Critical Approaches Part 2
For part 2 we had to complete an interview where we got asked about the affects of how video games influence us.
Interviewer: Welcome Dr. Buccheri and thank you for joining us on this cold winter morning.
You: You are most welcome; it is an absolute pleasure to be asked here again kind Sir.
Interview: Yes, you have become almost an annual guest here at Massive Media Magazine, the readers love to hear your input on today’s media, so it is too, a great pleasure having you with us again.
You: N’awww bless them!
So you’ve been doing this for some time now, what is it that ever brought you down this route in the first place?
You: Well I’ve always had a strong fascination into the human psyche, and what makes people tick so to speak. Hundreds of years ago, had I wanted to pursue a similar career I would have been studying the effects of religion or cults perhaps. I would have been addressing how people co-exist in a small community and how authority or respect was earned and maybe given. I might have even been charged with researching the differences in social behaviour between urban and rural civilisations. But given that today, media has become a huge part of our lives and our exposure to these increases on a frankly staggering rate each year, it falls to conclusion that such an area is ripe for dedicating one’s life to studying.
Interview: I see, so one of the areas you bring up quite a lot when you’ve been here in the past is ‘Audience Theories’, would you mind explaining a little more about this, what is this stuff about responses?
You: Different people and therefore audiences will respond to games differently depending on their situation, upbringing, beliefs etc. The Hypodermic Needle Theory is where people tend to absorb information from various places like the news, television, radio and governing bodies which I explained about earlier. The Uses and Gratification Theory is again where people absorb information, but it’s pre-existing and usually comes from gossip-like media for from word of other people that don’t tend to have a huge influence over people. As discussed before people tend to believe games are bad for the society, because of the violence, drug references, sex, ethical/religious issues, people wanting to do nothing more than play on them and become messed up where they are dangerous to society. This is mainly what the media has conjured up but again I have said I do partially believe in some of this but I’m not against games.
For ethical and religious issues in gaming it’s one huge subject that can be extremely hard to overcome as many games can be offensive to people, for the characters or situations they’re in for what’s in the game itself. For example in Grand Theft Auto you can play as the coloured guy and he’s the only one that can get drugs or the first mission with him is to steal a car. This is because of stereotypes and although creators don’t mean offend anyone people do tend to take it to heart- however this doesn’t mean it can’t be corrected. The best way is not to take it to heart but it can really hurt sometimes, but the best way would be to make a change to that situation. For example a white guy could do the same kind of thing as the coloured? Or for example in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess the one coloured woman is Telma and she runs a bar in Castle-town being slightly revealing at the top half of her body. So fair enough the only coloured person isn’t sitting in a huge protagonist role, wears slightly revealing clothes and had a slight ‘crumby’ job. However throughout the rest of the game you find she’s saved your best friend, looked after then village children, saved a Zora and helped you find people who were willing to look for the rest of Midna’s Shadow Pieces, and they were part of a group called the Resistance- which Telma organised. In this way it shows Telma’s amazing attributes to the story and how much of a hero she is when she had to suffer against the creatures of Twilight- creators can help these situations by doing this kind of thing.
Finally about drugs, violence and sex all games have to go through a rating system where people like PEGI and ESRB go through the game, note down what’s in the game and take into consideration what age people should be mentally-able to take in the content of the game and not be effected. They then display an age rating of how old a person should be to play that game and also include why the game was rating that way- just like film, book or even music CD- it’s all there. With young children playing rated 18 games and become disturbed is not the creators/distributers fault. It’s purely and simply the parents fault for either letting their child play on that game or buying it for them at such a young age. I believe if parents were to look at the contents in the game and ask around like they would do before giving it to a 7-year old, the world would be much more easier and people be slandering the gaming industry.
Interviewer: How is fan culture created and how does it affect games and its audiences?
You: Fan Culture is created when people really admire a certain pieces of media like films, games, books and gives their opinion to the creator or demand pieces that they want bringing into that piece of media. Usually the creators do take into consideration what the public wants and tries their best to please them so the fan-base they already have will stay and continue to flourish. How this affects the audience is it makes them feel special and heard about. Examples of fan-culture could be in Harry Potter, J.K Rowling did actually want to kill off Harry when Voldemort murdered him but because of the fan-base she made sure she kept him alive otherwise J.K would have lost a lot of fans. This is also the reason as to why she’s making an 8th Harry Potter book because her adult book: Casual Vacancy was such a disappointment to Harry Potter fans, that she wants to make them happy again and reward them for their loyalty.
Another example would be in Naruto the creator Masashi Kishimoto, wanted the main characters Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha to be gay and he openly admitted this in an interview. Sadly because a lot of his fan-base didn’t want them turning gay and the anime show Naruto was aired on Disney XD and Jetix channels, his main idea was refused and he had to set-up a false trail of Naruto falling in a relationship with either Hinata or Sakura to please some of his fan-base. After admitting this though it made the yaoi fans more happy knowing he was against the idea of this and collects anything Sasunaru.
Interview: That’s really interesting stuff, I’ll try and pretend that I understand everything you said (laugh). So one of the areas which I know you’re quite experienced in is advertising and the effects thereof. In your professional opinion, do you believe that advertising can have a manipulative effect on the audience?
You: Yes because as a consumer we sometimes believe in too much of what the tv is saying or who is advertising the product on tv. For example a lot of companies bring in celebrities to advertise certain products so that us as an audience feel as though we are purchasing the same brand as what the celebrities are and we will look like them or have/use the same things as them. Another thing relates closely to what we are being shown, for example in some games there will be advertisements like join the army which in a way makes you believe that the creators of the game think this is a good thing to do or get in life, which all relates strongly to the Hypodermic Needle Theory.
Interviewer: Do you feel that the ‘Uses and Gratification’ model is still relevant in today’s society?
You: Yes as anyone in the world will use the media and exploit it for their own reasons whether that be, to have social communications with someone or gain more knowledge or relax upon hearing certain media pieces like the news. People who tend to use this theory without realising are more passive than those to respond better with the Hypodermic Needle Theory as they don’t soak up all what the media says but it instead choose who or what to believe if anything.
Interviewer: The Sims game is known for having adopted Maslow’s Hierachy of need as part of its Game Mechanics. What’s your view on this?
You: As someone who used to play this game addictively I believe it’s very unique and gives the player a sense of being a ‘God’. Your basically giving life to characters and making them as people you know, or characters you admire and choosing what you want them to do or how you want to live including how there house is going to look like. I personally feel there is nothing wrong with this as each individual reacts different to Maslow’s theory where we may feel that we would prefer to have the confidence to make friends or have partners and others would argue they would rather have acceptance of facts to have a secure job. It depends on the individual so if anything The Sims is a virtual doorway to how the children feel, think or what they want to happen to them. If there’s anything I think they should change is make a Sims specifically for children so there’s nothing in there that relates to sex, drugs or inappropriate behaviour and put that into a Sims that’s more related to adults.
Interviewer: Do you feel that the current governing bodies that control the ratings on video games is adequate to control what people interact with?
You: In some respects yes because the age ratings are there for a reason, meaning that kids playing rated 18 games is an irresponsible act made by the parents who will then blame the game as a scapegoat for not bringing their child up properly. Don’t get me wrong I do understand that some games can have a serious effect to people’s mind as I explained earlier but they are not all negative. Getting back to the question though, there are children who are at a young age but they’re more mature and level-headed than others and may be able to take certain things from a game and handle them better than what another child their age could but also depends on a child’s circumstances and upbringing. For example my little brother is very mature for his age of 8, yet under supervision with me with parent’s permission I’ve let him have a go on Shadow The Hedgehog and Okami- both of which are rated 12 games that include quite a lot of reality violence but he took it in his stride and knows the difference between right and wrong as well as the fact whatever happens in these games are the creator’s creations.
Interviewer: There are often stories in the papers about incidents because of video games and the effect they have on us, do you feel that there are health concerns associated with this form of media?
You: Yes as it can not only affect a person physically with health concerns like damaging the body with eye problems because we’ve been looking at the screen too much, but because we aren’t moving our joints enough so we develop arteritis in our hands or lower backs from playing too many games sat hunched over. Then there’s also the fact that people play too many games and have a poor diet so they put on a lot of weight and as they can’t face reality because games take them to a fantasy world then people don’t want to lose the weight and become bigger. The mentality effects again depend on the person’s maturity, upbringing and perspective on the world, there are games that can affect others more than what it can affect other people.
Interviewer: Ok, well it’s always fantastic to hear your view on things to do with media, but now if you don’t mind we’re going to talk a little bit about the game
You: Ah yes that sounds good.
Interviewer: So we sent you Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess a couple of weeks ago for you to look at and give you some time to have a play around so you could let us know what your thoughts. Of course, your review of this will be a little different from the norm and involve quite a bit of detail I imagine.
You: You have rather successfully imagined correctly my good fellow.
Interview: Brilliant, so perhaps you could give us an introduction on the game?
You: Most Zelda games start of the same where it’s simply your Link, he’s a normal boy who works in different situations throughout Hyrule (in Twilight Princess he’s a goat herder, in Ocarina he’s forest child and in Spirit Tracks he’s a train driver), until one day madness descends in his area or he has to deliver something to Zelda and something bad happens and it’s up to him to defeat the evil doers (e.g Ganondorf in Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Ocarina of Time, Ghirahim in Skyward Sword, Vaati/Dark Link in Minish Cap and Four Swords) and rescue Princess Zelda using his part of the Triforce which is courage and Hyrule is saved meaning the endings aren always linear compared to other games like Pandora’s Tower and Oddworld series, as they focus more on how you’ve played the game and interact with others which depend on what ending you get. Usually throughout the Zelda games you visit 5 temples and collect lots of weaponry that look the same to the previous games. The only things that differs from each game is the art style of cel-shaded, cartoon to more realistic approaches, methods of transport for Link (train, boats, horses, birds ect), environments (but with the same names e.g Faron Woods, Hyrule Field), characters and sometimes names otherwise everything is pretty much the same.
Interviewer: Great stuff, so what did you manage to find out?
You: Well, if you don’t mind, it also means the genre of game hasn’t changed as it’s always been an action-adventure type game. When looking at semiotics they do tend to focus on the main signs we would pick up or apply to in any situation. For example you know when a boss battle or an ambush is about to appear as you’ll see the room is darker, depressing or coated in blood, bones or a different piece of music will overcome the original soundtrack. In Twilight Princess when a Bokoblin goes to attack you, instantly the music changes to a morbid and rushed sound so it gets you on your toes. In the Zelda games there are a few other signs you learn along the way and it leaves you remembering the tunes and applying it to your life, when you’ve opened a chest in a Zelda game an uncanny theme tune will appear when the item in that chest is something useful compared to when you find Rupee for example.
Colour can also be a sign with the game and links closely with representation. Enemies are usually coloured in rich, dark, melancholic tones like black, dark hues of red, purple blue, grey ect and then the protagonists are designed with bright optimistic colours and relate to their role within the game. For example the colours on Link in Twilight Princess aren’t dark bold colours they’re quite relaxed. Verdant could be symbolised with for yes or go because these words are usually in this colour giving us the clue yes he’s a hero, but he could be one of the main hero’s as he has the get up and ‘go’. Green could also be associated with meadows, fields and life meaning Link gives people life or gives people a better chance at living which he does. For the meadows idea you could think he lives somewhere in the countryside, possibly a farm boy or someone shoved into conflict perhaps?
Finally the last subject is the representation of characters and how they’re portrayed. Already I’ve given a reference to Telma in Twilight Princess, in Wind Waker another protagonist is Tetra who’s also coloured or tanned. She basically runs a pirate ship and the crew seeming devious and cheeky to Link which I don’t think many people would get too upset about, finally near the end when she’s been captured by evil forces we find it’s actually Princess Zelda and Tetra turns into a white girl again which could give different responses off. Some may say why change the colour because we find out she’s the princess but my argument to that would be Zelda’s been a white-girl with blond hair throughout the whole Zelda story and it wouldn’t be the same if it was changed. Therefore the creators of Nintendo have shown Tetra to be a good protagonist in the game and no matter what the skin colour or name Tetra was still Princess Zelda throughout the whole ordeal. To be honest I don’t believe there are many stereotyping or negative responses in the Zelda games on the characters (whether that’s personal opinions unless I do more research other than my friends), because Nintendo have kept the game clean in that way and even though there’s a couple of dodgy bits with a couple of characters they’ve put a positive reinforcement towards them and public’s thinking.
Interviewer: Excellent, thank you Doctor. I noticed you made a few comparisons to other games, but do you feel this type of game could exist on different platforms, are there other games that have tried to do the same?
You: If you mean platforms as in the genre of the game then no I don’t think Zelda would be better as any other genre than action-adventure as that’s what it has been for years and it’s what the fans have been used to. If you mean platforms by changing from consoles then yes it has worked where you have the Zelda franchise on pretty much every Nintendo consoles from 1980s to 2013, all of which have worked effectively well. Although yes there has been games that have tried to change the genre as for example, Professor Layton is based on problem-solving with puzzles and riddles but in the latest version: Miracle Mask they added more of an action-adventure touch to the game which I believe made that game a little more special and more fun to partake in other than trying to solve puzzles. What I would question though would be if the creators transferred it to a WiiU as I personally believe the game wouldn’t be the same and the gameplay go the ‘Rayman’ route of solving puzzles or there would be more action-adventure features which would ruin Professor Layton.
Interviewer: Do you feel that narrative structure changes the way you choose to play the game?
You: No because the narrative structure has been set where you as Link, are thrown into conflict because your village has been raided, or you have to save someone or something has made you choose to go and see Princess Zelda and you find out it’s up to you to save her from the antagonist, by going to 5 different temples representing certain elements that will give you special tools to scale through the next puzzle until you reach the end of your quest. Compared to Pandora’s Tower where, as the player you choose your motives which will reflect on one of the games multiple endings being good if you’ve made a relationship with Elena or bad if you refuse to have anything to do with her- Zelda seems quite linear and repetitive. On the other hand I think more of the fans would prefer the game to be that way because even though they know it’s up to them to save Zelda, they want to know what this new Link may be and how he’s going to react to this situation that requires courage, wisdom and power.
Interviewer: Could representation of certain aspects or areas within a game change whether someone will want to play that game?
You: Again it depends on the fan-base behind that game and what type of audience are playing/willing to play it. For example Okami was a smash hit across the globe and was rated a 12 for fantasy violence, dark themes and slight references to sex which did upset a younger target audience with them not understanding parts of the game or being scared by the monsters and the story within the game. Basically because the main character was a wolf a lot of parents believed the game would be ok but it wasn’t for some, so Capcom a few years later, released another game called Okamiden which was a ‘chibi’ version of Okami and aimed more at a younger target audience as well as the old Okami fans making the game another success.
Interviewer: That’s excellent Doctor. Thank you so much for your time today and we hope to see you again soon.
You: Thank you very much!