The Video Game Lightning Rod
New media technologies have long tapped into social hopes and anxieties, and the turmoil that follows their appearance offers a window into the social tensions of the time. Clashing sets of utopian and dystopian visions have typically resulted in an ambivalent portrayal of such technologies. Video games prove to be no exception. Through a content analysis of media frames in the USA's three leading news magazines, the reception and presentation of video-game technology was tracked over a thirty-year period, 1970-2000. The resulting patterns tell a story of vilification and partial redemption, owing to the mainstream acceptance of the medium and the aging user base. Fears of the negative effects from the new technology were hypothesized to come from a routine set of conservative worries. The results support this hypothesis. Moreover, the frames surrounding games, especially in the 1980s, reveal many of the key social tensions of the times, primarily those surrounding gender roles, the separation of age and racial groups, and the role of female parents within an increasingly technological society. The place of video games within the larger context of media history, and the social causes of the frames are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Michigan, USA
Publication date: 01 December 2003