Videogame and speeches. Violence, addiction, regulation
Video games are polymorphic technological objects between audiovisual media, industrial game and computer program.
This technological convergence will be traduced by importation of old speeches from other areas. This profusion of discourses shared by multiple actors tries to define what videogames are in society. Archetypal example, addiction is at the crossroads of speeches on compulsive gaming (gambling), business definitions of addiction to the Internet, and refers to the imagination of drug abuse.
The social and political debates around violence, addiction, economic freedom are based on the speeches accompanying the previous media and games. These speeches are sustained by actors who play on their own and for themselves: some do not care about videogames but will use videogames to exist in the political field, as other will try to produce social demands for curing addiction as so they would offer remedies.
This struggle for definition is a political game that would lead to the social acceptation of their social function. The problematic imposition, as violence and addiction, is a political trick to win the monopole of definition and regulation. The expert who becomes the social and political normative reference would be the one who would regulate them and offer services.
Would videogames suffer from actors strategies and private interests? Who are the competitors, the socializers, the healers? As violence and addiction appear to be a social acceptation of videogames effects, without discussing the genealogy of this conceptions, this special issue n°67 of the French political science review Quaderni, will explore political competition on videogames’ social definition, mainly in USA and Europe. What are at stake are the public policy issues and legislative resolution. This issue should be a political handbook on videogames issues.
Introduction : normative discourses play and analysis issues (p. 5 – 10)
Ian Bogost, professor in Digital Media, Georgia Tech
Olivier Mauco, junior lectuer in political science, Paris I Sorbonne
Violence, cinema and videogames: from the recurrence of a same discourse (p. 11 – 19)
Alexis Blanchet, junior lecturer in cinematographic studies, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre
Speeches recurrence on violence as much on cinema as on videogames and their supposed effects on the public, invites us to analyse contexts in which they appear and to address the reasons why the same arguments are used about various media several decades apart. The gangster film reception in the 1930s' United States and the remarks made against the few games of the 1980s and 1990s have so many similar arguments on the issue of violence accompanying emergence of general public practice of a new medium. This primarily historical thinking is to highlight a certain parallelism observed in speeches concerning the alleged dangers of fiction.
The media coverage of videogames' violence and addiction issues: trivial events, journalistic dependence and lack of supply sources (p. 20 – 32)
Olivier Mauco, junior lecturer in political science, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, CRPS
Violence and addiction problems in videogames are recurring themes in the general media. By studying the genesis of media treatment of these concepts in an international and comparative approach, this article suggests that the recurrence of these themes is linked to the issue of experts' selection of the video game. Their endogenous selections modes in order to fulfil explanation requirements, produces an overrepresentation of professionals of the "psyche". The "pathologization" of videogames is accompanied by an offer economic policy of specialized services, books and treatment centres. Finally, the importation and transfer of exogenous issues in videogame leads to a systematic treatment of these games. This analysis of videogames' expertise media field intends to reveal the cross issues and advertising private companies' attempts.
Healing from / with videogames (p. 33 – 42)
Thomas Gaon, clinical psychologist, and Michael Stora, psychologist - psychoanalyst
The problem of addiction to videogames raises the question of their performing effects. Addiction concept, strongly criticized here, appears to be primarily a doctrinal issue for clinical psychology. A detailed genealogy of this notion calls into question the very concept of addiction and focuses on an excessive use of a particular gender of games: massively multiplayer role-playing games (MMORPG). These two crossed visions on videogames reveal the transitional dimension of videogames as soon as they are invested by player. Therapeutic use of video game offers an interesting counter-point on these games ability to allow the expression of anguish with young patients. In the end, this psychoanalytic perspective limits the technological determinism by focusing on multiple uses.
The role of militarized masculinity in playful mediation in digital entertainment (p. 43 – 52)
Sébastien Genvo, professor in communication studies, Université de Limoges, Centre de recherches Sémiotiques
Since videogames birth, most of productions are conveying specific representations called "militarized masculinity". This refers to a shared semiotics network which subject is war, conquest and battle. This article proposes to understand the reasons of these representations presence in the process of "playful mediation" established by the industry. These include in-field description of these logics' different levels of expression. Then distinction between playful interaction modalities - which have a natural action and competition if the individual pursues a goal in a playful frame - and the staging of these interactions would reveal a certain reflectivity vis-à-vis the global industry that produces them.
Imaginary vs. anguish: the ludic management of the finitude. Figures of death in solo and online role-playing and adventure videogames (p. 52 – 60)
Delphine Grellier, doctor in sociology, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III, IRSA, Centre de Recherche sur l’Imaginaire
On the assumption of imagination's euphemizing vocation, this article proposes to address the management modalities of death's anguish in offline and online role-playing and adventure video games world. The analysis of universal anxiety expressions among these so contemporary imaginary creations which are video games provides light illuminating relations between our societies and the finitude. The reflection will also reaffirm the emblematic specificity of the imagination as a system of representations, and thus the relevance of integrating the study of it in the social analysis.
The Inevitable Demise of the Magic Circle? (p. 61 – 74)
Edward Castronova, Richard Cornell, Phoebe Elephant, Travis Ross, Telecommunication department, Bloomington Indiana University, Synthetic World Initiative
We predict political conflict in the next five years about the status of virtual worlds. We begin with a conceptual treatment that combines typical media trajectories and typical economic development trajectories. Both predict that a certain class of virtual worlds, the so-called "fantasy" or "auteur" virtual worlds, will face increasing pressure to shut down or conform to a more regulated business / efficiency model. Conflicts over the rights of users and developers are now endemic in virtual worlds, and the policy and regulatory environment is completely unclear. Our predictions, based on past experience with regards to both media and open economies, are that situations of policy and legal uncertainty are typically concluded with a strong external regulatory intervention. We advocate that as the regulatory issues become clearer, the rights of virtual world owners should be raised to the level of a political issue.
After the Constitutional Moment: Regulating Virtual Worlds 2.0 (p. 75 – 84)
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Professor and Director, Information & Innovation Policy Research Center, LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
Virtual worlds offer a fascinating perspective on regulatory dynamics between competing jurisdictions. More importantly, how these dynamics play out has vast consequences for real world regulators and tens of millions of users. I suggest that virtual world providers (especially dominant ones) may want to cede control (at least to an extent), while real world policy makers will find themselves in a replay of injecting choice into platform monopolies at higher levels of not just regulatory, but also conceptual complexity.
Control of the game, self-control: a mindless quest (p. 85 – 92)
Sylvie Craipeau, Georges Dubey, Raphaël Koster,socio-anthropologist, Telecoms National Institut
The focus on the phenomena of addiction to electronic games in public debate, may mask the real social issues attached to these practices. It is at substantive issue of transformations over the rule of anomie, this "disease of infinity" identified by Durkheim in the last century. The practice of these games summons the individual to become an actor of his own life, according to Alain Ehrenberg, dealing both with self-control along with new ways to be together at the same time and to discipline itself. Another paradox, the sensory stimulations settle a particular space for the body at the same time they control the excesses in a society marked by extreme physical inactivity. In fact video games are social laboratories in which players test their skills to control their virtual world, failing to control their lives, responding to the social order of autonomy and control in which they are educated.