In This Article Video Games and Communication

  • Introduction

Communication Video Games and Communication
by
Brett Sherrick
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0202

Introduction

Video games (or computer games or digital games) are a form of media that communicates through a combination of methods, including text, visuals, audio, and—perhaps most importantly—rules. As an industry (or set of industries), games represent one of the most pervasive and successful media in the world. Despite that, research on games is still fairly young, and it is often dispersed across disciplines, such as computer science, rhetoric, literature, and leisure studies. This article focuses on social scientific research on games conducted primarily in the field of (mass) communication. In this tradition, games are primarily studied for two reasons: to understand their draw and appeal or to understand their impact and effects. Research on why people play games examines why players value games and what they gain from playing. Among other topics, this research investigates how games satisfy intrinsic psychological needs, how players become immersed into games, and how players get introduced to games. Research on the impact of games examines how people can be influenced or changed by games. Many researchers point to potential negative effects of games, which are often blamed for childhood sedentariness and violence, but others argue that games can have positive effects, like improving the health or understanding of players. Research on games is accumulating quickly and with varied perspectives, but this article presents the prevailing trends in games research from the communication field.

Reasons for Playing Games

Many communication scholars study games to determine why people are drawn to, enjoy, and continue to play video games. According to some researchers, games can satisfy players’ intrinsic psychological needs, such as the needs for relatedness or autonomy. This argument suggests that games that satisfy those intrinsic needs will be more popular and more enjoyable. Other research has investigated specific game features—such as level of difficulty or strong narrative structure—that might make games more or less desirable to players. These game features are also important in the study of immersion into games, wherein researchers investigate how players become absorbed in, transported by, feel present in, or otherwise engage in games. Other researchers have investigated how non-players might become players. Specifically, many researchers have asked how demographic representation in games might attract or—more troublingly—repel certain types of game players; this research often finds that games too heavily feature white male characters, particularly as protagonists, and suggests that other players might be turned away. Similarly, research on communication about games examines how the communicative culture surrounding games can provide entrance for or block people from becoming game players.

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