Friday, June 02, 2006

Everything old is new again

Another WSJ Online editorial today, this time on video games-

The Brain Workout

It talks about the increasingly noisy chorus of critics charge that the video-game industry--whose receipts now top the Hollywood box office--threatens to transform American kids into drooling zombies or out-and-out sociopaths. "We're trying to keep children away from R-rated violent movies that last 90 minutes," grumbles conservative media critic Brent Bozell, "but in too many basements and kids' bedrooms in America, children are role-playing murderers for hours on end, ad infinitum."

First off, wow. Video games outsell movies?

Second, We've been hearing this about video games for years. Before that it was RPGs, TV, Movies, and pool halls. I have a bigger problem with the sedentary nature of video games than anything else. Of course, when my son was younger we certainly monitored what games he was playing and for how long. That's MY job, not the government's.

Which, of course, is what this is all about. More government regulation.

Raunchy, blood-soaked video games, unleashing "a silent epidemic of media desensitization," are "stealing the innocence of our children," agrees Hillary Clinton. That's why she and fellow senators Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh have introduced legislation to regulate the video-game industry, codifying its voluntary rating system and making it a federal crime for retailers to sell or rent inappropriate games to minors.

Even IF that's true, WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS??? With games costing upwards of $50 EACH, I can't believe that the majority of parents don't know what kind of games their kids are playing.

Note to my liberal friends. While conservatives are certainly talking about this issue, once again it's the DEMOCRATS who are wanting to put limits and restrictions on what people buy. They tried it with music in the 80's and they're doing it again now.

But wait-

Most video games aren't violent or racy. A recent survey from the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank, found that more than 80% of the top-selling titles for the past five years came with the video-game industry's "Everyone" or "Teen" ratings, meaning that parents can assume reasonably inoffensive game content. About 15% of 2005's games received "Mature" or "Adults Only" ratings--surprisingly few, given that 65% of gamers are 18- to 34-year-olds.

So, it's games like Grand Theft Auto that get these people all up in arms, but they are really a minority in the realm of video games. Hmmm...again, just like the 'music problem' in the 80's.

Nonviolent games like The Sims franchise, an open-ended computer simulation of suburban life likened by visionary creator Will Wright to a "digital dollhouse," teach players bourgeois virtues. Blogger Glenn Reynolds, who devotes a chapter to gaming in his recent book on technology and society, "An Army of Davids," overheard his young daughter chatting with a friend about The Sims (a favorite among female gamers). "You have to have a job to buy food and things, and if you don't go to work, you get fired," she said matter-of-factly. "And if you spend all your money buying stuff, you have to make more." Thanks to The Sims, Mr. Reynolds says, his daughter now knows how to budget and how to read an income statement. In SimWorld, he notes, "narcissism, hedonism and impulsiveness are punished" and "traditional middle-class virtues, like thrift and planning, generally pay off."

Heh. Just....heh. ;)

(Reminder to self- go get Army of Davids)

The article goes on to point out some of the benefits of video games, much of which people have been saying for years. I like some of the new things that games are being used for too, like pain management for children undergoing surgery. How cool is that?!


Of course, when these kids grow up you get this---







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2 Comments:

At June 03, 2006 2:15 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

*rotfl* at the video. When those 'kids' grow up, indeed!

I enjoyed the article. He said a lot of those things better than I could--especially at the end, with the way that solving problems and deploying mutants was an intense problem-solving exercise. For me, that's one of the appeals of playing video games. (Well, besides the way that it also earns me my 'G' when I can brag at gaming about how I beat Final Fantasy 2 in 18 hours.)

Regarding legislation--well, actually, I do favor video game ratings. They're like movie ratings; they let you know before you spend $60 (and maybe see something you don't want to see)--or even like fanfic ratings. There are no standards for fanfic ratings; there are no standards for fanfic in general, but I still find the authors' self-imposed ratings to be a good guide to what I'm opening--I can be warned, what to skip entirely, what I might have to censor on my computer. On the other hand, I agree with you that no number of selling-to-minors restrictions will substitute for parental involvement. I liked your comparison to 80s music. We don't need ratings to regulate what we buy; only to inform us about what we are buying.

Regarding video games themselves...well, I know we play them and don't exactly consider them to be a waste of time. I have two main reasons they're fun--first because of the intellectual challenge (there's no puzzle quite like trying to get your paladin to hit the Kraken before he creams the mage...) and second because they give you an opportunity to do things you can't do. (When those things are flying, discovering Love in a post-apocalyptic world, or exploring a castle on the moon, that's a good thing. When those things are stealing cars and going on rampages...uh...I think there might be a deeper problem than the video game. I don't really have any desire to steal a car, virtual or otherwise.)

Video games were a huge part of my childhood. My brother would rent cartridges like Secret of Mana and Breath of Fire, and my mom and I would settle down with popcorn and a cat or two, and watch the progress of the game. We certainly weren't silent; we'd navigate on the maps and give an over-abundance of story advice. I liked RPGs best because of the storylines. I think I downloaded the script to Final Fantasy 2 once, and I based one of my stories off Lufia. As far as being sedentary and time-wasting, though; it kind of goes back to what we keep discussing about life in its fullness. Games can get empty when you play them for days on end. They're fun for a moment but they don't satisfy.

 
At June 03, 2006 9:17 AM, Blogger Kyrie said...

Regarding legislation--well, actually, I do favor video game ratings. They're like movie ratings; they let you know before you spend $60 (and maybe see something you don't want to see)--or even like fanfic ratings.

Video games are already rated. The question is, do we want the GOVERNMENT makeing them mandatory?

I don't think that ANY rating systems should be mandatory. Even the movies. I think in this day and age that people have easy access to content of entertainment media and a ratings system is more often than not a means to avoid having to really look at the content first.

It makes parents able to be lazy. "oh, it's rated T for teen, so it must be ok". Sorry, no. The only game Brian was not allowed to play was rated T. Not because of the blood, but because of the content. Playing demons in hell and basically being bad.

I liked your comparison to 80s music. We don't need ratings to regulate what we buy; only to inform us about what we are buying.

But see, I don't think we NEED ratings to inform us of what we are buying. We just need to take the few extra minutes to look, read, and find out about what it is we are interested in buying.

But this is a rant for another day. ;)

As far as being sedentary and time-wasting, though; it kind of goes back to what we keep discussing about life in its fullness. Games can get empty when you play them for days on end. They're fun for a moment but they don't satisfy.

Well, the sedentary thing is getting to be a HUGE )pun intended) problem in this country, because too many kids ARE spending hours every day sitting in front of the TV. As far as being satisfying? Do you remember the 'flat tires' analogy from our bible study last year? How that we can go through life not knowing how wonderful things can be because this is the best we've ever had and what we expect? The same goes here. For too many folks this IS what is satisfying, empty as it is.

 

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