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Influential Female Characters: Princess Peach

peach wink

Princess Peach is yet one more character that started out as a damsel-in-distress and has evolved into something much more. It is true that Peach has spent a lot of time locked up in the evil Bowser’s castle, waiting for Mario to save her. Nowadays, Peach tends to fight and race for herself. She does it in her signature color of pink and sometimes she even uses a parasol!

original peach

Peach first appeared in 1985 in the game Super Mario Brothers. She is a princess of the Toadstool kingdom and is often kidnapped in the earlier games which, I think, has given her a bad rep in the gaming world. As I have written about before, we seem to have this unfortunate trend that if a character is not always a fighter that they are unworthy in the eyes of the gaming community, and honestly, the greater world. Even though she has been featured more recently as a playable character, Peach seems to be undervalued by players, which is a shame.

Some of my earliest gaming memories with my mom are of trying to fight my way through these old maps to save Peach. My mom, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing those games. I never minded that we had to save Peach. I was mad that the security of her kingdom seemed to be so lax that Bowser kept taking her and that the best person to save her was a plumber and his brother. However, that could have just been my young mind overthinking the games. At the end of the day, I always liked Peach.

peach sparkle 

Part of it might have been that she was a princess. Part of that was because when she first became a playable character, she was originally the only female character to play. I always play her in Mario Kart with my friends. I like it when I have a rare win and I get to wave past in a blur of pink and sparkles.

I like that Peach has been allowed to evolve. She is still a princess. She is still “girly” in her design and mannerisms. However, now she gets to race and fight for herself. Peach has even gotten to go rescue the boys in Super Princess Peach! In a great switch, it is Mario and Luigi who are kidnapped and Peach who must save them. super peach

Peach can also be played in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, Super Mario RPG, and Super Paper Mario. Peach also appears in numerous Mario-themed sports games. She is a playable character in many of the Wii games, such as Super Smash Brawl, and even has her own remote now. Yes, it is awesome and, yes, I want one despite being terrible at Wii games.

In short, Peach is a fun character to play. She has a rich history in the world of gaming. Her design has never been compromised while she has been given room to change over the years. Sometimes you just need to play a pretty princess, particularly one who can beat people up with accessories if she so chooses.

peach kiss

Always keep sparkling!

“How Much is Enough?” Science, Journalism, and the Way We Think About Video Games.

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There is a habit that has been said to cause damage to the eyes, the brain, and the general nervous system.  Experts have linked it to insanity, sterility, and premature death.  It was thought to damage people’s morals, corrupting them with its addictiveness and inciting them to infidelity and other evils.  Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe once wrote that, “this kind of stimulus, unless counterbalanced by physical exercise, not only wastes time and energies, but undermines the vigor of the nervous system.”(1)

What was this dangerous habit?  Reading novels.

It seems silly now, but in the 17 and 1800s, reading fiction was considered a dangerous vice.  These days, it’s a virtue.  We recognize the power and value of books, and do everything we can to convince our children to read.  Maybe there are books out there that aren’t enriching.  Not all books are appropriate for all people.  Maybe some contain dangerous ideas.  But not all novels are the same, and the condemnation of the entire medium is laughable.  And yet…

And yet, two hundred years later, we’re doing the same thing: condemning an entire medium as dangerous and morally corrupt.  This time, the medium is video games.

A recent Daily Mail article(2) has the Real Women of Gaming in an uproar.  The title practically screams at readers: “Don’t let children play video games for more than TWO HOURS a week or it will damage their social skills” (emphasis theirs).  Now, the Daily Mail is not exactly the first source I, personally, would go to for reputable news, but it is a mainstream media outlet with a huge readership.  If for no other reason, we should take the article seriously because it could influence the attitudes of millions and inform the ways our global culture views video games in general.

The subject of the inflammatory article is a study published in the Annals of Neurology.(3)  Only the abstract of the AoN article is available to the public, but the differences between the study itself and the way it was portrayed in the Daily Mail are apparent, even without the full text.  The abstract states: “The weekly time spent gaming was steadily associated with conduct problems, peer conflicts, and reduced prosocial abilities.”  Fernandez’s wording is a little different: “Playing video games is good for children’s brains – but only if they play no more than two hours a week.  More than this increases the likelihood the child will get into trouble at school with their teachers, fight with their friends and have reduced social abilities.”

It’s important to note that Pujol et al. only found an ‘association.’  This is what science does.  It collects evidence, looks for patterns, and notes when those patterns are similar.  What scientific studies do not do is tell us why patterns are similar, why they are associated.  Pujol et al. conducted an observational study, rather than a randomized controlled trial, so their results tell us even less.  We don’t actually know that playing video games for more than two hours per week causes disciplinary problems and reduced social abilities.  It could be that social and discipline problems cause children to play more video games.  It’s also possible that they’re both caused by the same external factor, something that the study didn’t measure.  The inference that gaming ‘increases the likelihood’ of behavior problems was Fernandez’s alone.

Conclusion-drawing is a problem endemic to scientific reporting in mainstream media outlets, made that much worse by the fact that the public do not have access to primary sources.  Scientific publications are locked behind paywalls.  Often, the only way to access them is be associated with a university or research institution with a subscription to the journal or to pay upwards or $50 per article.  This means that the only science news that many of us have access to has been filtered through media outlets that exist to sell advertisements, and therefore twist scientists’ words, making them more controversial and less truthful.  “Associate with” doesn’t sell ads.  “Increases the likelihood” can.

The significant findings in the study itself were cognitive benefits associated with video gaming.  Children who played for up to two hours had increased reaction time and neuroimaging showed that they had higher levels of neural connectivity: in non-scientific terms, their brains grew.  That ‘brain growth’ wasn’t increased for children who gamed for more than two hours per week, but harmful associations were only present in the children who gamed for 9 or more hours per week. Yet, the headline “Don’t let children play video games for more than TWO HOURS” implies something very different.  Just like the “This common household item may KILL YOUR CHILDREN…more at 11” school of local evening news, it takes advantage of parents’ fears for their children to ensnare eyeballs and increase ad revenue.  It’s not exactly what I’d call ‘ethical.’

There is another reason Fernandez’s article made me and the other RWoG admins so angry, but without access to the full article it’s hard to tell whether the fault is in the original study or simply the Daily Mail’s interpretation of it.  The problem is this: the authors of both articles seem to be drawing generalizations about the risks and benefits of all video games based on the few games that the children in the study happen to already play.

While there was no information in the abstract regarding what games they were playing, Fernandez writes, “The most popular games in the study included Super Mario Brothers, FIFA and Wii Sports.”  They are all games that rely heavily on motor skills, so it’s no wonder that the subjects showed improvement in that area.  But there are games that exercise other parts of the brain.  I’d like to see children who play sports games compared to children who play creative, sandbox games like Minecraft, or puzzle games like Portal.  Many online and multiplayer games are highly social.  The comments associating video games with ‘reduced prosocial abilities’ particularly grate me because I do the majority of my socialization through Guild Wars 2.  The cooperation, teamwork, and, yes, social aptitude that players build raiding in MMOs translate not only to the workplace but to life in general.

The video game is a blossoming medium for storytelling and creativity.  The best games, from the elegant to the complex, contribute as much to our culture as any book or film.  I’m continually astounded by the range of games available for our consumption, and by amazing new titles released every year.  And yet, much of our culture sees games as a monolith, and a dangerous one at that, rather than something to be celebrated.  Fernandez’s article simply perpetuates that kind of thinking.  It’s time we started thinking for ourselves.

 

References:

  1. Golden, Catherine J.  2003.  Images of the Woman Reader in Victoran British and American Fiction.  University Press of Florida.  Gainsville, FL.
  2. Fernandez, Colin.  9 September 2016.  “Don’t let children play video games for more than TWO HOURS a week or it will damage their social skills.” DailyMail.com.  Url: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3781728/Don-t-let-children-play-video-games-TWO-HOURS-week-damage-social-skills.html
  3. Pujol, Jesus et al.  22 August 2016.  “Video gaming in school children: How much is enough?”  Annals of Neurology.  Abstract can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27463843

This Month in Gaming History: September

This Month in Gaming History: September

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Yes, September is here. The start of my favorite time of the year. If you need something to get you more excited than the start of pumpkin flavored everything, then perhaps a look back on some games that were released in Septembers past will help.

Here is This Month in Gaming History:

Atari 2600

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On September 11, 1977 Atari released Atari 2600. It popularized the use of cartridges for storing games. Before then, the games had been stored in the machine, thus bringing some of us the fond memories we have of blowing into the game cartridges of our childhood.

Super Mario Bros

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Nintendo Entertainment System released a favorite game of my family’s. On September 13, 1985, Super Mario Bros was released. In this extremely successful game, the player controls Mario as he moves forward trying to avoid blocks and other obstacles.

Wing Commander

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Wing Commander is a PC game that was released on September 26, 1990. The player starts off by leaving a space station to fight in a war in space. The player must complete missions to win the game. Wing Commander has proven so successful that it has been remade.

Myst

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On September 24, 1993 Myst was released for Mac from Broderbund. It is a puzzle game where the players use a special book to travel to the Island of Myst. The game has multiple endings depending on the choices of the player.

Battlefield 1942

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Battlefield 1942 is a World War II first-person shooter game. It was released by Electronic Arts on September 10, 2002. This game was the beginning of a very successful franchise with multiple games and expansions.

Steam

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On September 12, 2003 a digital game software was developed that has been a huge deal for many of my gamer friends. Steam was developed by Valve Corporation. It basically provides players with a place to play and save games. Players can also use friends lists, in-voice and chat functions while playing. It has made gameplay much easier and more dependable, since you do not have to be on the same computer every time to log in and play.

Hopefully you don’t have too many blues about the end of summer. I also hope that you will have lots of fun gameplay this autumn. 

Always keep sparkling!

Hanging out with Robert Siegfried

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to share your opinions with us. We are 10421103_637886579677933_4005365856798853865_nexcited to hear from you!

Thanks, I love doing interviews. Glad you wanted me to come on.

So, what was your first experience with gaming?

My first experience with games was around 1999, I was at a friend’s house, they had an NES set up in the living room and we played Super Mario Bros. It was really fun and the next day me and my mom went to a used games store and got an NES. The first games I got were Super Mario Bros (all three), The Legend of Zelda, and Star Force.

Do you currently game?

Not very often hahaha, too busy. I always make sure to get a new Zelda game when it comes out, but aside from 3ds stuff I don’t play games very often. Fire Emblem Awakening, Bravely Default, and Super Smash Bros. 4 are what I’m playing right now.

If so, what system(s) do you prefer?

My favorite current system is definitely the 3ds. I travel quite a bit so being able to play on the go is really nice. My favorite system of all time though is definitely the Nintendo 64, so many good games.

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