Video Games and Sociological Theory
July 22, 2012
Video games have become as pervasive an aspect of our society as television, with many people spending more time playing video games than watching television. There are many perspectives with which to gauge videos games’ effect on society, from a functionalist, conflict or interactionist perspective. (Schaefer, 2011) Each of these sociological theories can provide a different view of video games, how they affect society and the subcultures that develop around them.
The functionalist perspective would emphasize the way in which the parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability. (Schaefer, 2011) A functionalist may point out the manifest functions of video games as a facilitator of social interaction among friends, or the function of educational games in younger children. The functionalist may also observe latent functions, such as improving hand-eye coordination, or even unintended ...view middle of the document...
They may also look at the communities that develop around competing game titles and franchises, such as Call of Duty and Halo and the fans of the two games interact with each other. There are also communities that grow up around competing game platforms, such as Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii and PC gamers and the debates that occur between these groups on some internet message boards. A more in-depth study may look at video games from a Marxist point of view, characterizing the games as a modern day “opiate of the masses” with multi-billion dollar corporations publishing the games to keep the proletariat occupied and oblivious to their plights. A feminist may cite the standard role of female video game characters as being the “damsel in distress” and even strong female characters usually being relegated to sex symbol status.
An interactionist would study the effect of videos games on individuals, rather than on society as a whole. (Schaefer, 2011) Some things they may study would be any influence the games have on a behavior of a person. Another interactionist aspect would be the effect on families, where, like many things, video games can bring a family together or alienate members. Online multiplayer games now can also allow people to interact with other players from all over the world, being exposed to people and aspects of culture they may never have encountered otherwise. The interactionist may also look at gaming clans, and how the interaction of members affects daily life outside of video games.
The sociological interpretations of video games are almost as numerous as the games themselves, and like many aspects of our society can be harmful or beneficial depending on how they are utilized by an individual. Despite the differences in interpretation from the different sociological theories all would agree video games have become a large part of our society and for better or worse will remain a large part for the foreseeable future.
Schaefer, R. (2011). Sociology: A brief introduction. (9 ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.