The upcoming release of Sony PlayStation 4 has created plenty of buzz among video gaming enthusiasts. With the release of this latest video gaming console from Sony the company hopes to claim leadership position both in terms of technology and market share. A set of new technological frontiers are set to be breached through the launch. The console has incorporated advanced motion capture features. It also offers new real-time networking and data sharing capabilities, which is set to enhance the gaming experience. On the marketing side, Sony aims to avoid the mistakes it did with the previous version of the console, which was introduced too late into the market, when, by then, Microsoft’s Xbox had firmly established its presence.
Apart from the apparent allure of an entertainment gadget, one can look at the upcoming product launch from critical angles. The foremost is the social implication of video games in general and PlayStation in particular. It is a proven fact that teenage addiction to video games has an adverse effect on their personality development and social skills. Moreover, games that involve shooting and killing make young people insensitive to violence. It makes them prone to act out in anti-social ways that are demonstrated in the games.
Spending hours in stretch in front of the PlayStation console makes youngsters lazy and deprives them of physical activity. Modern day endemics like obesity, depression and a few psychosomatic illnesses are partly attributable to video games. The escapist fare of video games, when coupled with ever mounting academic competitive pressures, creates a recipe for burnout and psychological breakdown. In some acute cases some of them even resort to suicide out of sheer desperation. Hence, what at first begins as an avenue for relaxation and entertainment can potentially turn addictive and psychologically affective. The upcoming launch of PlayStation 4 will have to be viewed in light of this reality. It has an adversarial impact on the social capital of the country. So video games cannot merely be treated as commercial and entertainment enterprises. Their immediate and far reaching effects will have to be taken into account by policy makers, regulators and educators.
PlayStation 4 is also likely to diminish the reading and literacy skills of American youth. Several studies have shown that American students lag behind their European counterparts in reading and math skills at comparable age-groups. If curricula and standardized tests are part of the problem, culture also plays a major role. It has become a rite of passage among American youth, especially boys, to pass through a stage of video game addiction. So, PlayStation 4 is unlikely to do educators any favor. To the contrary it will add to a considerable list of distractions that compete for adolescent attention.
In sum, while admitting to the purported sophistication and technological innovation of the product, the launch of PlayStation 4 is not a merely commercial event. So the product’s introduction into the American socio-cultural milieu will have to be weighed against all its negative consequences.