educational one, learning does happen. For example gamers are more skill in multi-tasking (apparently quite valuable for employers), and games such as Sim City teach gamers basic economic and budgeting skills.

The conclusion reached in the article is that video games are destined to become a mainstream medium even if they currently are not.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gamer hero saves nephew's life by donating his liver

Aiden Diederich suffered an acute liver failure last fall just days after his first birthday. He was rushed to the hospital, but the doctor's couldn't do anything to help him. He needed a liver transplant.

His uncle, a long time gamer and a member of Seasoned Gamers, an online community of adult gamers, stepped in after the risks involved with a liver transplant surgery ruled out Aiden's immediate family. Jeff Shoemaker donated 20% of his liver to Aiden.

Now 6 months after the surgery both Aiden and Jeff are doing well, though Jeff will need annual visits to the doctor for the rest of his life and Aiden's immune system is still weakened.

Heroes don't just exist in video games like City of Heroes. Sometimes they play video games, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Custom Xbox 360 gives patients better information about their hospital stay

Spectrum Health, Microsoft and Cerner Corp have collaborated on developing a custom Xbox 360 video game console called Cerner Care Console.

The care console allows patients to access a whole wealth of information about their condition and care during their hospital stays thus becoming more involved in the care experience.

Video game trains a good samaritan to administer first aid

Paxton Galvanek, a 28-year-old gamer from North Carolina, witnesses a serious car accident last November. An SUV driving on a highway in the other direction flipped over several times and started smoking as if burning.

Mr. Galvanek stopped his car and ran to the overturned SUV, quickly pulled one of the passengers out and escorted him to a safe location. He then went back to the SUV and pulled the driver out of the car. He quickly assessed the extent of the driver's injuries and treated them appropriately. He waited with the injured passengers until a medically trained army soldier stopped at the accident, left the injured men in his care and carried on with his journey.

It turns out Mr. Galvanek had had no formal medical training prior to stopping at the accident site. Instead he had learned his first aid skills from playing America's Army, a first-person shooter video game produced by The United States Army.

In the game the players can play the past of a combat medic, but only after they go through a virtual medical training class. It is this virtual training that Mr. Galvanek thanks for his first aid skills.

After the accident he wrote to the America's Army team to thank them:

I have received no prior medical training and can honestly say that because of the training and presentations within America's Army, I was able to help and possibly save the injured men. As I look back on the events of that day, the training that I received in the America's Army video game keeps coming to mind.

I remember vividly in section four of the game’s medic training, during the field medic scenarios, I had to evaluate the situation and place priority on the more critically wounded. In the case of this accident, I evaluated the situation and placed priority on the driver of the car who had missing fingers. I then recalled that in section two of the medic training, I learned about controlled bleeding. I noticed that the wounded man had severe bleeding that he could not control. I used a towel as a dressing and asked the man to hold the towel on his wound and to raise his hand above his head to lessen the blood flow which allowed me to evaluate his other injuries which included a cut on his head.

Well done Paxton!

Sony Computer Entertainment America donates to Children Hospital of New Orleans

Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) has donated 8 new video game systems, two HD TVs and two TV stands to Children Hospital of New Orleans.

The video games and TVs are placed in the hospital's teen room, which is a safe place taking the kids out of the usual hospital environment to socialize and have fun with other kids being treated in the hospital