Mass media refers to a means of communication that is intended to reach a wide array of audiences in the general public. Newspapers, television, radio, magazines, and the internet are the most common forms of mass media. According to Bowman, mass media promotes the dissemination of information and cultural values across different geographical and social spheres, leading to the formation of social groups with shared beliefs meanings (37). In this case, even though the primary purpose of video games is to amuse, these games bring together a community of gamers who are video game enthusiasts. The ability of video games to entertain and broadcast information that brings a group of people together means that these games are a form of mass media.
Just like the other more traditional forms of mass media such as television, books, films, and radio, video games are used to disseminate information through advertisements and propaganda. To reach their primary audiences, the video games have to be widely advertised on such mainstream media as television, radio, and billboards such that the message easily reaches the public. Kurtaliaj gives the example of ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ which was advertised on buses, billboards, and television in 2010. Moreover, several high profile companies continue to use video games to advertise their products, for example, Chrysler using the Call of Duty video game to advertise the Jeep. Regarding the spread of propaganda, mass media has been known to spearhead the spread of sensationalist information meant to create a buzz in public spheres. Accordingly, Kurtaliaj writes that video games have often been used to broadcast information that is not necessarily factual, for example, ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Counter-Strike 1.6 download’ which painted the United States as the main savior of the world from terrorism. In this case, even though the United States has been at the forefront on the war on terrorism, terming the country as a world savior is somewhat exaggerated and is subject to debate.
The perception of video games as a form of mass media is further reinforced by the notion that consumers of mass media are more than just passive recipients of content. Instead, mass media consumers are active audiences who seek guidance and meaning in the content they are fed by logically analyzing the information contained in these media. In line with this line of thought, Bowman states that young scholars of video games are being prompted to break away from the notion that video game devices are just toys meant to ease boredom (39). Instead, these devices and games are seen as a means through which a person can acquire meaningful information that can help them make important life decisions. For example, according to Bowman, even though ‘NRA Gun Club,’ is a video game that involves the collection, repair, cleaning, and storage of guns as well as target practice, the simulation of gun reality in the game has the potential to repel players from owning and operating guns (37-38). In this case, the video game achieves the same purpose as a television or radio program that broadcasts graphic content with the aim of getting their audience to shy away from engaging is such activities. The bottom line here is that the same way that television, film, radio, books, and cinema, among other forms of mass media, are responsible for informing and entertaining, video games achieve the same purpose with their content.
Bowman, Nicholas David. “What are Video Games, Anyway?” International Journal of Communication 6 (2012): 5.
Kurtaliaj, Era. Are Video Games Considered Mass Media? Prezi, https://prezi.com/z9q76nhos93r/are-video-games-considered-mass-media/. Accessed 12 February 2018.