“I’m OK”: How young people articulate ‘violence’ in videogames – Gareth Schott

In the face of social imperfections, videogames are habitually condemned for their violent themes and role in debauching the innocence of the young (Buckingham & Bragg 2004). This article presents findings taken from a two-year funded project [1] that gathered young people’s viewpoints on ‘violent’ texts, ‘media effects’ research and the ‘politics of substitution’ (Jenkins 1992) representing longstanding agendas on censorship and morality that attach themselves to tragic events such as school shootings. Whilst offering a challenge to the large volume of methodological refinement that is ‘media effects’ research, the present research was in fact prompted by a sense of discomfort with the increasingly expansive nature of the word ‘violence’ itself and the manner it has unquestioningly and legitimately been employed to express what goes on in game spaces. Replacing attempts to accomplish social betterment through establishing videogames as the root of ‘causation’ (which then fuels and endorses the viewpoints of “moral entrepreneurs” Becker 1963) is a different tactic that seeks to detach discussion of videogames from a restricted and loaded vocabulary. This research is produced by combining an educational background in psychological knowledge and practice, together with a long established relationship with the analytical and theoretical devices of Game Studies. As a media psychologist, I argue that it is necessary to break from the major assumptions guiding modern science that includes a pervasive belief in the ability to “derive obdurate truths about the nature of the subject matter and the casual networks in which it is embedded” (Gergen 1992, 20). In the case of the capacity of media content to engender associations such as “the impetus for aggressive acts” (Geen 1994, 158), this paper examines whether the time has come for other voices to penetrate what has remained a one-sided debate.

State driven legislation, news media and advocacy groups have selectively utilised ‘effects research’ in order to express concern for an uncritical and non-resistant market of young people who, once exposed to videogame violence, develop aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviours (Anderson & Bushman 2001; Anderson & Dill 2000; Gentile et al. 2004). Young people actively engaging with these texts have inevitably become stigmatized by the stereotypes implicit in such research and codified within ‘protective’ legislation as anti-social, unintelligent or non-creative (Morris 2004). Despite forming the readership of popular culture, young people are often denied a voice by “authorities and opinion makers” (Thompson 1998) in this one-sided discussion. Yet, with the new century, the level of sustained academic attention devoted to understanding the nature and implications of game players’ engagement with videogames has also rapidly increased. The development of definitional game taxonomies clearly alert us to their diverse characteristics as structured frameworks for play, but it is their implications for the experience of players that requires greater exploration with the demographics that constitute a ‘cause for concern’. We instead find that the pleasures that young people take from games are being condemned by research that has largely failed to engage directly with the texts of fascination and its surrounding cultures and broader still the notion of more diverse taste communities that require consideration of the individual choices employed by, and motivations guiding young people in their engagement with games.

In some senses it can be argued that experimental research has already been obliquely contested via the contrasting intentions that distinguish the scholarly focus of Game Studies, through its accounts of the cultural value of videogames, that have produced rich and varied examples of the social spaces of gaming (Klastrup 2003; Newman 2002), and the creativity attributed to participatory cultures that spontaneously form around various game texts (Burn & Schott 2004; Schott & Burn 2007). Yet, rarely have these accounts and perspectives encountered experimental research head on. As part of its strategic boundary work, Game Studies has so far neglected the focus of social science research in favour of demarcating the epistemological distinctiveness of its analytical frameworks and methodologies as most appropriate to its hybrid medium (Aaresth 2001; Frasca 1999). Indeed, reluctance to address the influence of violent content is also, in part, attributable to the subjective positions of the hybrid nature of scholars who began as game players for whom game playing has now also become a major focus of their academic pastime (Copier 2003).

Discursive Power and Public Perception

The denigration of games by social commentators and advocacy groups is not easily dismissed as simply a rite of passage faced by each new medium. Each new strain also fortifies a generational rhetoric that is being legitimately employed in discussions of young people, in which this diverse group are routinely characterized and “spoken for” (Thompson, 1998). The players consulted for this research articulated similar concerns when one young male player stated: “As gamers the only real place we express our view would be the net, but you can’t have one gamer representative because there are so many of us and we are not an organisation, we are not a club.”

If the tradition of media effects research has taught us anything, it is that the debate remains principally an ongoing pursuit. There exists an indefatigable attitude that characterizes the persistent belief in the relevance of media content as an explanation for what is perceived as replicable violence. So pervasive and influential effects research has become, that it has produced a deep-rooted understanding as to how ‘violence’ should function as a research variable. Such understanding has regularly negated the aims and approach of the present research. This has been most evident by the ease with which news of the present research was absorbed into existing schematic frameworks for both exploiting and rebuffing academic approaches to understanding the experience of game-play. Despite issuing a press release outlining the distinctiveness of the present research study from the agenda of ‘effects research’, it was nevertheless reported as such (New Zealand Herald 9/10/06). As news it was inevitably identified as an opportunity to protract the “symbolic politics” (Jenkins 1992) lurking behind incidents such as school violence and juvenile crimes. On the other hand, game players responding to the press release online presumed the news constituted yet another example of a detached, misinformed attempt to chastise gaming.

Typically the first response from the game-playing public was condemnation: “I like how we spend money on stupid studies… whatever!! Just do something more productive” (Viphid 2006), based on the belief that funds were allocated to conduct “the same study over and over again” (some guy 2006). Yet, when it came to instigating discussions with players concerning their views very few well-formulated arguments against objections to game playing presented themselves. For players, it was a combination of never having been asked to articulate their viewpoints and not taking the debate seriously. Players affirmed their belief in their personal agency (Bandura 2001) and found the idea of persuasive power of games to be ludicrous. On the other hand, upon requesting a more considered engagement with the debate in order to formulate a response to detractors, responses were produced that signalled the true breadth of the debate, the convolution inherent in players/citizens/humans’ ability to articulate seemingly diverse practices and moral belief systems and the lack of explication that research has so far offered (“I’m simply pleased to see that the researcher seems to be genuinely interested in… computer gaming, not simply ‘researching’ to push a pre-determined agenda” NavyGothic 2006).

Discovering Their Voice

During this project, an exchange of ideas amongst game players was achieved via weekly game clubs that provided both regular-access to participants and permitted exploration of a range of game texts. The game clubs also functioned to permit direct and pseudo-longitudinal observations of game play and effortlessly allowed the initiation of discussions in response to play as it was experienced. Five schools throughout the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions of Te Ika-a-Māui (Aotearoa/New Zealand’s North Island) granted the project access to their students. Typically students were either attracted to the project through recruitment notices advertising the project, or participated as part of their class time for project-related academic subjects (Information Technology or Media Studies). Most of the game clubs were conducted on-site at the schools, with the exception of one school that allowed their students to attend a club on the university campus. Teachers invariably attended the first few sessions but then allowed the research to function autonomously. In total, sixty-one students (53 male and 8 female) participated in the research, which ran for the duration of a full school year.

In order to begin portraying young peoples’ relationship with games that utilise ‘violent’ content more precisely, theoretical insights from Game Studies regarding the form and nature of game texts, were also employed as a framework for understanding and exploring how the rule-governed systems of games invite, demand and permit different forms of conflict-based engagement. At the same time, a range of techniques were applied to assist players articulate their experiences, perceptions and interpretations of their game practices. For example, participants were asked to discuss footage of US news media coverage and analysis of the Virginia Tech shootings that quickly jumped to the conclusion that games were behind the tragedy (despite no evidence). Weekly ‘game clubs’ were organised in order to give the research greater access to participants and allow exploration of a range of game texts, identified and nominated by participants for their desirability and playability. Within ‘game clubs’ observations of game play (immersion, engagement and flow) together with focus group discussions and individual interviews constituted the key methods of data collection. This paper takes as its focus the issue of attaining a sense of what players comprehend and take from their playing experiences. In particular it asks whether it is appropriate to categorize what occurs in games as ‘violence’.

Findings were very rarely presented as discrete expressions, but were instead derived from a range of encounters that together possessed a connotative quality. This holds implications for how the project is disseminated, as work of this nature typically demands verbatim quotes as evidence for what is being argued. This would not be an unreasonable expectation given that the project carries the promise of delivering young people’s perspectives. However, it was not assumed that research participants “possess a preformed, pure informational commodity” (Gubrium & Holstein 2003) that could be extracted by simply asking questions and recording answers (Cicourel 1964). This subordinates the interpretive activity of the participants to the substance of what they report. Instead, what are presented as ‘findings’ often reflect an assemblage of different experiences with the same participants over time that emerged from witnessing their play, paying heed to conversations and our own participation in collaborative play. Beyond this players took further part in the analytical process when they were invited to evaluate the extent to which our analytical accounts were representative of the issues discussed and considered throughout the research process. Thus, while the remaining sections of this paper may present quotations from participant’s discussions, they should not be construed as the only data source associated with the meaning making process outlined here.

Throughout the project participants also determined which games were played, analysed and discussed. A number of consistent and popular choices were evident during the data collection phase of the project, such as Resistance: Fall of Man (Insomniac Games 2006), Dead Rising (Capcom 2006), Halo 3 (Bungie 2007) and Call of Duty 4 (Infinity Ward 2007). All games were rated R16 and played on either, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii consoles. The first two texts will be discussed here as they presented quite distinct motivations and pleasures for players.

Resistance: Fall of Man

As a first-person shooter (FPS) fantasy science fiction set in an alternative history that erases the Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II, Resistance: Fall of Man instead portrays the rise of the Chimera, a fictional alien race. The game packaging addresses players with the enticement: “When Russia closed their borders, we feared they were developing a weapon of unparalleled power. The truth was far worse…” It is revealed during the course of the game that the Chimera are extraterrestrial in origin who increase their numbers by infecting humans with a ‘mutagenic virus.’

When discussing games such as Resistance: Fall of Man players revealed the tensions inherent within the hybrid modality of games, as their accounts shifted variably between assenting to the ‘prior’ of the narrative and the ‘present’ of its realisation. In doing so, players variously acknowledge the constant negotiation between traces of the “representational” as it is subsumed within, and evoked by the “orientational” and “presentational” truths operating within the game (Kress & van Leeuwen 1996). The ‘creative mutation’ of digital games are perceived partially as constituting a fictive space that contains a range of semiotic resources that corroborate an understanding of combat, that determines the flow and force of events. Yet, within this, a subtle blurring occurs, in which the imperative of the game and the modality of the FPS genre can often confound the knowledge that inheres the narrative backstory, and vice versa. For example, players picked up on how Resistance Fall of Man elicits and privileges advancement, momentum and incursion rather than the acts of occupation and colonisation in its assemblage, as this is more suited to the rules of the game system over the demands of warfare.

Players’ views revealed greater attentiveness to more immediate encounters with what were best characterised as existents, actors and settings (Chatman 1980). These are programmed, not with “hostile intents” (Juul 2001) but pose the greatest challenge, obstruction and threat to progress towards a winning state. In doing so, players’ engagements with player-to-game settings (such as Resistance: Fall of Man) are typically articulated, not as actions against discernable victims understood as “lives worth living” (Proctor 1995), but ‘schematic reasoning’ appropriate to particular orientation in a territory of scripts and rules — xpressed austerely by one player as: “when you’re killing people in a game you quickly start seeing them as just computer-like players”. Indeed, game history has shown us that it has not always been necessary for game players to engage with game narratives that utilise anthropomorphic representations, Missile Command (Atari 1980) being a case in point. What constitutes a ‘person,’ while understood, does not appear to be applied in such contexts irrespective of the representational attributes of the medium and the drive towards photo-realism employed by the industry. In making this point, employing a “concept of person as a purely moral concept” (Tooley 1973), it’s important to note that reference is being made here to discussions with players concerning exclusively war-themed or first-person-shooter games. This is in contrast to the role-playing genre which does indeed contain relationships that pre-exist the player (as protagonist), and which conform more strongly to conventional narrative, thus containing greater information on character situation, personal histories and personalities (Carr et al. 2006). Resistance: Fall of Man functions differently as the player is caught up in a brutal Darwinian struggle for survival against a superior race.

Observing game play in Resistance: Fall of Man underlined the intensity of the battle sequences that offer little time for players to linger on or explore alternative readings. The array of multiple resources or forces operating upon the player initiate a sentiment expressed by the game publicity, namely: “Never underestimate humanity’s will to survive’. Game semantics (narrative and plot) and syntax (oppositional forces and positions) combine to initiate a response that, regardless of ‘respawning’, calls into play a deep human predisposition to galvanize the “forward thrust of life” (Rogers, 1961). The key concern for players, as exhibited through game-play, was avatar-preservation rather than any premeditated malice or cruelty. As one player commented: “I kinda do whatever needs to be done, not more”. With only transitory refuge and a gun, cowardice is impossible, as the game conditions themselves trigger constant movement and repositioning whilst under fire and under threat from Chimera raids. One of the players interviewed for the research stipulated that “there’s violence and then there’s cruelty, which I believe are two different things… I try to avoid cruel games.” He went on to state that: “I don’t like the idea of, you know, torture, rape, pillage, you know the whole… I like the idea of killing but not the idea of cruelty, like in a cruel manner” For many players, war was a form of sanctioned blood-letting that is “legislated for by the highest civil authorities” and frequently obtains “the consent of the vast majority of the population” (Bourke 1999, 1) and a moral mode of engaging with the concept of killing and dying as opposed to games that offer contexts of contemporary inner city gang violence that entices the player to ‘become’ sociopathic.

The visual tropes constructed and employed by the developers of Resistance: Fall of Man clearly evoke Steven Spielberg’s (1998) resuscitation of filmic war re-enactment found in Saving Private Ryan, in which he shifted the genre into “new territories of verisimilitude” (Sturken 1997, 42). Spielberg applies a post-Vietnam representational logic that reflects the sensibility that “war is no longer about a greater good but becomes intensely personal. Kids in combat are simply fighting to survive, fighting to save the guys right next to them” (Sturken 1997, 68). The influence of Saving Private Ryan on games is evident in texts like the Spielberg produced Medal of Honor (DreamWorks Interactive 1999), and Call of Duty (Infinity Ward 2003) in which emphasis upon the ‘lone wolf,’ once typical of the FPS-genre, like Wolfenstein 3D (id Software 1992), is displaced in favor of preservation of the ‘unit.’ The visual and auditory compositions of Saving Private Ryan allowed audiences to experience the carnage of war, presenting a “new kind of dying… uncut and uncensored” (Sturken 1997, 68). Resistance: Fall of Man may immerse players in the encounters of conflict, but it does not offer the same gruesome spectacle of fallen men, injured or dying. Voyeuristic spectatorship is exchanged for activity, for the player to endure and survive its fast-paced, frenetic and hazardous spaces.

Players did however make references to other games during discussions such as R18 game F.E.A.R (Monolith Productions 2006) [2] that offered players what Kingsepp (2003), using Bahktin, calls ‘carnivalesque death’. This is death that highlights “the bloody, the gory and the grotesque” (Kingsepp 2003, 2-3). Through incorporating ‘reflex’ or ‘bullet time,’ a mode of play that simulates John Woo’s (1992) tea house shootout in Hard Boiled and popularized by The Matrix (Wachowski Brothers 1999), the game world of F.E.A.R. is decelerated, allowing the player to observe otherwise imperceptible events, such as the trajectory of bullets. While this creates a tactical advantage for the player during encounters, it also emphasizes the corporeality of that encounter. Doherty (1998, 69) has argued that, “far from being horrifying and repulsive… war on screen is always exhilarating”. Players’ appeared to share this sentiment. If violence is genuinely considered morally abhorrent, when imitated as an entertainment form, its status as an “authentic fake” (Eco 1986) or a “thicket of unreality” positioned between the player and the “facts of life” (Boorstin 1992) offers distinct pleasures that are embraced and revered as thrilling, intriguing and compelling. F.E.A.R. possesses a generic hybridity (Bordwell, Staiger & Thompson 1985) that purposefully combines the distinctive stylistic flourishes of action films (“defeating the enemy with style,” F.E.A.R. developer Craig Hubbard) with the accentuated visceral nature and “pleasurable tensions” (Tudor 2002) associated with both Western and Japanese horror respectively.

When textual detail is exhibited in virtual combat, as for example, enemies stumble backwards having sustained a shot to the shoulder or are felled by a shot to the leg, it also serves to reconfirm the players’ embodied presence as they witness the impact and accuracy of their aim. Players articulated the experience less as a desire for carnage and blood lust, than as generating a sense of agency during their game-play experiences. Yet, by witnessing carnivalesque deaths that are more protracted, it is plausible to argue that the status of the enemy in games like F.E.A.R. is raised—which somewhat runs against the earlier argument that the existent is simply an obstacle. However, observations of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward) revealed how it not only employed confirmatory visual signifiers of player actions, such as blood spraying and staining, but that such textual detail could be experienced in a detached fashion during players’ use of long-range sniper rifles. Even so, sensory immersion is ruptured by reassertion of the ‘gameness’ of the game in the instant where existents disappear from the screen. Kingsepp (2003; 2007), when discussing Medal of Honor, makes the same observation, describing the event as ‘postmodern death’—similar to Baudrillard’s (1991) notion of a ‘clean’ war, owing to its highly sanitized media representation of death. Reconfirming players’ articulation of the experience of gaming that illustrated a folding, unfolding and refolding (Deleuze 1988) of representational, orientational and presentational forces, the imperative drive of the game is reaffirmed by clearing up obsolete existents rather than have the player wade through virtual corpses suggestive of an excessive slaughter. In doing so, the game’s ‘flow state’ (Csíkszentmihályi 1990) preserves the fragile illusion of the authenticity of a guerilla warfare experience in the face of its improbable scenarios and its over-reliance and utilization of existents as obstacles.

Dead Rising

As an interactive re-fashioning of George A. Romero’s (1978) Dawn of the Dead, videogame homage Dead Rising directly mimics the context of Romero’s original violent satire by trapping the player in the shopping mall of a suburban morass. As an interactive text, the game further immerses the player in Romero’s apocalyptic vision through its ‘swarm technology,’ that surrounds the player with hundreds of slow moving flesh-eating zombies (anything up to 800 on screen zombies at a time). Dead Rising emerged as a significant and popular text as its accentuated and absurd digital bloodlust allowed players to cite the game text in critiques of ‘effects research’ that has fostered the popular characterization of the engrossed gamers as ‘zombie’.

Referring to Dawn of the Dead, Romero (1982) commented that ‘it carries things to such an absurd degree that we know it is absurd. Nothing I do will have a causative effect. No one is going to come out of [the film] and eat anyone.’ Yet, in 2006 Dead Rising was refused a rating in Germany by the Federal Verification Office for Youth Endangering Media, making selling the game a criminal offense. The experience offered by the game centres around Willamette Parkview Mall, which spreads the terror of a zombie infiltration across the mall’s multiple floors, themed areas, roller coaster, supermarket, movie theatres, park, and an underground maintenance tunnel system. The mall area itself contains six sections simulating the variety of shops all containing a wealth of interactive objects that can be used as weapons or improve the player’s health.

In contrast to Resistance: Fall of Man, player motivations to engage with Dead Rising significantly included the variety and forms of zombie deaths that Romero, and his special effects artist Tom Savini, describe having so much fun inventing and constructing. Zombie film deaths are commonly described as ‘gags,’ which invokes the harmless facsimiles of disgusting objects (e.g. fake vomit or excrement) or terrifying states (e.g. arrow through head) available for practical jokers to purchase. Indeed, the tools employed by traditional horror film productions (latex, fake blood etc.) are often put to use in comedic scenarios. For example, Dawn of the Dead contains a memorable zombie attack on a character who is sitting at a mall-based blood pressure reading device. In leaving just a dismembered arm attached to the machine, the zombies send the victim’s reading off the scale. Jamie Russell argues that the comedy so commonly associated with the zombie genre serves to exaggerate the horror “by making us even more aware of just how ridiculously vulnerable the flesh is” (2006, 95). Dead Rising too emphasizes the relationship between comedy and violence through the sheer variety of ways in which zombies can be creatively and often humorously halted. Utilizing the contents of the mall, zombie deaths can be inflicted with almost any item. Players were observed using golf clubs, cash registers, children toys, guitars and shower-heads (that sends a cascade of blood over the infected when inserted in the top of their head). Soccer balls may not kill zombies but they too were used effectively to pummel a crowd of the undead and clear pathways for their avatar. Merchandising too, is fittingly inserted amongst the malls artifacts made available to players, allowing the developers to slot in inter-textual references to other games (e.g. battle axe from Blizzard’s (2004) World of Warcraft) and films (a lawnmower allows the player to replay the infamous scene from Peter Jackson’s 1992 film Braindead).

Beyond the expected pleasures of the game, players also commonly experienced unanticipated enjoyment and reflection from their engagement with Dead Rising. Much like Resistance: Fall of Man, confounding the anticipation associated with acting upon a game environment and its possibilities for the player, the game text was again found imposing itself upon players. Thus, while players were drawn to factors, such the technical achievement of producing a fully accessible virtual mall that allowed both consumerism as play and the creative disposing of zombies, they were also able to reflect on the inherent satire that the game reproduces. Indeed it was difficult for players to avoid the games satirical intent when non-interactive cut-scenes containing the games underlying message disrupted the process of play. An example of this included the cut-scene that presented the owner of a supermarket, lamenting the death of consumerism over and above his own demise. As he faces death on the shop floor he asks: “Who will run it when I’m gone?” before crying out “my food, my sales… my customers”. The shop manager’s outburst was perceived and understood as placing greater emphasis on the preservation of the culture of consumption over the individual, suggestive that the manager had already lost his soul. Indeed, when questioned in interviews as to who the zombies are, Romero typically adopts Peter’s assertion from Dawn of the Dead, that ‘they’re us!’

Despite seemingly enticing the carnivalesque, Dead Rising offered players an enhanced digital encounter with Romero’s zombie-mediated critique of society’s value-structures. Unusually, little is lost in its translation from film to game. Instead, much is gained, as players are drawn into, and reflect upon the way the experience of ‘consumerism as play’ also leads to an equivalent of post-purchase dissonance. Recognizing too, the absurdity of limitless and inventive digital carnage. For players stigmatized by opinion makers for their investment in game texts, the extreme nature of the game only served to further illustrate what they perceive as the preposterous nature of claims made by moral entrepreneurs who unimaginatively and conveniently scapegoat interactive games in response to violent crime. Furthermore, in an age where malls, as self-promoted public spaces, have become anything but that, as evidenced by not only their design, but also the banning of teens that sport hooded sweatshirts (or hoodies) from shopping malls in countries like the UK, Dead Rising offers players an opportunity to resist the forces that control social spaces. Like the hard boundaries that confine and limit the players’ movements in games and life, the collective force of the zombie transforms them from soft boundaries to something more dense and impassable, something that requires resistance in order to unlock space and release themselves. The game player is pitted against the environment (Atkins 2003) as much as their antagonists. Survival becomes firmly connected to spatial mastery. As Aarseth has pointed out with reference to the game Myth (Bungie Software 1997), “when the chaos of battle erupts, efficient control is no longer possible” much then depends on how well the player has taken note of formation, landscape variation, and knowledge of enemy positions (1997, 11).

Conclusion

There is a necessity to acknowledge not only the participation of ‘authoritative voices’ commenting on the nature of violence and its relationship with gaming but also to accept and listen to the voices of game players. It also needs to be noted that they too are constrained by the discourse of legitimation employed by modern science, that have absolved the need for alternative modes of expressing the complex way in violence is applied within interactive texts. Public discourse around gaming has served to confine our thinking on, and accounts of, the way games appropriate violence in their themes, imagery and the performances they elicit. In doing so, we lack the means of accounting for the intensities that players experience that involve a complex dynamic between other mediated experiences such as contemporary cinema, the pleasures of game spectacle and special effects, as well as the intensities of the game performance itself that offers many obstacles for the player to overcome.

Players’ viewpoints were wedded to dominant public discourse surrounding gaming that often proved to be ill informed and incapable of capturing the content, nature and scope of gaming experiences. Reflexive weaknesses suggestive of a “naïve gaze” (Bourdieu 2000) are resolved through the performative potency of witnessing and engaging with players as they encountered and experienced the challenges assembled by developers’ and exploit the various forces of genre, historical knowledge and the competitive state of gaming. The research was able to highlight the richness of players’ taste practices in terms of what they were capable of acquiring from an experience with a single game text, yet there was also evidence of self-imposed taste boundaries and a dominant mode of appreciation, referring to the preference for the aesthetic of historical warfare. Even within a distinctive genre the paths to pleasure remained varied and intricate. Most importantly for this work, it has been possible to begin the process of ‘freeing’ players from the damaging effects of unthinkingly employing a ritualised discourse suggestive of an attachment to games founded on the desire and intent to kill and mutilate others.

References

Aarseth, E. 1997. Cybertex: Perspectives on Electronic Literature. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press.

Aaresth, E. 2001. Computer Game Studies, Year One. Game Studies: The international journal of computer game research 1(1), www.gamestudies.org/0101/editorial.html (Accessed October 12, 2009)

Anderson, C.A. 2004. An Update on the Effects of Playing Violent Video Games. Journal of Adolescence 27:113-122.

Anderson, C.A. and B.J. Bushman. 2001. Effects of Violent Games on Aggressive Behaviour, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal and Prosocial Behaviour: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science 12:353-359.

Anderson, C.A. and K.E. Dill. 2000. Videogames and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour in the Laboratory and in Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78(4): 772-790.

Atkins, B. 2003. More Than A Game: The computer game as fictional form. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Bandura, A. 2001. Social Cognitive Theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology 52: 1-26.

Baudrillard, J. 1991. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. In Selected Writings, edited by M. Poster. Oxford: Polity Press.

Becker, H. 1963. Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

Boorstin, D.J. 1992. A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Vintage Books.

Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and K. Thompson. 1985. The Classical Hollywood Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bourke, J. 1991. An Intimate History of Killing: Face to face killing in twentieth century warfare. London: Granta.

Bourdieu, P. 2000. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge.

Buckingham, D. and S. Bragg. 2004. Young People, Sex and the Media: The facts of life? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Burn, A. and G. Schott. 2004. Heavy Hero or Digital Dummy: Multimodal player-avatar relations in Final Fantasy 7. Visual Communications 3(2): 213-234.

Carr, D., Buckingham, D., Burn, A. and G. Schott. 2006. Computer Games: Text, narrative and play. London: Polity Press.

Chatman, S. 1978. Story and Discourse: Narrative structure in fiction and film. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Copier, M. 2003. The Other Game Researcher: Participating in and watching the construction of boundaries in game studies. In Level Up, edited by M. Copier and J. Raessens. Utrecht: Utrecht University Press.

Csíkszentmihályi, M. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Deleuze, G. 1988. Foucault. Trans. Sean Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Doherty, T. 1998. Saving Private Ryan: Review. Cineaste 24 (1): 68-71.

Eco, Umberto. 1986. Travels in Hyperreality. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Frasca, G. 1999. Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and difference between (video)games and narrative. Parnasso 3, http://www.ludology.org/articles/ludology.htm (Accessed 12 October, 2009).

Geen, R.G. 1994. Television and Aggression: Recent developments in research and theory. In Media, Children and the Family, edited by D. Zillman, J. Bryant and A.C. Huston. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gentile, D.A., Lynch, P.J., Linder, J.R. and D.A. Walsh. 2004. The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Aggressive Attitudes and Behaviours. Journal of Adolescence 27: 5-22.

Gergen, K. 1992. Toward a Postmodern Psychology. In Psychology and Postmodernism, edited by S. Kvale.. London: Sage.

Goodman, N. 1978. Ways of Worldmaking. New York: Hackett.

Jenkins, P. 1992. Intimate Enemies: Moral panics in contemporary Great Britain. New York: Aldine de Gruyer.

Juul, J. 2001. Games Telling Stories? A brief note on games and narrative. Game Studies: The international journal of computer game research 1(1)
http://www.gamestudies.org/0101/juul-gts/ (Accessed 12 October, 2009)

Kingsepp, E. 2003. Apocalypse the Spielberg Way: Representations of death and ethics in Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers and the videogame Medal of Honor: Frontline. In Level Up edited by M. Copier & J. Raessens. Utrecht: University of Utrecht Press.

Kingsepp, E. 2007. Fighting Hyperreality with Hyperreality: History and death in World War II digital games. Games and Culture 2 (4): 366-375.

Klastrup, L. 2003. Interaction Forms, Agents and Tellable Events in EverQuest. In Level Up, edited by M. Copier & J. Raessens. Utrecht: University of Utrecht Press.

Kress, G. and T. van Leeuwen. 1996. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

Morris, S. 2004. Shoot First, Ask Questions Later: Ethnographic research in an online computer gaming community. Media International Australia 110, 31-41.

Newman, J. 2002. The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame, Game Studies: The international journal of computer game research 1(2) www.gamestudies.org/0102/newman/ (Accessed 12 October, 2009)

Prensky, M. 2001. Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9(5): 1–2. www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf (Accessed 12 October, 2009)

Proctor, R.N. 1995. The Destruction of ‘Lives Not Worth Living’. In Deviant Bodies: Critical perspectives on difference in science and popular culture, edited by J. Terry and J. Urla.. Bloomigton: Indiana University Press.

Rogers, C.R. 1961. On Becoming a Person: A therapist’s view of Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Russell, J. 2006. Book of the Dead: The complete history of zombie cinema. Goldalming: Fab Press.

Schott, G. and A. Burn. 2004. Art (Re)production as an Expression of Collective Agency within Oddworld Fan-culture. Works & Days 22 (1 & 2), 251-274.

Spielberg, S. 1998. “Of Guts and Glory” Newsweek, June 22

Sturken, M. 1997. Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the aids epidemic, and the politics of remembering. Berkley: University of California Press.

Thompson, K. 1998. Moral Panic. London: Routledge.

Tooley, M. 1973. A Defense of Abortion and Infancide. In The Problem of Abortion, edited by J. Feinberg.. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Tudor. A. 2002. Why Horror? The peculiar pleasures of a popular genre. In Horror: The Film Reader, edited by M. Jancovich.. London: Routledge.

Notes

[1] ‘Videogame Violence: Understanding its seductions and pleasures for young people in New Zealand’ is funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand: Marsden Fund (06-UOW-042).

[2] The project only permitted the playing of R16 games during game clubs, but participants inevitably cited and discussed experience with other games that have been classified as R18.

Author Bio

Gareth Schott holds a PhD in psychology in which he specialized in critical psychology (social constructionism & post-modern theory). He is principally interested in the pleasures associated with new media technologies and the manner in which they mediate behavior and personal and social development. His most recent research, publications and conference papers have focused on the ‘players’ of, and cultures surrounding, digital and electronic games. Recent and ongoing projects include: female gamers and their relationships with game culture, game fandom, the textuality of videogames and videogame art. Gareth teaches in the Screen Media Program at Waikato University in Aotearoa/New Zealand and he is also a Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Children, Youth and Media at the University of London (UK).