Do video games influence social constructions in meat space?
Well, yes. I’ve argued again and again that gender, race, class, and all sorts of social constructions can be influenced by the way those things are depicted in entertainment media like video games. But, I’m a hypocrite. I would also argue against anyone who claims that violence in video games makes kids more violent. In fact, I’m more inclined to feel the opposite: that using games as a way to play out social taboos allows kids the space to experiment without material consequences.
So, can I have it both ways? Can video games influence the way the player interprets the world without influencing their behavior? It feels inconsistent to me. But, of course, it is never that simple.
I’d like to propose that different parts of video games effect us in different ways. And thus, saying that games like GTA don’t lead to violent behavior, yet also saying that they perpetuate negative stereotypes as “normal” behavior and thus influence how we interpret the world, is not inconsistent. What a sentence. Let me break it down.
1. Games don’t explicitly change our behavior.
What I mean is that I’m not going to go out and start a farm because of Farmville; I’m not going to join the mafia because of MafiaWars; I’m not going to do any of the things the protagonists in my video games do. It’s pretend.
2. Games do implicitly change our behavior.
The peripheral elements in games is where their persuasive power lies. For example, Farmville is not going to convince me to be a farmer. But Farmville says that only two gender categories exist; Farmville recognizes the life cycle of plants; Farmville supports the (capitalist) fallacy of unending progression; Farmville accepts the exchange of goods and services for symbolic capital. I could go on and on. The way Farmville changes our behavior is far more subtle than proponents of video games=violence can admit.
Now that this argument is made (and I realize there are things overlooked and oversimplified. But it’s sort of the gist of what I’m getting at), let me get to my actual post. I played a game yesterday, called It Girl, and I just don’t know what to say about it. Basically, you go shopping to get clothes that give you hotness points. Then you go to a party and have a “showdown” with another girl. If she is hotter than you, has a bigger clique, or a better closet, you lose confidence. I made a short video to sum it up:
So, if my argument holds true that the explicit pieces of the game are not what we should be worried about, what the hell do I do with this?If you like the work we do here at Not Your Mama's Gamer and would like to help support us, please check out our Patreon campaign or the Kickstarter campaign for our video series looking at race and racial representation in video games, Invisibility Blues .