Western Courier

The gaming debate continues

Brie Coder, Courier Staff

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In 1958 Physicist William Higinbotham created the first video game, long before “Pong” was ever thought of. From the last decade up until now, people have been concerned with how video games affect society. The most recent controversy within the video game community is how drugs are used in their games.

Data scientist Logan Freedman from the Archstone Organization, a drug awareness research organization, analyzed how drugs were used in some of the 100-best selling video games from all consoles. The results are quite interesting along with his conclusion to the matter.

Freedman took notes on real and fictional drugs used within these games. The issue with the prevalence of drugs in games is not simply their existence, but the way they’re used. He found that drug use in video games are often shown in a positive light, giving characters a performance boost and unlikely strength.

Across all the genres he researched, action games feature the most drugs with a little over 50 percent. Role- playing games come in second with 20 percent of games mentioning drugs in some capacity. The last set was shooter games with just under 20 percent.

He also mentions in his studies that games either use real life drugs or fictional named drugs that represent some type of real world drug. In the Max Payne series for example, the protagonist’s use of painkillers help replenish his health, though he is quite addicted to them.

Also in the 2017 game “Prey” drinking alcohol replenishes health, at the cost of briefly blurry vision. In the Elder Scrolls series, the characters use fictional drugs called crystal, that is smoked out of a glass pipe. Freedman said that crystal in the game resembled crack cocaine. In other games which were not mentioned, he noticed that players were encouraged to make drug cocktails to stay awake, gain energy and of course to get high.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which assigns age and content ratings for video games, is “happy with it’s drug related guidance.”

A spokeswoman for the ESRB said to BBC “The ESRB’s robust rating submission process ensures accurate, detailed and reliable rating information that parents are aware of, regularly use and trust to help decide which games and apps are appropriate for their children and family.” She also added “However, given the context in which drugs appear in a game, the ESRB may assign a restrictive age rating, along with either the drug reference or use-of-drugs content descriptor.”

Even though Freedman researched the effects of drug usage in games, he went on to tell reporters including Rolling Stone that he doesn’t want game content to be changed in anyway. Instead he wants parents to be mindful of what their children are playing.

Will this study affect the way we play video games? Probably not, but still it’s an interesting study. Another research subject on the rise again is if video games cause incidences like the recent mass school shooting that happened in Florida last month. This subject has been studied numerous times since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and has the same results, that there is no correlation.

Whether researchers are looking at video games and their usage of drugs, or if violent video games cause crime, most researchers can agree that it’s okay for people to still play video games.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
The gaming debate continues