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Audience Theory

Hypodermic Needle Model

Have a look at the following link for a base understanding of the Hypodermic Needle Model:

An example in video gaming would be the violence in titles such as Call of Duty and Manhunt. These games and other games like them are said to have a negative effect on the player. The media often argues that violent games and certain levels/scenes make some players more violent.

Manhunt, a video game developed by Rockstar Studios, is an Action/Stealth with Psychological Horror elements. It was heavily featured on the news because of a murder case supposedly inspired by the game.

The media reaction to this incident created a Hypodermic Needle Theory to spread the message that this specific title is the cause of a young man who murdered another person. This was due to the murder supposedly taking place in a similar manner to ‘Manhunt’.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, had a mission called ‘No Russians’. This is an airport mission where CIA Agent Allen, under an alias called Alexei Borodin, is undercover and has to massacre civilians in an airport.

The developers argued it had a point to the story with this scenario, the message they wanted to put across was the harsh reality of War. The player character is killed at the end of the level. It had a massive effect on the public, with a large coverage on the news. For some, it was an interesting portrayal of the harsh reality of war. For others, mostly by the news media, it shows the negative effect of violence in video games.

Uses and Gratification Theory

The Uses and Gratifications theory focuses on why and how people actively seek out media products.

  • Arousal – Playing video games to stimulate emotions as a result of fast action and high quality graphics
  • Challenge – Many respondents also enjoy playing video games to push themselves to a higher level of skill or personal accomplishment. Some players have desire to solve puzzles in order to get to the next level or beat the game, this can be addicting.
  • Competition – One of the most frequently cited reasons for playing video games was to prove to other people who has the best skills and can react or think the fastest. This gratification derives its power from the reactions of others to the dominance shown by the player, establishing a relative position in the peer group’s hierarchy
  • Diversion – Video games are frequently used to avoid stress or responsibilities. Players often play video games to fill time, relax, escape from stress, or because there is nothing else to do.
  • Fantasy – Video games allow players to do things that they normally would not be able to do, such as drive race cars, fly, etc. Games have a strong appeal because of the ability to do things they can’t do in real life.
  • Social Interaction – Social interaction is the main reason many individuals get involved in playing video games. Players often have the need to keep up with games to be “cool.” Many people now use video games as a key part to how they interact with friends

Passive or Active Consumption

A passive consumption is when the audience doesn’t engage or question the games message/story but just accepts it. An active consumption is when the audience will engage and discuss what the game portrays to them and sometimes question the messages portrayed to the audience/player.

Effects Debate

Do your own research and discuss the following in your article.

  • Effects or exposure to explicit sexual or violent content
  • Effects of Advertising – Useful example: Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2
  • Health Concerns
  • Censorship Debates

At some point in your article you need to discuss the different types of responses the audience/player can have to a game.


Negotiated reading is where the reader accepts what the game is showing them but may modify it in their mind so that it reflects their own interests, position and experiences.


Preferred reading is where the player understands the message being shown by the game and agrees with it.

A oppositional response to a game is where the reader understands the games viewpoint or story that the developer is portraying but chooses to reject it and has an alternative, opposite view


Participatory is when the audience can join in and be a part of the product. This is obviously a key part of video games.

Cultural Competence

Games and other media need us to have a certain degree of cultural understanding for us to be able to interpret them. A basic level would be being able to read the language that an article is written in. a further level would be being able to understand and interpret signs and symbols.

Fan Culture

Fan culture is where an audience takes an active role in the creation of media that is based on an existing product. For gaming this is could include the massive Mod community.