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Media perception of video games can be changed with diversity, say industry veterans

Video games have a less-than-stellar public image, earning a bad rap over the past several years and accused of being everything from an immature medium to a dangerous one, according to a panel held by industry veterans today at the 2013 Game Developers Conference.

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ian Bogost said that one way to combat the perception of video games as violent and having negative influence is to make more games that doesn't focus on killing.

"It's kind of true, most games are violent, and it's reasonable on some level to come to this conclusion," he said. "It's a sense of justification for general public that is unfamiliar with games.

"One way to combat this is we need to have a more diverse stable of games," he added. "Talking about these [violent] examples in a way that's productive is another way to help these perceptions."

Daniel Greenberg, a freelance game scriptwriter whose previous work includes Crysis and The Lord of the Rings Online, noted that game jams are a good way to expand the international portfolio of games. Game jams are low-maintenance events that don't require publishers or developers to pour thousands of dollars into production, and contribute to the indie community.

According to the panelists, another common factor is the negative perception of games is that their media coverage is largely focused on controversy. According to Greenberg, media outlets want to sensationalize things, a movement that can only be countered by action from developers and game companies.

"You can go after mainstream press proactively," added former Epic Games president Michael Capps. "They do want that positive proactive message about [companies]. But there's also a large group of people that would by and large like to catch you with your fly down more often than not."

Greenberg stated that people also believe that games have no social value, and agreed that not all do. But some titles, notably violent ones, have a cathartic effect on the player, providing an outlet for aggression and frustration.

"For gamed with social value, I think there is a tremendously unappreciated social value in games, especially violent times, and it's time the media figure it out," he said. "Since they won't figure it out on their own, it's up to developers and gamers to tell them about it. Even violent video games have tremendous, eventually positive effects including reduced stress and improved cognitive functions.

"I think we need ot take a look at what we've got and appreciate how much social value they have to begin with," he said.

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