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Game Research » Review of “Computer- und Videospiele” in: Lehrbuch der Medienpsychologie

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Review of “Computer- und Videospiele” in: Lehrbuch der Medienpsychologie

  • Full reference
    Klimmt, Christoph (2004): Computer- und Videospiele in: Mangold, R.; Vorderer, P.; Bente, G. (Hrsg.) (2004): Lehrbuch der Medienpsychologie; Hofgrefe-Verlag (Göttingen, Bern, Toronto, Seattle), S. 695-716.
  • Recommendation
    Recommended as a starting point for persons new to the topic and researchers with special focus on a media-psychology perspective. The first part of the article may be boring for persons that are Game-savvy and on top may seem little reflected and poorly researched to some readers. However, the second part summarizes research on the topics: games and gender, games and aggression, and games and benefits and can therefore be a good entry into these areas. Overall, an acceptable overview and the literature list as well as the other articles in the book make it in sum a helpful source for the scientific examination of digital games.I am not sure if the article is available in English.

  • Summary

The author’s motivation for the article lies in the fact that media-psychological research does not reflect the popularity of computer and video games and central questions are still not explored.
The definition underlying the article in the original wording is: “Computer- & Videospiele sind interaktive Medienangebote, die zum Zweck der Unterhaltung hergestellt und genutzt werden,”
freely translated into English: Computer- and Videogames are interactive media offers, manufactured and consumed for the purpose of entertainment.
Even though the author realizes that there exist many more terms, for him only the differentiation between computer and video games is useful for the article with the central difference lying in the hardware-platform.
The author then gives a short overview of gaming platforms, which is however antiquated today.
The following section describes the history of computer and video games very shortly. In sum, computer and video games came up in the 1970ies and became a wide-spread leisure time activity since about the end of the 1980ies. The demonstration of equipment and technical developments is rather superficial and I would recommend looking for other sources, if interested in a history of computer games.In order to frame the research object, the author tries to construct a systematic list of constitutive attributes. This is necessary as former researches mostly avoided this by developing Genre-catalogues, which however merely reflect the state of current game marketing websites and have often been found to be problematic. As the article wants to shed light on games from a media-psychological viewpoint, the author chooses the usage of games as the starting point for the dimensions. His suggestions are consequently the following three dimensions: Narrative context, task for gamer, and display format.Narrative context embraces the complete setting of the game, the role of the player and thus the goal. In view of the author, the variety of the narrative context is the reason for the many titles available on the market. He argues as follows: Jolting the joystick may mean to try to save an airplane from the attack of spaceships. However, the same action may mean something completely different within a different context. [Although I agree that this argument is partially right, I see a lack of technology-driven variety, especially with regard to the Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, cross-media games, interfaces like the steering wheel, dance mats etc. and therefore think it is too one-sided. What do you think?]The second dimension (task for the gamer) means: What kind of challenges does the player need to meet? For example, are the challenges rather about a fast reaction time or about strategic moves? Klimmt reduces this dimension to two areas: time constraints and complexity of the task. [Even though this division may make sense, his line of reasoning was not convincing for me at all. What do you think?]

The third and last dimension (display format) refers to the “surface” of the game. Here, Klimmt distinguishes “game-space” and “game-time”. He recognizes a trend in games to approximate simulations. Game-space is changing more and more from 2D to 3D and game-time from round-based to real-time. [However, his comments are poor in my opinion and do not exactly fit with the two dimensions described before. On top, all dimensions lack the descriptions of possible parameter value and are thus in my opinion not suited as a systematic list of constitutive characteristics (especially for a scientific work). What do you think about Klimmt’s constitutive game characteristics?]

The central characteristic of computer and video games, distinguishing them from other entertainment media, is in Klimmt’s view the interactivity. Therefore, he tries to describe the relationship of interactivity and entertainment experience during gameplay on three hierarchical levels (multiplayer extra).

The first level is the elementary level and describes the continual flow of information between the player and the computer (the human-computer-interaction). This conveys a sense of efficacy to the player. On this level (independent from the narrative context, task or display format), computer and video games offer players a way to experience themselves as very efficacious and influential. As self-efficacy is a very strong (intrinsic) motive, this explains the high motivation potential of computer and video games.

The second level is the middle level and refers (as opposed to the first level) to autonomous objects of the game, meaning - static and dynamic - objects that can not be influenced by the player, leading to the necessity to act. Therefore, the author sees a game as a sequence of “options to act” and “necessities to act”. The motivation to master the necessities to act lies in the sense of achievement. Experiencing success during the game is linked to positive emotions, leading, according to the Mood-Management-Theory from Zillman, to a higher probability that the media offer will be chosen again in the future.

The third level is the general level and takes a holistic perspective. The game offers a world to the player, which embraces differences to the real world. Therefore, computer and video games stimulate parallel realities in which players have a relevant influence. This offers the attractive opportunity to make “imitated” experiences that could not be made in real life. As players can make those experiences from a first-person perspective, the experience is direct and personal. For children this has mainly a compensatory function, for adults it is mainly an escapism function (change and relief from every day life).

Multiplayer games need to be examined extra. In the view of Klimmt, multiplayer games comprise the same three levels, but are especially motivating due to the possibilities of social interaction and the unpredictability of the actions of other players.

In the following section, Klimmt looks at the topic from a more socio-political viewpoint. He examines the research on the questions about gender differences, aggression behaviour, and last not least benefits.

As opposed to many other game-related topics, in the area of games and gender differences as well as aggression behaviour there has been quite a lot of research already.

Klimmt summarizes the research on gender and games as follows: Classic game content is more attractive for boys than girls, respectively does better fit to the classic role model of men that that of women, leading to more boys playing games than girls.

Methodological approaches of research on aggression behaviour often bear room for criticism and many studies come to different results. Thus, this research should be interpreted rather carefully and more systematic research in this area is needed. The author points out that there is especially a lack in long-term studies.

Research on benefits of computer and video games has up to today mainly focused on motor and perception abilities, where findings consistently confirm a positive impact of computer games.

All in all, the author summarizes that many research questions concerning games are still not explored at all and even in the areas already partly explored, there is still a lot of need for more research. Consequently, Klimmt encourages further research in this area. In his view, there is also no standard literature for this field yet and therefore he refers to the literature list at the end of his article.

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