Interesting Findings from Free-to-play Games

During my leisure time, I often play some video games. I have a game console (Nintendo 3DS), but I like games on PCs and smartphones as well. Some games on PCs and smartphones are like games on other consoles such as PS4: if you want to play, you need to pay at a store and get the copy of these games. Although many games still have more contents which are available for purchasing, you can just enjoy most of the contents in these games. A typical example is the PC version of the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto 5. No matter what platform the games is on (game consoles, PCs or smartphones), if you want to play these games, you need to pay for the copy first. They are “pay-to-play” games on PCs and smartphones.

 

I think the many of these games are worth purchasing. However, these games are expensive. Pre-owned copies can be found in stores because they are much cheaper than new ones. Not everyone can afford to buy a lot of games—that will cost hundreds of dollars. So the amount of users is limited. In order to enlarge the group of players, some companies created another category of video games: “free-to-play” games. “Free-to-play” means you have the access to the play these games without paying and you will pay for some items (or contents) in these games. They are available on smartphones and PCs. With the expansion of the group of players, even if many players pay a little (even 1 dollar), these games can still generate much revenue. Now this sort of games have dominated the video games market in some countries like China: one of the main companies which offers many free-to-play games, Tencent, announced “net profit rose to 5.86 billion yuan ($937 million) from 3.91 billion yuan a year earlier” (Osawa par. 4). As for free-to-play games on smartphones, we can also find some successful examples. For instance, Supercell Studio’s very popular free-to-play game, Clash of Clans “raked in $892 million in revenue, and the app can bring in up to $5.15 million per day (in 2013)” (Tweedie par. 3).

I’m not a “hard core” game player (who usually have a large collection of various categories of video games), so free-to-play games seem like a good deal for me. I intended to have some fun without paying (although sometimes I paid for some pay-to-play games). When I was at home in China, I often played free-to-play games from the large company, Tencent (which I mentioned previously). I remembered my experience from playing one free-to-play game from Tencent. This game is called “Crossfire”. It was a game just like the famous FPS (first-person shooter game), Call of Duty. I enjoyed this game at the beginning when I opened an account. Although its definition was like the original version of another FPS called Counter-Strike (it’s not with high definition), the free FPS was not bad for me. But the situation gradually changed as the release of powerful items (of course, in a FPS, these items are guns). These new items were very expensive and powerful. You could win the game easily with more reliable and powerful weapons. And because of the release of these items, I thought that this game became a “pay-to-win” game. In fact, players who didn’t pay at all like me were not many. Many players paid a little, and they could enjoy this game. That was reasonable. But with the release of expensive and powerful items, “arm race” appeared. Players who could pay more to buy expensive items got advantages and won more games. In other words, people who could pay more money than the average could win games easily. Players were divided into different “social classes” based on how much they paid. I felt depressed and didn’t play Crossfire any more since then.

Some people may think free-to-play games are not worth playing at all just like what I felt when I played Crossfire. Nonetheless, not all games are like Crossfire. In some free-to-play games, paying more money is not the only option to have advantages. Last year, I started playing Hearthstone, a free-to-play collectible card game. I should say in some aspects, what I saw in Crossfire also exists in Hearthstone. Players will have some kind of advantage if they buy some rare cards. And they are randomly given when players buy card packs. So if a player can buy more card packs, they will have a higher chance to get more rare cards. But if you don’t want to pay much to buy a lot of card packs, Hearthstone offers other options for these players. They may “get 10 gold for every three games you win, up to a maximum of 100 gold per day” and “get a daily quest which is usually worth either 40 or 60 gold. You can save up to three daily quests at once, so you can complete all your daily quests even if you don’t have time to play every day. Expert packs cost 100 gold each.”(Friedman par. 12). Not bad. Players like me still have a chance to obtain rare cards. While I was playing, that was what I always did. Actually, I got some rare cards by finishing these quests. Although I still cannot be as strong as some players who paid a lot, I had an opportunity to beat more average players who paid little or didn’t pay. After all, not every players will pay a lot of money. But I didn’t think anyone could be masters without paying till I met some players during the spring break: I coincidently found that some players became masters without paying much. They built great card decks and won by their interesting strategies with very limited amount of rare cards. According to the amount of rare cards in their card decks, I was pretty sure that they were not players who paid much money. Obviously, limited number of rare cards meant less purchases, otherwise, they might have more rare cards than I saw in their card decks. A good deal, isn’t it? But… Wait a minute! In this case, in order to have more good cards, players need to spend more time on Hearthstone. If do so, Players don’t have to pay much money to win games. They spend much more time than average players. So I think free-to-play games like Hearthstone are still “pay-to-win” games somehow: the cost is not only money, but also time.

Now even free-to-play games like Hearthstone which offers other options for players who don’t want to pay much money do not seem good. If so, we wouldn’t see them in the market of the video games. Who will play games which are not worth playing? But the reality is opposite. Many companies developed this kind of games and earned a lot of money from them. The reality seems weird in facade: many people pay for free-to-play games. Why do many players pay money or spend more time in these games? What’s their motivation?

When I see the word “motivation”, I come up with another one, desire. People are driven by some kind of desire. So there must be something appealing in these free-to-play games. In order to find these appealing features, I think I should see what’s in the accounts first. In free-to-play games, each account represents a virtual avatar. Some items such as cards and golds in Hearthstone belongs to these avatar. The status of a personal account is determined by the personal skills, the amount of money paid, and time spent on games. Many people think they will enjoy these games if their accounts can have better statuses, in other words, be stronger avatars. So they continue to search for some methods to make these avatars better. That’s a common idea. A good avatar can bring satisfaction. Avatars could be a better representation of these players themselves. Here I want to quote something from another article, “Studying the Digital Self” to make further discussions.

In “Studying the Digital Self”, the key term “digital self” is very important. Actually, I think it’s the key to answer why people want to pay for these free-to-play games. “The self becomes a commodity to be packaged and brokered on media sites such as YouTube and on product-related sites” (Smith and Watson par. 7), and I think similar things happened in free-to-play games. Many people tend to think their accounts are very important and tried to make them better. Their accounts became their personal brands. If people can be masters in a game, no matter how they approach this level, they may be tagged by others with something like “having prowess in games”. I think no one doesn’t like the praise when others see the record in a game and say “wow, cool”. So one reason why many people want to pay for free-to-play games is clear now: people wants to be praised or at least complimented by others for their prowess in games, especially when they play a popular game. Free-to-play games make many people feel comfortable and satisfied when they think they can do better in games than others.

Another reason is also relevant to “Studying the Digital Self” and its key term “digital self”. I think people don’t only feel satisfied when they compare their avatars with others, but they also feel satisfied when they compare the avatars with themselves. In “Studying the Digital Self”, I found a sentence: “however malleable and interchangeable identities are online, they are qualified offline by the complexity of embodied social identities” (Smith and Watson par. 8). Indeed, no matter how a person wants to manipulate “digital self”, the “digital self” can still be a reflection of his or her social identities. People cannot avoid expressing their social identities even when they use their avatars. In free-to-play games, the situation is pretty similar. For instance, in many games, the masters will be professional players. Their skills reflect their identities in the society—professional players. “Identity ‘play’ cannot erase the intersecting, historically specific aspects of offline social identities” (Smith and Watson par. 8). It seems that according to these claims in “Studying the Digital Self”, the “digital selves” match social identities or classes of these players because the inevitable intersection between them. But I don’t want to interpret these claims in that way. Actually, I deem these claims in “Studying the Digital Self” as an explanation of the other reason why people pay for free-to-play games: the mismatch between status of avatars in games and social identities in the real world.

Indeed, “digital self” can be a reflection of social identities. So it seems that there’s a contradiction between what I said and claims in “Studying the Digital Self”. But that’s not what I mean. Just like what I said, these claims in “Studying the Digital Self” is an explanation of my argument. Now I want to make analysis about that.

In many free-to-play games, more money or time is the key to get a stronger avatar. People who pay much money or spend more time can have better statuses in these games, that’s what I described in the previous paragraphs. If evaluate the cost of these free-to-play games, I should say whether they are much or not depends on the criterion of the evaluation. For games, the cost is pretty high. Many people pay more money than “pay-to-play” games like Grand Theft Auto 5 in free-to-play games. And some others spend much time in finishing a lot of tasks with rewards. But when I replace the criterion by something in the real world, the costs become pretty low. Comparing with the cost to be at a higher social class in the real world, the cost to be powerful in free-to-play games is way too low. For example, if a person wants to be a successful CEO, he or she may need opportunities, money, specific social networks, diploma, knowledge, and so on. And in these free-to-play games, by paying money and “paying” time, many people have better avatars in these games with better statuses, and their “digital selves” may be at a higher “social class”. And if they think about their position in the real world, they may feel satisfied because their avatars have high classes in games (a virtual world) relative to their social classes in the real world. So now I can draw a conclusion: the most important reason why people want to pay for free-to-play games is the mismatch between the “digital self” and social identities (classes). And this phenomena reflects the social identities of many players—they are not as successful in the real world as they could be in these free-to-play games.

Work Cited:

  1. Osawa, Juro. “Tencent Earnings Rise on Games Business.” WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  2. Tweedie, Steven. “Why ‘Clash Of Clans’ Is So Incredibly Popular, According To A Guy Who Plays 16 Hours A Day.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  3. Friedman, Daniel. “Is Hearthstone Pay-to-win? We Find out.” Polygon. Vox Media Inc., 09 May 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  4. Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Apr. 2014. Web.27 Apr. 2015.
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Final Project: Graffiti

Hip- hop has been around for nearly four decades (“PBS”). It rose from the youth party scene of the South Bronx and turned to a billion dollar global sensation that combines politics, style, and technology. Hip-Hop is more than music; it is a youth movement, a culture, and a way of life. Hip-Hop is the culture and rap is a form of music that comes out of the Hip-Hop culture (Pough 3). Thinking about hip-hop as a culture, allows one to understand the key elements of hip-hop including breakdancing, the MC, the Deejay, and graffiti, which is the visual element. Also, the musical element of hip-hop is not just limited to rap music. There is rock/rap and hip-hop soul. There is also hip-hop literature and poetry. Hip-hop culture has also expanded to mainstream pop culture. Now hip-hop beats and rapping can be heard in various commercials on television.

The South Bronx has been named “the home of the hip-hop culture” (Rose 200). In the 1970s, a renewal project involved a great deal of black and Hispanic people from all different areas of New York to move to the South Bronx. Between the 1930s and 1940s, Robert Moses, a powerful city planner carried out various public work projects, including highways, parks, and housing projects that changed the way New York was shaped (Rose 200). In 1959, city, state, and federal authorities began to put into action his plan called the Cross-Bronx Expressway. The Expressway was created to link New Jersey and Long Island communities. He decided to carry out a plan that involved destroying hundreds of homes and commercial buildings. Also throughout the 1960s and 1970s, 60,000 homes were demolished (Rose 201). Robert Moses called these areas “slums”. His Title I Slum Clearance Program forced 170,000 people to move to different locations. These areas he called “slums” were populated with working and lower-middle class Jews, but also included Italians, Germans, Irish and black neighborhoods. Although the neighborhoods that were being demolished had a high number of Jewish populations, the black and Hispanic population was extremely affected. In the late 1960s and mid 1970s, the lack of residents in the South Bronx area was mortifying. Landlords began to sell their properties quickly to slumlords, which caused white tenants to move to northern sections of the Bronx and Westchester (Rose 201). Shop and business owners were afraid and sold their shops and moved to another location. City administration believed that Moses’ plan was a complete success and ignored the tragedies that occurred in these areas. The black and Hispanic residents that moved to the South Bronx were left with few resources and broken leadership. The media did not notice the effects of these devastating policies until 1977, when a power outage blacked out New York, and several stores were vandalized and robbed. The South Bronx was now a symbol of ruin and isolation. There was no life and energy in the images of black and Hispanic neighborhoods. In spite of these images of devastation and no energy, the youth of the South Bronx were finding ways to remain hopeful and build a creative place for them to be expressive and find identity. These ethnic groups made the South Bronx their home, but faced social isolation and a loss of social service organizations. Instead, they created their own networks. Jamaicans, Puerto Ricans, Northern American blacks, and other Caribbean people reshaped their community. Although city leaders and the media had shut out the South Bronx and its residents, the youth had their own message and decided to speak out.

After the destruction of their community, the youth of the South Bronx created a new identity and social status, and thus the hip-hop culture emerged. This new identity included fashion, language, street names, and creating neighborhood crews. Hip-hop’s identity is rooted in the identity of status of a local group. The postindustrial city provided the framework for the creative development of the hip-hop’s early inventors, by shaping their access to space, materials, and education (Rose 208). One of hip-hop’s key elements and technologies, I will analyze is graffiti. The advances in spray paint technology heavily supported graffiti artists’ work, and they used the subway system as their canvas. Graffiti is known as a social movement that first emerged in New York in the late 1960’s, but it wasn’t until ten years later that it began to establish complex styles and recognition (Rose 209). In addition to this it was not until the 1980s that graffiti was showcased in art galleries. Young people were key players in the graffiti movement. One of graffiti’s first modern artist’s was named Cornbread. He was a high school student from Philadelphia who would tag walls to try to get the attention of a girl (“The History of American Graffiti”). Even though the majority of graffiti artists were black and Hispanic, one of the artists responsible for inspiring the movement, Taki 183 was a young Greek boy named Demetrius, from Manhattan (Rose 210). He was working as a messenger and would write his name on the subway cars and stations. A New York Times writer published a story about the movement, and when Demetrius’ peers saw this they were inspired and developed a sense of pride in their work. They realized that their work could potentially reach and be recognized beyond their own block.

Furthermore, in the mid-1970s, the advancement and focus of graffiti had expanded. Now it did not just involve tagging, or writing the artists’ name on a wall, but included skillful techniques, styles, and formats. The purpose of these new techniques and styles were to gain individual identity and status, but to also gain more exposure. The new themes included hip- hop slang, rap lyrics, and hip- hop fashion. The artists also used various logos and images from television, comic books, and cartoons. The use of more colors and patterns were also growing. These developments in style, technique, and themes were possible through the advances in marker and spray paint technology. The advances included better spray nozzles, marking fibers, paint adhesion, and texture enhanced the range of expression in graffiti writing. Creating a piece takes an extensive amount of time, work, and risk. The artists drew out designs and patterns, an0331_WildStyled tried new spray-paints and colors before creating a piece. Gaining access to a subway car for long hours involved knowing the train schedule, and breaking into the areas where out of service trains were located. Graffiti artists walked along the board that covers the electrified rail, climbed walls, and went through holes in fences. Train murals are an important element for graffiti style. First, graffiti murals depend on the size and color for visual impact. Subway trains are so important to graffiti because the trains pass through diverse neighborhoods, which allowed communication between black and Hispanic communities throughout the five boroughs and the greater New York area (Rose 211). Second, there was a negative reputation for graffiti artists, and it was even considered criminal to buy spray paint, permanent markers, and the other supplies needed to create a piece.

In Marshall McLuhan’s, The Medium is the Message; he gives us his definition of medium. McLuhan defines a medium as any extension of some human faculty physical or psychic (26). He explains that a book is an extension of the eye, and the wheel extends our legs and feet. These mediums enable us to do more than our bodies ever could on their own. Graffiti is a great example of this definition McLuhan gives us. For example, Cornbread used graffiti and specifically spray paint to convey or get a message across to a certain girl by tagging city walls. So he used graffiti as an extension of his voice, giving him the ability to speak or be recognized by a girl, which he may not have had the courage to do on his own. Graffiti was also an extension for the youth of the South Bronx to allow communication throughout the five boroughs and the greater New York area, because their pieces were created upon several subway trains that passed throughout theses areas. This technology gave them a voice in and throughout their communities since they did not have many resources due to the destruction of their community. Graffiti also was a message itself to the city authority and administration. The youth used graffiti again as a voice to let the city administration know that they are here, and that their community is important. It was also a way to respond to the violence and crimes taking place in their community, but to also visually reflect what was going on it.

Today, many people may not think that graffiti is still around or important, but that is not the case at all. Recent research done by Joe Austin indicates that graffiti artists continue to create pieces. Joe Austin explains these artists create murals, videotape and photograph them, and share the videos and photos through graffiti fan magazines all over the world (Rose 213). Additionally, communities in New York such as Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx continue to use many graffiti artists to create logos. We also see graffiti art in music video sets, different rap artists clothing, and tee shirts. Most recently we have seen graffiti used in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Los Angeles based street artist Shepard Fairey created the iconic image of President Obama, which was seen on stickers, posters, and tee shirts. This piece became “a pop culture phenomenon and an important symbol in the political landscape of 2008 and beyond” (Arnon).

Out of the relocation of new places, and the destroying of their community, the youth of the South Bronx created their own identity and because of this we have the birth of the hip-hop culture. Out of the hip-hop culture emerged the technology and one of hip-hop’s key elements, graffiti. Although many viewed graffiti as a juvenile delinquent act, it had a message behind the pieces and murals that were created. Graffiti was a way for the youth of the South Bronx to communicate, to show their creativity and talents in such a hopeless community. This community was isolated and abandoned by the city. This community had no resources, no power and no voice, but they used this specific technology to be their voice to tell their stories and what was going on in their communities.

1) Arnon, Ben. “How the Obama “Hope” Poster Reached a Tipping Point and Became a Cultural Phenomenon: An Interview With the Artist Shepard Fairey.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

2) McLuhan, Marshall. “The Medium is the Massage”

 3) PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

4) Pough, Gwendolyn D. Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston: Northeastern UP, 2004. Print.

5)  Rose, Tricia. “All aboard the Night Train: Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York.” Signifyin(g), Sanctifyin’ & Slam Dunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture. Amherst: U of Massachusetts, 1999. N. pag. Print.

6) ‘The History of American Graffiti:’ From Subway Car to Gallery.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

image also from: ‘The History of American Graffiti:’ From Subway Car to Gallery.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

The Evolution of Video Gaming

Video Games and consoles have expanded greatly in the last few decades. They have brought e  ndless hours of entertainment to millions of people all over the world, myself included. The evolution of video gaming has changed our world in a variety of ways. No longer do people view video gaming the same way. To many people, video gaming is much more than just something done to have fun and waste some time. It is a gateway for advanced communication and technology.

I have played video games since as long as I can remember. It started when I was very young. My neighbor had the Nintendo-64 and I would go to his house almost every day and play games for hours. It was the first gaming system that I was fortunate enough to play, and it truly inspired my future connections with video gaming. It wasn’t until my parents said I was playing video games too much that my playtime decreased. However, a few years later my parents bought me the Nintendo GameCube, and this was the first time I experienced some of the changes of an upgraded video game system. The first apparent change was that I had a larger selection of games to play. It seemed like what used to be only Mario games expanded to a much larger variety. Some of my favorite games were Super Mario Sunshine, Pikmin and NFL Blitz; all were much different but equally fun. Many years later, I was lucky enough to get the Microsoft Xbox 360 for Christmas. I remember the first time I played on it. It seemed completely foreign to me, as the capabilities of the Xbox 360 were something I had never seen before. First off, the graphics were much better. Everything seemed much more life-like and this was one of the main attractions compared to older systems. One of my favorite games was Guitar Hero, which was a game where you had a fake guitar with 5 buttons on it and you could strum along to real songs. This later made me believe I was good at playing the guitar, so I purchased a real guitar awhile later and tried to play, but the hobby didn’t stick. Another great feature of the Xbox 360 was the online capability. You could connect with players all around the world to challenge and communicate with them. It was very fun because it gave you the opportunity to test your skills against the best players in the world.

Now that I have talked a bit on my experience with video games, and the evolutions that I have seen first hand, I will focus on the evolutions throughout the entire life of the video gaming industry- one of the biggest changes is the variety of games. When consoles were just being made they would simply be a single game, or only have the capability to play a few different games. In today’s world, however, there are hundreds of games on a variety of different gaming systems that we can choose from. If you do not like action games, you can play sports games. If you do not like sports games, you can play adventure games, and so on. The opportunities now seem to be endless. Another huge part of the industry’s evolution has been the changes in graphics, as discussed earlier. Video games now almost give you a feeling of real life, as if you are really there in the action. This has really expanded the user base because people feel like they’re actually a part of the game. Another way consoles have expanded is in their capabilities. Consoles can now do much more than play games. They can connect to the Internet and play movies. You can use them to watch Netflix, or even connect to your favorite social media websites. It really is mind-blowing to think about all the capabilities that some of the modern consoles have, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to expand in the future.

As people experience the changes in video gaming technology, they are changing with them. As stated earlier, one evolution of the video gaming industry is online play. This allows people from all over the world to connect and challenge each other at their favorite games. It brings in new competitive and social aspects to video gaming. You can challenge the best players in a certain game, and instantly talk to people from anywhere in the world with a headset. This is a very enjoyable aspect of video gaming in the modern age, and one of the reasons for the large increase in the number of video gamers.

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle takes an interesting viewpoint that allows us to look at the evolution of video gaming in a different way. The book explores the idea that as technology expands, there are more ways to be connected, networked and to be together. However, while video games may connect us in many ways, they may actually make us more physically alone. As discussed earlier, the new generation of gaming consoles allows for greater connection and communication through online play. We hop on our favorite video games and we’re able to talk to people all around the globe and even become friends with them. But we are not with them, and we will most likely never see them. This is a problem that affects people, mostly children and teenagers, from all around the world. People lack the desire for true friendship because they think the people they talk to online are their friends. Even though this can be true and some people do make good friends online, this is a very unhealthy concept that has adverse affects on people. It will often cause people to be unsociable in real life. It is very interesting to think about the ways that video games connect us in many ways, but make us more disconnected in other ways.

Another interesting change in video gaming is the shift to more female gamers.

Video games are often seen as being mainly used by males, whom are usually stereotyped as teenagers. This is far from the truth. It really boils down to the type of game being played; for example, you are more likely to see a male playing a first-person shooter than you are to see a female. This is because video games are marketed to their respective audiences, and there has been a recent rise in marketing to females. One game series that is marketed towards females is Sims, which is a game where people can create a home and family, and really make their own fictional world. While many games like this target a female audience, gaming on home consoles isn’t the preferred method by females. The majority of female gamers are actually playing games on their mobile devices. The marketing of games on phones is much less gender-based, which is a reason for the large number of females playing them. Another method of gaming that has appealed to females is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii can be seen as a fitness device and has a large appeal to females because it is more active. With these new marketing techniques and gaming methods, the population of female gamers has been rapidly increasing.

Besides the enjoyment that video games bring, why do we really care about how video games evolve? Well, there are many positive and negative affects that video gaming has on people, and many of these affects are due to the advances within the industry. Lets first look at some of the negatives. One of the biggest arguments against the playing of video games is the possibility of negatively affecting one’s health. This is usually only seen in people who play excessively, to the point where it keeps them from doing other activities. For example, a teenager that’s playing video games for 8 hours every day may not get the exercise that they should, or may even divert their attention from school and start to get bad grades. These are some of the reasons why people may stereotype video gamers as obese teenagers who are wasting their lives sitting on the couch all day. However, this is obviously an extreme case, and far from true for all people that play video games. Another negative is the possibility for video games to cause aggression, which is often seen when people are playing violent games. Some of the most popular games are violent, and children who play these games often display aggressive behaviors. There have been cases where kids have actually killed others because of there experiences with these games. This is why it’s very important for video game usage in children to be monitored, either by limiting the type of games played, or by limiting the time playing violent games.

While most people are able to point out some of these negative impacts, they often fail to see some of the positives of video games. One of these includes the fact that video games may improve computer literacy and coordination, which is mostly seen in children. (1) This may allow them to be able to perform computer tasks more efficiently or even enhance performance in sports. There are also video games specifically designed for educational purposes and these are great learning techniques for children.

There are many ways that video gaming has evolved since the first years that the industry was introduced. This was made possible by the great advances in technology and intellect. The evolution of video gaming has allowed for millions of people to be thoroughly entertained and there are many good and bad impacts stemming from these changes. It’s important to realize potential risks and benefits of playing video games, and to monitor the usage amongst children. Video games affect people in more ways than most people think. They evoke emotions and they change personalities, and these changes are only getting more common as technology in video games advance. I can’t wait to see what the future of this technology has in store for us, as well as how these technological advances will continue to shape human behavior.

Work Cited

1.) “The Impact of Video Games.” The Impact of Video Games. N.p., n.d.

Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <http://www.pamf.org/parenting-teens/general/media-web/videogames.html&gt;.

2.) “Female Gamers On The Rise.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 15

Apr. 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/06/video-games-girls-markets-equities-technology.html&gt;.

3.) “The Art of Video Games.” Smithsonian. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

<http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-art-of-video-

4.) Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less

from Each Other. Basic, 2011. Print.

Seeing Stars: Concussions Going out of Style

When people think of the word “technology,” the first items that come to mind are probably the cell phone, computer, or even social media. But technology can be more than tangible objects. Technology can be broken down into three words: apparatus, technique, and organization. Essentially, the word technology can represent a wide range of things, including a way of life—techniques used by a people to survive and grow their society. In this case, the term “technology,” is being used to represent an ideal or even societal norm. These norms can be beneficial or destructive, depending on the nature of the setting or the specific technology.

These ideal-type technologies can be taboo in a culture. A technology that has gone from being taboo in nature, to a topic of debate in sports circles, is concussions in sports. There is a certain technology, or way of thinking and acting, when it comes to this specific type of head injury. This way of thinking has evolved, and with it, the forms of treatment and amendments in policy surrounding concussions, especially in sports. There has been a shift, just in the past decade, in the way concussions are handled and perceived.

Concussions were once thought of as a badge of honor, a symbol of toughness. In the past, players who got their “bells rung” were expected to merely shake it off. It was almost “cool” to get a concussion when playing a sport. This is true not only with concussions, but most injuries in sports. An attitude of toughness is expected, along with the spirit of competition that comes with athletics. But a concussion is much different than a sprained ankle or jammed finger; a concussion is trauma to the brain.

A player who gets a concussion usually sustains some sort of blow to the head, resulting in temporary loss of normal brain function (AANS). The brain is bruised when it collides with the skull after the trauma occurs. In severe cases, the brain will actually swell, potentially causing serious brain damage. Wide ranges of symptoms are associated with a concussion, but the most prevalent symptom is the inability to remember what happened directly before the incident occurred. Other general symptoms include headache, vision disturbances, difficulty concentrating, nausea, confusion, and memory loss (AANS). When left undetected, concussions can result in long-term brain damage and may even prove fatal.

Receiving one concussion will likely not cause permanent damage, but athletes take a risk when they receive multiple concussions. Often times, these concussions occur before the brain has had time to heal, and this has resulted in drastic policy changes concerning diagnosis and treatment in sports.

Concussions are prevalent in all sports, surprisingly, and not just in football. Below, the numbers indicate the amount of sports concussions taking place per 100,000 athletic exposures, regardless of the amount of time played (Head Case):

  • Football: 64-76.8
  • Boys Ice Hockey: 54
  • Girls Soccer: 33
  • Boys Lacrosse: 40-46.6
  • Girls Lacrosse: 31-35
  • Boys Soccer: 19-19.2
  • Boys Wrestling: 22-23.9
  • Girls Basketball: 18.6-21
  • Girls Softball: 16-21.2

It is not surprising which sport has the highest incidence of concussions—football—but it is interesting that concussions occur so frequently in nearly every sport. In fact, when statistics concerning the occurrences of concussions are combined from all sports in the United States, the numbers are staggering (Head Case):

  • 3,800,000 concussions were reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002.
  • 33% of all sports concussions happen at practice.
  • 39% — the amount by which cumulative concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability.
  • 47% of all reported sports concussions occur during high school football.
  • 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season.
  • 33% of high school athletes who have a sports concussion report two or more in the same year.
  • 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes.
  • 90% of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness.

When analyzing the statistics, it appears that the rate of incidence for concussions has drastically increased over the years. But what is actually happening is that concussions are now being diagnosed, rather than ignored. Concussions are currently the hot-topic in sports, and athletic training staffs are now more thorough in assessing injuries of the head.

It has not been all forward progress in concussion awareness. In fact, for an extended period of time, the National Football League (NFL) hindered efforts to change the perceptions surrounding concussions. Shifts in perception have been due to a variety of factors, all of which come down to discoveries from research. Frontline completed a report on the NFL and concussion research. In the article, Frontline includes a timeline with side-by-side comparisons between research discoveries on concussions, versus actions that were taken by the NFL in response to those research findings.

It is rather disturbing, the great divide between the clear proof presented by the research teams, and how the NFL chooses to respond. Football is a lucrative profession, and the NFL’s best interests do not primarily revolve around player health, but player performance and revenue. The NFL was, and is still, mainly concerned with making the most money possible from players before each succumbs to injury.

The NFL, according to Frontline, misinforms their own players, forming their own committee to do so. This committee was designed to “investigate” the reports of concussions in the NFL and in the sport of football in general. This committee is a sham, according to many players, and is only in place to withhold data and spread misinformation. In doing so, the NFL profits from glorifying violence, at the cost of the players participating. Many of these players end up paying with their lives, with severe and continual head traumas leading to depression, dementia, and suicide.

Not only does the NFL deny that concussions result in increased risk of further brain damage, but the committee also encourages junior and senior high organizations to put aside the research being reported. The NFL is not only playing with the brains of professional adults, but is also putting thousands of growing brains at risk.

It wasn’t until December, 2009 that the NFL finally publically acknowledges the long-term effects of concussions. This was after nearly 20 years of denying constant scientific reports that documented the immediate and long-term effects of concussions in football. It is hard to believe that the NFL faced minimal consequences, only required to pay $765 million dollars in damages (Frontline). In return, the NFL did not have to accept any responsibility. To this day, there is no admission of guilt by the NFL, nor admission that any symptoms presented during or after a career were caused by football.

The extensive research that has been completed disrupts the social relationships between the athlete and the athletic organization. Before in-depth analysis of the consequences of concussions, there was a hierarchy in place in the world of professional athletics. Specifically, the NFL commission provided the football entertainment people demanded, using talented football players to do so. The players were expected to follow the direction of the commission, as the commissioner is in charge of the rules and regulations in the NFL. This can be seen as an authoritarian approach to sports.

The switch in the artifact politics surrounding concussions occurs after the NFL/player lawsuit. The NFL transitioned from an authoritative to a servant role. The commission, in the players’ minds, should serve the players and have the health of the players as the top priority.

Luckily, the sport seems to be heading in the right direction, even with the tampering done by the NFL. There have been sweeping rule changes instituted in college and professional football. In the NFL, kickoffs were brought out by five yards in order to decrease the number of high impact collisions. One has to think, though, that the NFL is making changes only for their own self-interest. The healthier a player, the longer a player will stay in the NFL and make the league more money. It is hard to believe the league actually cares for the players more than their own wallets. If it were not for the push of the media, and a few brave scientists, there would not have been a shift in the way society has started looking at head injuries. For one, society is now looking at concussions as a serious problem in sports. There is still a lot of work and amendments to make in the rulebooks, but it is a start.

While the NFL has made some strides in head injury prevention, other sports, like boxing, still lack proper policy. The irony, and a catch-22 of the modern approach to head-injury, is that although concussions are now going out of style, head-protective equipment is following suit. There is another social stigma about using head protection and other devices that are specifically designed for the safety of its wearer. A good example of this is wearing a helmet when riding a bike or any other recreational activity on a set of wheels. It is strange that people are mocked for wearing a helmet when riding a bike, when it could save a life. Why would someone not want to wear a helmet? The answer always seems to be leaning toward the side of social pressures and not looking “nerdy”.

This is the reason boxing remains a sport lacking a concussion policy. To enforce rules surrounding head injury would completely alter the sport. And then there are pitchers in baseball. Some are beginning to wear head protection, but most choose not to because the headgear are often cumbersome.

This also begs the question, where is the line going to be drawn? At what point is the integrity of the game compromised? And, are the people who are making these decisions swayed by profit, or acting out of true concern for the players?

At some point, the risks have to be accepted by all those involved. Injury is a risk we all face in everyday living, and playing a sport only increases that risk, no matter the sport. People enjoy playing and watching sports for the competitive atmosphere. Society is not going to eliminate high-risk sports entirely, and so, to a point, consequences must be understood and accepted. But a big part of this, is assuring that all parties involved are properly educated, in order to make informed decisions. This is the biggest advantage that comes with the transformation in the technology of concussion, because people are now finally knocking out the “normal” societal views of concussions.

Works Cited:

Ezell, Lauren. “Timeline: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.” Frontline. PBS, 1 Jan. 2015.

Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

<http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/league-of-denial/timeline-the-nfls-concussion-crisis/&gt;.

Head Case. HeadCaseCompany, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

<http://www.headcasecompany.com/concussion_info/stats_on_concussions_sports&gt;.

“Patient Information.” American Association of Neurological Surgeons. 1 Jan. 2015.

Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

<http://www.aans.org/patient information/conditions and treatments/concussion.aspx>.

Winner, Langdon. Do Artifacts Have Politics? 1986.

Neuroprosthetics

The growth in any technology will oftentimes positively affect the development of any other technology. The advancement of research towards neuroprosthetics is constantly expanding; therefore, other fields of science and neuroprosthetictechnology are developing because of this. Neuroprosthetics are a valuable technology and have the potential to affect many people’s lives as long as efforts continue in an attempt to improve it. This pertains to people in need of neuroprosthetics along with people who would benefit from other similar technologies. For this reason, there is a critical need for more research to be done in order to perfect neuroprosthetics.

Neuroprosthetics are a type of brain computer interface (BCI). A BCI requires a different brain output than that used to complete regular motor activities. This device focuses on the user’s intent in using brain activity in order to create a new form of communication (Moran et al.). This includes a communication between the brain and a prosthetic. The concept is simple; those who either lost their limbs or are no longer able to use them will be connected to a prosthetic (an artificial body part) that they can control with their mind to complete the tasks the person wants done. Currently, nearly all of the neuroprosthetics that are being researched are for arms because if this area of the body is negatively affected, it plays a more detrimental role in someone’s life. With this technology, losing the ability to use a typical human arm wouldn’t mean never being able to use an arm ever again. Neuroprosthetics give people the ability to yet again complete daily activities more easily such as picking up and putting down objects, along with driving. At the state in which the research is at, neuroprosthetics can be used to catch and throw a ball with high accuracy. However, the fingers cannot move one at a time and cannot move very quickly as a whole. Seeing that neuroprosthetics can give people the ability to go from a non-functioning arm to a highly technological functioning arm, they can aid in the betterment of many people’s lives. Neuroprosthetics are growing more popular and because of this, it is more realistic that it will become a commonplace technology.

Although mind control has been a fictional concept throughout history, the neuroprosthetic actually uses neural control to make the prosthetic complete the desired actions (Leuthardt). Signals from the brain travel through the nervous system and end up at the neuroprosthetic, causing it to move. Once the person thinks of how they want the arm to move, the brain sends a signal to the rest of the nervous system. The nervous system consists of neurons, which relay messages to one another throughout the body through chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters (Boeree). At the end of the cycle of neurons, the signal is sent through the skin to something outside of the body. This is where electrodes come in. Electrodes (connected to the neuroprosthetic) are threaded through the nerves in the stump and are stimulated in order to allow the prosthetic to receive the signal from the brain (Kwok). This gives the person the ability to cause activity within the prosthetic.

According to Marshall McLuhan, the medium in which something (or someone) is portrayed gives a greater message than the information within the medium itself (McLuhan 8). Whenever someone has a physical problem, it causes people to stare and oftentimes judge about his or her life. For example, seeing someone in public with a missing limb draws peoples’ attention towards that person and will sometimes make them feel sorry for the person because they seem to have a harder time in accomplishing daily activities. No matter the person’s personality, culture, or ideas, they are automatically viewed as “socially different” and put into a category of people with a similar appearance. People will be quicker to accept the message portrayed by others’ looks (a missing limb for example) than someone’s feelings about the situation. The neuroprosthetic can make others view them as more relatable, as they will be more likely to do everyday activities easier. Even though neuroprosthetics are out of the norm and people with them will still be labeled as “different,” the growth of this technology may bring about a growth in accepting people’s physical, emotional, and social differences.

Along with possibly changing the way society views them, people with neuroprosthetics will have their lives changed by being able to complete tasks they couldn’t before. As mentioned, neuroprosthetics will give people the ability to complete simple daily activities like taking a drink of water or catching a ball. Whether someone has a paralyzed part of their body, an amputated limb, or just have a hard time using their limbs, this technology can help them complete the tasks that have become difficult for them. This technology can also be used for people who have had strokes, but since the nerve pathways in stroke victim’s brains have been severed, the brain itself instead of the nerves within a limb must be activated (Kwok). This means the researchers have to mimic the signals within the limb or make the brain learn all new signals about what stimulation causes what reaction in the body. This shows that more research needs to be done because there are some people who would benefit from neuroprosthetics, but the technology has not yet been created to help them.

There are other reasons more research needs to be done; neuroprosthetics are imperfect in many ways. The reaction time of performing certain activities when using this technology is much less than when using a typical human arm. Neuroprosthetics lack the complexity of fully functioning limbs, like being able to type on a computer. Another complaint is that there is a lack of sensation to those using the prosthetic limb (when something touches it, the person has no way of knowing that it happened or what the object is unless they see it happen). These people do not have an accurate sense of differences in pressure, texture, or temperature (Kwok). This can cause difficulties because the person might not know how hard to hold an object to make sure they don’t damage it (they might break it if they hold it too tight or drop it if they don’t hold it tight enough). Research is, however, currently being done in order to make the prosthetics more high-tech and allow people to know more about what type of object they are holding or touching. Another difficulty with neuroprosthetics is that, like any other necessary technology, they might be too expensive for many people to be able to buy. This means that even if the technology is available, people who are in need of it will not be able to get ahold of it. Also, as this technology becomes more popular, the demand might be greater than the supply. This means that unless there are more people working in the field to create them, people who need them and are able to pay for them still might not be able to get them. Neuroprosthetics are still at an early age of development, meaning if someone were to invest in one now, there may be a breakthrough soon that would allow the neuroprosthetic to have more features and be more complex. Currently, the only people who are using neuroprosthetics are those who are participating in research (no one uses it on a daily basis yet due to the list of imperfections). There is a hope that with more research in how the brain and technology used to make neuroprosthetics work, neuroprosthetics can become more common and available to people. Once it comes to the point in time when neuroprosthetics will be used by the common member of society, these people will have to spend a lot of time and energy to get used to it and learn how to use it.

This shows that there is a potentially extremely beneficial future when it comes to neuroprosthetics, even though there is room for improvement. As mentioned, there is a lot of research that needs to be done to find out how to receive more complicated signals from the brain and relay them to the neuroprosthetics (which could cause someone to move their fingers, or have quicker reflexes). When advances are done in neuroprosthetics, this opens the door for growth in development of other scientific and technological aspects. For example, if messages can be sent from the brain to a neuron to an electrode to the neuroprosthetic, brain messages can possibly be sent to the outside world in other ways. People are able to concentrate and use their minds to move objects like neuroprosthetic hands that are not near them (and are even multiple states away from them). This means that a person doesn’t have to be directly connected to something in order to move it, which is already an advance in technology in the right direction. This concept opens up the question of mind reading. Even though mind reading is possibly a socially unethical idea, there are many benefits that could come out of it. There are people in the world with conditions in which they are unable to easily communicate with others. Being able to send thoughts to others can be extremely beneficial for some people. Another possible future concept is mind control. Even though this is also debatably unethical, if a person can mentally control a prosthetic arm, there might be a way for people to mentally control other objects in the world that they are not connected to in any way.

Neuroprosthetics could not have been created without the use of a multitude of subjects including biology, neuroscience, and engineering. This shows that people from many fields of study have to come together in order to accurately put together a technology with the greatest level of function. This collaboration and large amount of work sets an example for how research should be done in the future: by working together and sharing ideas in order to put something together that could help the greater good.

Currently, neuroprosthetics are still in an early age of development. The research being done includes testing out the technology to see what is still imperfect and what needs improvement. There is a dire need for this research to continue, because any breakthrough could positively affect the lives of thousands of people in the world. Whether or not a person is in need of a neuroprosthetic, this technology may benefit them in the long run (neuroprosthetic research may lead to research and development of other technologies). The future of neuroprosthetics holds an endless amount of potential development and improvement in the scientific society.

 

  1. Boeree, George. “Neurotransmitters.” General Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
  2. Kwok, Roberta. “Neuroprosthetics: Once More, with Feeling.”Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 8 May 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
  3. Leuthardt, Eric C., Jarod L. Roland, and Wilson Z. Ray. “Neuroprosthetics.” The Scientist. N.p., 1 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
  4. McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore.The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera, CA: Gingki, 2001. Print.
  5. Moran, Daniel, Jeffrey Ojemann, and Gerwin G. Schalk. “The Emerging World of Motor Neuroprosthetics: A Neurosurgical Perspective.” Neurosurgery 59.1 (2006): 1-14. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

A Reflection on the Pros and Cons of Technology (Bonus Blog)

If there is one thing which can be said on the past 200 years of human existence, it is that we have progressed farther than any other time in our entire history. We have climbed mountains, performed miracles, and done incredible things that before would have seemed simply like magic. In my short lifetime alone, the internet has developed, smart phones have revolutionized our way of life, and every aspect of our day to day existence has come to be influenced in some way or another by technology. This all seem incredible, and indeed it truly is incredible, however each new discovery and revolution brings with it consequences and adverse effects as well. For instance, although technology has made our lives easier in ways we previously could have never imagined, we have been forced often times to sacrifice our own freedom and privacy on its behalf. Life is more complicated than ever before, and for better or for worse it will only continue this way for years to come.

Some of the greatest aspects of modern technology have been in healthcare, personal technology, and manufacturing technology. Jobs which would have previously taken up to 20 people to perform now take less than 5. Communications which might have taken weeks just 100 years ago now happen in the blink of an eye, and sicknesses which previously crippled maimed and killed countless millions of people are now cured in a matter of days with a simple pill. People from 100 years ago would have no idea how to operate in our modern era, and likewise we would have no idea how to survive 100 years ago.

All this is indeed incredible, but as has been said by countless amounts of people, often one may ask whether all this progress truly is for the better. Obviously, it can hardly be argued that advances in medical technology and increases in convenience are themselves negative aspects. However, our entire way of life has been turned on its head in the evolutionary blink of an eye, and many wonder whether we as human animals are properly equipped to handle it. We were raised to be hunter gatherers, as many know, eating what we could find and living in groups no larger than 50 to 100 people. However, in our modern era we have social networks in the thousands. Friends, family, and acquaintances all become blurred into one enormous social bubble. Our working life too has changed dramatically. The idea of the 9-5 job feels normal to us, but evolutionary this is one of the strangest ideas to ever emerge out of human society.

I really enjoyed this class because it allowed us to evaluate all aspects of technology in out modern society. We did not endlessly praise it, however we did to preach that technology is an ultimate evil either. instead, what I think this class allowed us to do was evaluate the effects of technology from all relevant angles, in a way which promoted the exchange of new ideas from one person to another. I think that it’s important for us to take this way of thinking into all different aspects of our daily lives, and that we can become better people as a result of it.

Strategies for Interviews Regarding Medical Artifact Politic

Like I’ve touched on in my previous posts regarding modern medicine and the technologies with which it associates, there is no person the in the United States or the world who is not affected by healthcare. While the forms and quality in which it is delivered can constantly vary, the bottom line holds that all people need and are affected by healthcare. In the United States especially, this has become one of the largest and most toxic issues in the political scene, most notably with the introduction of “Obamacare.” While it claims to, and often does, help to insure countless thousands of previosuly uninsured Americans, there can be no denying that the plan itself remains flawed to a relatively high extent. Because of its far reaching consequences, to properly gauge the national stance on our healthcare system I think it would be important to interview a wide variety of people.

The first group I would speak with, and in my opinion some of the most knowledgeable people on that subject, would doctors. Physicians work metaphorically on the “Front Lines” of American healthcare. They are the ones who watch it operate on a daily basis, and are the ones at the end of the day whose work is most directly affected by it. It would be important to gather their perspective to gain a somewhat “inside scoop” on what the effects of this system really are.

The next group I would speak with would be those people who compromise “lower class” America. Many of these people in all likelihood would never have been insured prior to the introduction of Obamacare, and so are in this sense its target audience. Given access finally to health insurance, I would be curious to know just how their lives have been affected by the introduction  of this new and monumental program, and just what the pros and cons of it really are. Surely, if the group which this program is designed to help the most feels that it is really of no help at all, then the program in its entirety needs to be reevaluated.

Next would be the middle class. These are Americans who very likely already have insurance through their employers, and if not simply don’t purchase insurance because they believe they don’t need it. Obamacare requires all Americans to be insured, and those who are not are subject to a fine. In this sense, many people are annoyed by it and feel that their lives would actually be better off without it. While it is obviously a necessity to have access to healthcare, I think many people would argue that there are better ways to  go about it then to force them against their will to take part in it.

Finally I would speak to upper class America. This is the group I believe is most often opposed to the new healthcare system, and are those who I often see as being most vocally opposed to it. In all fairness, It think it would be important to gather their thoughts on the matter, in an opportunity to speak their side’s opinion on this matter.