Sunday, August 07, 2005

Video Games 

do not breed evil. Anyone with a healthy mind separates the real world from an imaginary one. Shooting people in a video game is akin to watching bugs bunny get smashed with an anvil. Even as the graphics get better it remains something totally different than the experience of real life. If you're a responsible parent, and you tell your child that certain things are good and certain things are bad, than they can play video games without being damaged. I play war games, and I don't want to kill anyone--well, besides maybe Osama...

Even games with no educational intent require players to learn a great deal. Games are complex, adaptive and force players to make a huge number of decisions. Gamers must construct hypotheses about the in-game world, learn its rules through trial and error, solve problems and puzzles, develop strategies and get help from other players via the internet when they get stuck. The problem-solving mechanic that underlies most games is like the 90% of an iceberg below the waterline—invisible to non-gamers. But look beneath the violent veneer of “Grand Theft Auto”, and it is really no different from a swords-and-sorcery game. Instead of stealing a crystal and delivering it to a wizard so that he can cure the princess, say, you may have to intercept a consignment of drugs and deliver it to a gang boss so he can ransom a hostage. It is the pleasure of this problem-solving, not the superficial violence which sometimes accompanies it, that can make gaming such a satisfying experience.
Spot on. That's exactly right. It's the problem solving that is the main part of games, along with, in some (like Super Mario Bros. for example) dexterity and reflex challenges.

Another UPDATE:This is really cool:
Games can be used in many other ways. Tim Rylands, a British teacher in a primary school near Bristol, recently won an award from Becta, a government education agency, for using computer games in the classroom. By projecting the fantasy world of “Myst”, a role-playing game, on to a large screen and prompting his 11-year-old pupils to write descriptions and reactions as he navigates through it, he has achieved striking improvements in their English test scores.

Another area where games are becoming more popular is in corporate training. In “Got Game”, a book published last year by Harvard Business School Press, John Beck and Mitchell Wade, two management consultants, argue that gaming provides excellent training for a career in business. Gamers, they write, are skilled at multi-tasking, good at making decisions and evaluating risks, flexible in the face of change and inclined to treat setbacks as chances to try again. Firms that understand and exploit this, they argue, can gain a competitive advantage.
I never really thought that I had gained skills from video games before. However, now that I think about it, I'm sure that it's sharpened me in ways that I wouldn't have been otherwise.

Just to add to your argument. Ever since the dawn of man, we've been pretending to kill each other if we aren't really doing it. It's in man's nature to practice and play with the art of war. Little kids will pick up a stick, point it at a friend and yell, "BANG BANG! Your're dead."

Before guns came along, they would nail two boards together and have mock sword fights. Now you have sports like Paintball, and Airsoft.

Even Chess is a war game for crying out loud.

I believe video games are just a high-tech continuation of chess, or nailing two boards together and having a sword fight.

It's good that war is such a terrible thing...lest we grow too fond of it. - Rober E. Lee
Video games influence us.

I think it is a contradiction to observe how they build problem-solving skills, but to suggest that they don't affect problem-resolution skills.

Now a game controller is obviously not a hand gun, but I think it's hard to argue that hundreds of hours playing GTA, combined with viewing scores of violent movies, combined with watching hour after hour of violence on TV, combined with seeing violent crime after violent crime on the news, etc., doesn't have some impact on us.

Not that violence should be stricken altogether from games, but it should at least comport and resonate with human actuality. I enjoy the occasional military FPS or fantasy RPG, but to me, GTA falls into a category of wholesale violence that completely disregards human actuality in a way that can warp judgement and perception.

The adage of "garbage in, garbage out" holds true in the mental realm as much as the computer realm.

Undoubtedly the media saturation that is a hallmark of our society has to have some effect on the populous, especially the easily influenced youth at which such video games are marketed. That being said, I think it is difficult and inaccurate to place the burden completely on the shoulders of video game and movie producers. There are other factors, particularly parenting, that need to be examined and should come into play before a child decides that they can obtain a handgun and assault classmates because they saw it on TV.

Games like GTA and others are obscene, to a degree, but so too is a world where electronics substitute for parenting, reading and quality time together. The combination of familial decline with a lack of responsibility and sensitivity from media outlets can be a dangerous combination indeed. When the only influence on ones "problem-resolution" skills is that of an ultraviolent simulation, there are bound to be problems. But that situation is as much about what is missing as it is about what is over represented.
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