Video Games and Life
‘Video Games and Life’
By Tony DeLorger © 2010
‘When I were a lad’ I had a machine-gun made from an old tennis racket, a plastic helmet and a tattered flack shirt with epaulets. I spent most of my time in a vacant back block, doing all my maiming and killing. Back then one had to have an imagination; it wasn’t supplied as it is these days. Nothing came with batteries because we didn’t need any. Give me an old cardboard carton and I could amuse myself for hours, to my mother’s delight.
A generation later and my sons have a stocked arsenal of state of the art weaponry that could bring down a few city blocks; all available with the press of a button. Video games are more than just games to the millions of ardent gamers who spend half their life in front of a TV screen. Gaming is not only a multibillion dollar industry but a global phenomenon, having hypnotised a new generation of kids, bereft of physical exercise and intent on mastering each new example of techno-wizardry. With high definition graphics, amazing realism and compelling story-lines, these new generation games offer adventure, new skills sets and challenges that no other form of interaction can offer. In short, games are addictive, to kids right up to adults. It’s like watching tele, reading a great adventure book, rumbling with your mates and learning to use a computer all in one slick package. How could kids not love it?
The question remains, is this sedentary activity, with all its seductive powers, harming the development of our children and having any negative impact on our future society? I have no interest in gaming personally, but I do have two kids at home with flat screen TVs and gaming consoles, continually hanging for the next game release. For parents this can be of some concern. Not just the cost, each game around $120 a pop, but more importantly does this time invested in video games lesson actual engagement in life? Does the fantasy become so real that a child can lose perspective on the real world?
There has been a multitude of research done on this possibility and with some mixed results. There have been children so transfixed by certain games that they don’t eat or sleep and in the end become psychotic and physically ill. On the other hand, most kids see the exercise as purely entertainment and are not affected at all. Also censorship has become an issue, with many violent games deemed too much and unsuitable for younger children. Further, some traditionalists see these games unsuitable for anyone in the Australian marketplace. This exception seems to me hypocritical as we are bombarded with ‘R’ rated material all the time on TV; at least the games are virtual cartoons and not real, like our daily news. Surely it is up to us parents to supervise games the same way we restrict adult TV shows and internet content.
So what of the psychological ramifications of violent games like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and ‘Modern Warefare’? As has been claimed in the past, will our kids turn into psychopaths and possibly re-enact what they see on video games. It has happened, but the way I see it is that these cases are psychopaths to begin with, their eventual acting out a certainty, video games or not. So blaming the game is ill-informed. Again, it is our job as parents to oversee what is played. Even more importantly, we need to convey that games are fantasy, not real life and should be treated as they were intended- to be a fun leisure activity. Again, a balance should be struck with exercise and outside activities, time spent on playing games and making sure kids have normal sleep patterns.
We live in a different world these days, as least when compared with my childhood, and technology has in effect restructured society. But I can assure you neither of my boys wants to pick up a weapon and hurt someone. They take their frustrations out in cyberspace, creating havoc in a fantasy world, where anything goes and where acting out belongs.