Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Point, Click, Boom.

Okay, so this post may be a little off-topic for this blog. Or maybe not. It's not really up to you to decide about that; and for that matter, it doesn't matter.

Video Games are Bad for Kids

You know what? This article pisses me off. By a lot.

No, it's not because I'm a moderately avid video game fan. (I say moderately because I love playing and if given an oppertunity, I will game for hours on end but I am still able to put it aside in favor of other more important things. I am also gauging myself against my brother, who is an avid fanatical gamer prone to indulging in 48 hour LAN parties.) In fact, unlike most of the female gamers that I have met, I enjoy the bloodiest, goriest, first-person-shooteriest games the most. (That is even if my favorite game is an RPG and my second favorite game is a strategy game.) Nothing pleases me more than sitting down to a nice Deathmatch and fragging bots until 3 AM. I will admit it is an addiction. I will also admit it is bad for my eyes.

But, I will not admit to the fact that it makes me more aggressive and violent.

In fact, I don't think it makes anyone more violent than they naturally would be.

But, but, but, you may be protesting, sputtering with holier-than-thou busy-bodying anticipation, I am old enough to have missed most of the goriest games during my formative years. That's utter BS and everyone knows it. First of all, just because a game doesn't have spurting gore doesn't mean it isn't violent. Let's take the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (check out Wikipedia fore more info on TMNT) game for NES (that's Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom depending on your background and/or ignorance). In this game, you play one of the original Fab Four and battle evil ninjas/mutants to...uhhh I forget to what end (I think just to defeat the Evil Shredder)...

Anyway, the point is that the name TMNT was deemed too violent in the UK and they were renamed TMHT (that "H" is for "Hero"). Not only that but those tubular Turtles fought with some pretty deadly armaments. Leonardo had twin Katana (he used a pair which is considered unorthadox), Raphael had twin Sai, Mikey had a pair of Nunchaku and Donatello had a Bo staff. All four of those weapons are very serious arms to be toting about. In the original comic series, actual violence was portrayed because of the comic's mainly adult audience. The cartoon, however, kid-ified the violence. Because the original game was based on the cartoon, the violence in the game with these very lethal weapons was turned to cartoon mischief. (I.E. When you defeated the enemies they exploded into cute little fireballs instead of squirting gore.) Couple that with the fact that plastic replicas of the Turtle's weapons were readily available at all toy stores...well...let's just say the neighborhood kids (myself included) spent a lot of innocent hours whacking away with the plastic toys pretending that when you defeated your enemies, they turned into orange fireballs and when you left the area and came back, they were resurrected and when you died, there was always a continue. It never really occurred to us that we might bleed (and therefore feel pain) when we got hit with a sword.

So what, you may be saying. TMNT taught the little brats what to do with those weapons.

Hah. I say HAH to you. You've obviously never watched small children at play. What do toddlers do when you give them a stick (after putting it in their mouth and thoroughly checking it out)? They hit things with it to see what will happen. I've observed this phenomenon with all 5 of my cousins as well as the various siblings and younger friends of any kids I ever played with. This even includes some extreme cases where the child is not allowed to watch any television or anything with commercials or violence. He still whacked his mother in the face with her keyes.

We also need to be talking about potentials in people's personalities and the reasons why these boys are playing these games. Every person on Earth has the potential for aggression. Some, for whatever reason, have greater potential. And now, in the era of zero-tolerance and other such things (which I'm not saying are bad, quite the contrary), schoolyard brawls are nearly nonexistant and even outdoor running around type playtime is severely limited. All kids have their aggression within them and need to naturally explore it. But, if we keep them inside with nothing but sitting still quiet time, then they have no physical outlet for their aggression. This is especially so once the child starts attending school full time.

Actually, that's when I started to get aggressive myself. In first grade I felt myself growing frustrated and angry with my surroundings. I had not yet begun playing video games. My brother and I began to fight, physically, in earnest. Then, suddenly, as I made more friends (who had the NES systems that I craved after playing at a friend's house the first time) and started to regularly compete in some pretty violent video games (for that time), such as Double Dragon and later on Wolfenstein and Doom, I began to feel more mellow. Sure, while I was playing I was hyper-competitive and hyper-aggressive (I was the same way in sports, fancy that...), but most of the time I was a normal, calm kid.

The moral of this long rant is that playing my Unreal Tournament calms me down and merely sates the urge to do harm that I've had my entire life (and that I view as a very human characteristic).

The only thing making me angry right now are these "Pro-Family" wingnuts who want their assault rifles within easy reach but censorship over the violent games where assault weapons are used.


Anonymous alicamel said...

There is a series on the BBC that is following a group of children from the age of birth up. The last set of programs was when they 5, and one of them looked at video games. There was one boy who played a huge amount of them, and all the shoot-em-up games that you would think were completely unsuitable. What was interesting is while he had great fun shooting all the characters in the game, when he played a two player game with an adult, he wouldn't shoot the adult's character, even if the adult shoot his character. He was completely able to tell the difference between the game and reality. (He also came top in tests designed to test logic, spatial awareness, etc.)

In my experience with young children, they all play games that look violent. The chase each other and use swords like sticks and run away from monsters or lions (other children or imaginary.) The only difference I've seen is that children who watch more violent films/tv shows (I'm thinking of one boy who has a 12-year old sister and watchs alot of Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean etc) is that their play is much more focused: 'I'm Johny Depp and I'm a pirate' or 'I'm Spiderman and you're the bad guys' etc. Yes children take ideas from tv shows/video games/etc but they can tell the difference between reality and playing games.

(Sorry this got a bit long!)

3:16 AM

Anonymous texasshiva said...

I've been playing games pretty seriously (more than 10 hours a week in lieu of TV) since I was hooked on Half-Life by the network geeks at my former job. Since that time, I got into Day of Defeat (WWI II Half-Life mod) and joined a DoD clan (was a pretty damned good sniper, too) and later got an X-Box, which saved my sanity when I was out of work.

I started late, at 30, but I swear these games, especially the "worst ones," keep my blood pressure down. I too get that adrenaline rush, and have been known to be a bit paranoid after a DoD marathon, but I find myself much more calm in the car and around other people.

As for kids, they aren't stupid. The youngest may not completely understand the concept of death, but the ones I know understand that there's no respawn IRL.

8:47 AM

Anonymous Johnicholas said...

Jon Stewart had a guest, Steven Johnson, who had written a book called "Everything Bad is Good for you".

I think it's a bad title that doesn't describe what the book is about. It praises videogames, for the unusual reason that they're making people smarter, and not just in hand-eye coordination.

9:05 AM


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