Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Video Games: Virtual Playground vs. Danger Zone

So, I just got done watching a video presented by Governor Spitzer of New York about Video Game violence and children. I didn't even get a quarter of the way through with out getting upset with the content of this video.

You can find this video here.

It starts off with having a, I dunno, 8 or 9 year old boy explaining his "favorite" video game. He states some things about how he shoots someone, then pours gasoline on another person and lights them on fire, and even cutting off someones head with a machete. My first question is, what is the rating on the game, because it is apparent to me that this kid is WAY to young to play this game. Then I begin to think, where are the parents of this child? Are they not even involved in what he plays? If they aren't involved in the video games he plays, what aspects of his life are they involved with?

Next we have New York Governor Eliot Spitzer stating the following:

"How is it that it's against the law for a child to walk into a 7-11 and buy a Playboy, yet everyday, children walk into Video Game stores and buy video games that contain far more disturbing images of sex and violence?"

This seems ludicrous to me. Not only ludicrous, but false. I have personally experienced in different retail stores, (including GameStop.), where I had my age verified. So to say, "... Everyday, children walk into Video Game stores and buy video games that contain far more disturbing images of sex and violence..." is just simply not true. GameStop even has signs posted that they follow ESRB ratings accordingly and will not sell to people who aren't of age for a particular rating. Which means if you are not 17 or older, you can't buy games that contain content such as shooting people, pouring gasoline on people and lighting them on fire, or cutting heads off, or just Rated M.

Now it isn't always true that retailers do age verification, but I can list a few major retailers that do, such as: WalMart, Target, GameStop (EB Games), and Best Buy are just a few retailers that I have had personal experience with Age Verification. Although, I'm sure Best Buy has let me slip by without checking my age, as well as WalMart, (But it helps to have a beard that covers most of your face.). So what does that say about violent video games? Nothing. The fact of the matter is, is it is up to the person at the cash register to do their job properly. I know for a fact that in WalMart, and Best Buy, that when they ring up an M rated game, the register tells the cashier to verify age. So who is at fault here?

Now here is the kicker of the video. A HUGE fallacy that really agitates me, considering it seems like they are just producing slander when it comes to video games. That would be in this video they stated that Cho Seung-Hui, the man behind the Virgina Tech massacre, "... Often played the violent first-person shooter counter strike..."
That is absolutely a fallacy. They found no proof of Counter Strike even existing on his PC, or in his belongings, the only game they found was Sonic the Hedgehog. So what is the relevance? None. That's what.

Then they go on to talk about a non-commercial game called V-Tech Rampage. Apparently it was mad in Cho's "honor." Which I would also say is a false statement. I think it was made by someone who has bad taste, and is probably a very disturbed person.

Following after the V-Tech Rampage, they start talking about the ESRB ratings and then list off some statistics such as "78% of boys say they own an M-Rated game," and "45% of kids purchase M-Rated games without a parent." What I would like to know, is what the age range was, how many people were in the survey. Also, define boy for me? You could call me a boy, and I'm 22.

The risks stated in this video are also quite vague, such as the one about increased aggression when playing violent video games. You can be playing a game of any nature, violent or not, and still get a rise of aggression due to frustration. The problem lies with what happens to that aggression when the game is over. Now to correlate the frustration of not doing well with a video game to actual physical violence against people is a bit ludicrous. If I'm getting owned at Halo 3 while playing capture the flag on Narrows, I'm not going to put down my controller to punch my girlfriend in the face. Violent Video games do not make violence. They may portray violence, but it doesn't cause it. I would like to think higher of people than that.

Do single player games make people anti-social? That seems a bit silly. I look at single player games as something to do when I have nothing better to do, or I just want to play the game. It's not that I am socially isolating myself. Especially with online multiplayer games. Wouldn't that be form of association with other people? Networking?

Does playing violent video games really desensitize people from real life violence? Let me re-phrase that: When children play violent video games does it desensitize them from real life violence? I think this really comes down to parenting. If the parent is involved, and lets them know what's right, and what's wrong, then maybe these "large" number of children will know better. Of course, people seem to beg to differ because video games are interactive, and you get awarded for things that in real life would make you wind up in jail. I think kids are smarter than that, and they know right from wrong. The world was a violent place before I got here, but because I've been playing video games, violent, and non-violent in nature doesn't mean I'm going to port my aggression into actually physically hurting people.

As for "diversion from real-life responsibilities," sure. I can go with that. Sometimes I even play video games instead of doing homework, or taking out the trash, but it I think of it more as procrastination than diversion. Sounds like sophistry to me...

Addiction. Can you become addicted to video games? Maybe, but the 16 year old kid who has an "Increased Appetite" for World of Warcraft can be easily solved if his mother, instead of crying about it, would just take it away. Parents have the ability to take privileges away from their kids. Instead, it gets so bad, and then word gets out, then it turns into an "Illness." I've said it once and I'll say it again. Ludicrous.

They say "Video games weren't always violent..." To me it sounds like they are saying it started out fine, then turned into something bad. Not ALL video games are violent today, and I feel like they are trying to ward off parents from even buying children video games at all with this statement.

As they are going over the history of video games, they go from Pong, to Mortal Combat and Double Dragon, to Wolfinstein 3d, to Doom, then finally Soldier of Fortune. Where's Mario, Sonic, Final Fantasy, or any other game for that matter? I guess for this demonstration they only need to show outdated games that are at least 7 years old to make their point. They didn't even bother pointing out the other options. More sophistry maybe?

Bully is brought up as well, and they say it condones harassment. Just because the game is about being a bully, doesn't mean it's okay in real life to harass people. Oh wait, video games desensitize people to make them think it's okay to take what's in a game and try it in real life? It makes me feel like they think everyone is a robot...

What effect will playing a violent video game for more than 13 hours a week have on a child? If they are implying that it will make a child violent, I beg to differ. Although, I also don't think a child should be playing violent video games because they are probably aren't within the range of age for the rating. You know, the letter in the little box on the corner of the case that the disc comes in. Yeah, it says 17 years of age or older.

The "Inconclusive" research that states that cartoonish violence has the same short-term effects on children as more violent T-rated games. So short-term means, once they put down the game, their aggression subsides? I'm not sure what they mean by "short-term effects," but I would think that it means exactly that, short-term. Not lasting long.

In the second study, they say children who have had more exposure to violent video games have pro-violent attitudes. Could it not be true that people who have pro-violent attitudes are attracted to violent video games, and not the other way around? Maybe they were pro-violent to begin with. That makes more sense to me.

For me, playing a violent video game such as Halo 3 doesn't make me pro-violent in real life. Now I'm all about landing a good frag grenade at someones feet and shooting them in the head with a battle rifle, but I'm not going to make a pipe bomb and take it to a public place and throw it at someones feet then shoot them in the head because I did it in a game. Although, their research is "inconclusive." Maybe because their are several things that factor into violence.

Now not all of this video is bad, they do list some decent tips for parents to purchase games for their children, and to control their hobby. They also list some resources that parents can check out, but unfortunately one of them is a KNOWN hoax site (Mothers Against Video game Addiction and Violence.). It is absolutely not okay to list false resources for parents, what good does it do to try to help educate if you are directing them to a hoax?

To sum things up for you, this video wasn't well put together. They didn't know what they were talking about, it was biased, and not very educational, especially due to some of the false or incorrect information they gave out. When it comes down to children playing video games, parents need to keep a watchful eye over them if they feel their kid will be influenced in a negative way by violent media. They do have what they need, online, and offline, to determine whether or not a video game is appropriate for their child.

Video games aren't just for kids anymore. This is a common misconception with people. It's looked at like an adolescent male hobby, which isn't true at all. Video games are made for kids, teens, and adults. I think that maybe if the Video Game industry emphasized that more, and even made a little bit more effort to educate people about the rating system in place, they would have less problems with people such as Jack Thompson, or other Anti-video game crowds.

I fully support parents in protecting their children. I do not support people trampling on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression. If you don't want your kid to play it, take it away. If your child goes somewhere else to play it, take away that privilege, if your child is throwing controllers and punching holes into walls because they are getting owned, take the damn game, console, computer, internet access away. YOU HAVE THAT RIGHT. USE IT. In the end, it might be better for your child. If you feel your child can handle violent media, be sure to be part of what they are doing, let them know how you feel about it. Parents can make the rules, and I hope more parents figure that out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Playing Video Games with your Significant other.

Playing video games is a fun hobby. Gaming has many benefits, including hand-eye-coordination, concentration, and I'm sure there is more, but do these things matter if you're just having a good time? I suppose it matters when Gaming conflicts with other things like, work, school, or more specifically, your significant other.

Maybe your significant other is a casual gamer, and prefers games like Bejeweled, or other various puzzle games, or maybe they are game specific, or they just down-right don't game at all. Gaming can take up a lot of time, and that can make your significant other very unhappy.

So let me start out by stating, that I am a Gamer, and my Significant other is a Gamer. Which in its own right has benefits, but there is a problem with this. I play all games. Console games, Play Station, X-Box, whatever, as well as PC games. She plays WoW. Occasionally she might play some Mortal Kombat, or Bejeweled, but for the most part, she just plays WoW. Now don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with that, but I do play Halo 3 quite a bit, and she hates Halo 3. She hates Halo 3 so much she refers to Halo 3 as "The Dirty Mistress." I love the Halo series. I think it's awesome. It would be safe to say that the Halo franchise is my favorite, considering the hours I spend on X-Box LIVE playing Halo 3, and before it, Halo 2.

Now obviously, I don't spend all of my Free time playing Halo 3, (Considering I'm also playing Oblivion, BioShock, and Guitar Hero 2. That's right, Guitar Hero 2...), I do have to put time into my job, school, family, friends, and most importantly my girlfriend, yet I find that I don't feel like I'm putting as much time into all those things, so when possible, I try to kill two birds with one stone. Not literally, I'm saying I try to spend time with my girlfriend and play video games. It's not as easy as it sounds.

I can't make my girlfriend play Halo 3. I can't make my girlfriend even like Halo 3. Like I said, she calls it The Dirty Mistress. I have attempted to get her to play WITH me. That didn't work out either. She just doesn't like it, yet she still gets mad when I decided to play it, instead of opting for bed. (I'm a night person, and I get off at 11:30PM at the earliest from my job...)

Here is what I've done to try to make things easier:
1. I have given her specific evenings
2. I spend time with her when I get home, then after she goes to bed and I tuck her in and I play my games.
3. When she is playing WoW, I play one of my games.
4. Offer her a spot to play with me.

Considering we have totally different tastes, schedules, and ideas, it's hard on finding an appropriate time. So I've pretty much made the decision that when I get home from work, I'll play for a few hours and go to bed. I hate making a regiment to follow, but I don't have much choice in order to please my better half, my friends, my family, and myself. What's a guy to do? I just want to play my games.