About the Project

This project is intended to analyze how the public perception of video games has changed over time, as indicated by major U.S. newspapers.  To summarize: video games were initially regarded as toys for children, but over the course of just a few decades, they have grown into being tools with an array of applications in a variety of contexts.

The material analyzed spans from 1980 to the present.

About the Corpus

  • The corpus is divided into four parts, each of which covers one decade of newspaper articles
  • The articles were collected by and obtained from LexisNexis, and analyzed using Voyant Tools
  • The first data set is much smaller than the other three (a mere 6,556 articles compared to 39,329 articles, approximately 130,000 articles, and 64,667 articles respectively)
  • For the initial part of this project, 1,000 articles from each set were analyzed, but future adjustments will add more

A Brief History of Video Games

Video games were first developed in the late 1940’s, but the scope of this project begins with the 1980’s, and this obviously non-comprehensive history will reflect that.  By 1980, video games were no longer confined to arcades, with several companies manufacturing video game consoles that could be used at home.  The industry was small, but growing – and some groups decided to take advantage of that in order to turn an easy profit.  Banking on the success of recently-formed third-party developers such as Activision, many companies formed development groups of their own with little actual knowledge of how to make games that were entertaining or fun to play.  Instead, they focused on making and selling as many games as they could, regardless of their quality; by 1982, there were simply too many games on the market, resulting in the quality games getting lost in the masses of cheap ones.  Consumers grew tired of taking chances on video games, and the industry collapsed for two years.  In 1985, Nintendo and Sega produced new consoles with better games than before; Nintendo in particular marketed their console like it was a toy, tapping into a heretofore unreached portion of the market.  A long string of highly successful consoles followed over the next few decades, with Microsoft and Sony joining the game industry in the late 1990’s, and Sega leaving it shortly afterward.  In more recent years, games and consoles have taken on an increasing number of functions in order to reach a broader audience.  Online connectivity for consoles has been a particularly important development.

Resources Used and Cited

  • Dietz, T.L. “An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior” (1998)

The article takes a fairly balanced view of games and how they can impact their players, with sections dedicated to both positive and negative effects.  Several of the most highly-rented games (based on information collected from rental stores in Dallas, TX were analyzed based on content, focusing mainly on their depictions of gender and violence.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1018709905920

  • Yee, Nick. “The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and Play” (2006)

This article focuses on the granular, labor-intensive systems that tend to appear in MMORPGs, discussing many of the unhealthy effects that said games can have.  On the other hand, it does bring up the fact that virtual work can, under certain conditions, be just as exhausting as physical work, and that this needs to be taken into consideration when playing games lest the player fall victim to the related health consequences.  Its stance on the phenomenon of virtual work is mostly negative.  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1555412005281819

  • Baranowski, T. et. al. “Playing for Real: Video Games and Stories for Health-Related Behavior Change” (2008)

The article is, in part, an analysis of 27 other articles about how video games can change behavior related to personal health.  Of particular interest is the way it presents video games as a tool for helping children learn healthy behaviors by playing games with storylines and plots; they confined their studies to games that were actually intended to be educational as opposed to looking at the broader spectrum of game experiences.  It’s written from a perspective of avoiding bias, being intended more as a presentation of findings overall.  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379707006472;

  • Squire, Kurt. “Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games” (2002)

This article discusses some of the previous research that’s been conducted on the impact of video games, and the various public reactions to it.  The author points out that at least of the research has been conducted without a full understanding of the differences between genres of games; they also mention that many aspects of games – especially the role they play in people’s lives – have not been studied very extensively as of yet.  It emphasizes that games can be used to teach applicable skills problem-solving methods as opposed to simply presenting the raw information using a game.  http://gamestudies.org/0102/squire/?ref=HadiZayifla

  • Squire, Kurt. “Changing the Game: What Happens When Video Games Enter the Classroom?” (2005)

The article explores the usage of Civilization III in a history classroom setting in both during- and after-school contexts.  It was found that many students who were having trouble with the “traditional” teaching style and materials were more successful in learning from the game; on the other hand, some of the students who were already doing well in their regular classes struggled to utilize the game.  Overall, the students were generally more willing to play the game during after-school sessions as opposed to when it was used as an in-class activity.  The largest obstacle was the high level of complexity and depth that the Civilization series is known for – a significant number of students had a hard time picking up the game just because of an average game session’s length and difficulty level.  https://website.education.wisc.edu/~kdsquire/tenure-files/26-innovate.pdf

  • Ryan, Richard M. “The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination Theory Approach” (2006)

The article covers a series of experiments concerning mindsets and motivation, as seen through the lens of video games.  Their results showed that – in general – players found some degree of psychological satisfaction from playing video games, and that different generes of games satisfied different needs.  This was accompanied by a certain loss of vitality regardless of the type of game involved.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11031-006-9051-8

  • Jonah Magar, the librarian for Michigan State University’s Rovi Media Collection, has been a great help to this project.



An interactive timeline of landmarks in the history of video games can be found here: https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1fgv2axozHlgWLooLlmW02g_ZAwGpQL_hn-TrXWBzlPk&font=Default&lang=en&initial_zoom=2&height=650