Myth vs truth on computer games

The fabulous Henry Jenkins offers a rebuttal towards 8 video game myths circulating in the media. First one being “The availability of video games has led to an epidemic of youth violence” – which he blows out of the water with his usual intelligent and factual charisma! It’s a good read, straight to the point and should be a ‘must read’ for any parent!
I am, however, quite wary that crusaders fighting against the bad image of video games never confront the addiction argument. Could it be that it’s because we know it’s a problem?
Christmas is here, which means several family get-togethers! I love these, because I always have a chance to have some great discussions with the kids in my family on gaming! I remember last Christmas, I had a conversation with a 12 year old on video game violence and the impact it has on children his age. He was quite adamant that it had absolutely no impact on him whatsoever, but he understood that it might have a bad effect on other children. After some patient digging, with lots of “Why?” and “Who exactly?” we finally came to the conclusion that he only thought this, because he had been told by media that violent computer games are bad for children. I thought it was very interesting! Can’t wait to hastle them this year!

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2 thoughts on “Myth vs truth on computer games

  1. But it’s hard to measure impact, and to be conscious about it and to admit it. If asked “are you affected by commercials”, probably nine out of ten would say no. Now if that was true, obviously we wouldn’t have such a huge advertising industry.As much as I am pro-new media (and looking forward to reading Everything Bad is Good for You which just arrived in the mail), I’m a bit sceptical about some game evangelists’ biased approach. Somehow, they always have an answer, and like regular evangelists that answer sounds very much like “halleluja”.One of the central myths referred to is that gaming leads to violence. This is easy to ridicule, cause people don’t start stabbing strangers after a game og Mario Kart, do they? However, this is not the same as to to assume games can’t affect us negatively in any way, as the gaming advocates seems to think.They already admit that there is an influence- we’re constantly told about studies that say that gaming helps coordination, creativity, our multitasking skills etc. So the question is: How come all these effects are positive – coincidence? Hmm…Of course, the industry is better off focusing on the positive (especially when there’s a paranoid conservative parent industry working to say the opposite). But if a medium can affect us positively, suerly it can affect us negatively. This goes for any medium; movies, music, or the voice of the other (be it through sound or a blogpost). No, we do not go out and slay people, but little parts deep inside our minds might have been shifted just ever so slightly this way or that way. The borders between the magic circle and the outside are not absolute in every aspect.That said, I think the gaming-violence correlation s quite minimal compared to other media. Violence originating from gaming is not a problem, not today at least. As much as the game designers try to make realistic experiences, the game worlds are still too far dedatched from the real world for us to make the proper connection. I’ve never cringed at the sight of violence in a game like I would seeing it in a real life or in a movie.

  2. You’ll enjoy Steven Johnson, although he does has a tendency to be a bit ‘evangelistic’ – but it’s a pure joy to read! And thoroughly points out that we need to start thinking differently about what media really is now. I understand your point that there’s really something missing in the whole debate. It does have a tendency to be a bit black and white, good vs evil. ‘Nerve’ has started a panel on the issue which includes Steven Johnson (author of Everything Bad is Good for You). Thought I’d blog a post on it when it was finished’, but if you’re interested: http://www.nerve.com/dispatches/voicebox/videogames/I suppose my opinion is that we need to move beyond the notion that games are ‘just’ entertainment and that the actual narrative content brainwashes us or influences us in a bad way. When we manage to do that, we can really discuss the impacts pros and cons. I’m so sick of having to be confronted with these opinions each time I mention my thesis to non-gaming family and friends (they’re such NERDS). And I find myself doing the whole ‘halleluja’ thing, myself. Urgh…I could talk about this FOREVER. But I have to mention one thing before I start. What really annoys me is that the parental generation has a tendency to argue that because games are ‘interactive’ their content becomes even more morally important and blah blah blah. My usual response to this is “So…what negative impact did it have on you when you were playing cowboys and indians with your friends?”. And while they’re busy worrying about the violence crap, their kids are spending hours a day in Habbo Hotel, which I believe can be much more damaging for a child than any violent games! But I’m neither a parent or a psychologist, so what the hell do I know? I don’t know anything really so I’m just blabbering my thoughts here!As for your whole ‘hard to measure impact’ point, OFCOURSE YOU’RE RIGHT! I just enjoy talking to these kids at social gatherings and getting their view on the subject. They’re not stupid and it’s great to hear their voice. We’re all so busy discussing what’s good for them and what’s not, we sometimes forget to ask their opinion, which I think carries some weight! As for your own gaming experience, Mr. del.icio.us and never cringing…I’d love to see you sitting there alone at you’re little corner of the institute at 2 am playing F.E.A.R.!

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