Sunday, March 9, 2008

An X Box Generation

Since the March break ends today, I thought it would be fitting to write about a topic suited for people like myself who grew up at the onset of the video game generation. I must confess this article is inspired by a part of my day battling my 6 year old in a golf game on Nintendo Wii.

I remember being 10 years old when I saw for the first time an ATARI system. It was awesome! Asteroids, tennis, tetris and pac man - what could be better than that? Hours of mindless entertainment at a simple flick of a switch. My parents couldn't afford one at the time and if we were to play we had to hang out our friends. I don't recall to many parents getting excited over the sight of these "new aged games," but I remember my uncle making an analogy about when he first saw a television. Since there were few, everyone in the neighbourhood (or in our case First Nation) came by to check it out.

Video games sure aren't what they were 25 years ago. In fact, some Provinces like Nova Scotia have considered some pretty big steps to prevent young children from being exposed to violent content. I've checked Nova Scotia's public statutes and can't seem to find legislation, but I recall a few years ago a bill being introduced which would require an age restriction on children renting video games with violent content. Like the movies for all you film fans. Good idea? Hmm. Not sure. As a parent I see value in limiting what your children see, or play with, especially when it isn't age appropriate. Researchers are quick to claim that over saturation of violent content desensitizes teenagers who commit violent crimes. I don't know, I seem to remember some U.S. Senator that said if you listen to Rap music you would end up joining a gang. Guess I just wasn't tough enough to become a gang member. I am more inclined to believe that it's just a part of growing up in a different generation.

I'll let you decide.



Charles LeBlanc said...

Come on now????

You can blog better issues than that???

lets talk about

1- Boarder and Roomers rights

2- People being arrested by the POlice on a false charge and told they have no rights to a lawyer.

3-The death of Ashley Smith

4-Who's going to be the leader of the P.C. Party?

5-Why don't we know the names of the Federal Ministers?

6-What will Saint John be in 20 years from now?

7-The difference between Shawn Graham and Frank McKenna.

8-Why is Saint John the most happiest City in Canada.

9-The way the Irving media treated you months ago.

10-What made the Natives survive during the last 200 years under a white man racist rule.

Now? I wrote this in around 5 minutes so I know you can come out with all kinds of good issues TJ!!!

If I can do it? You can do better!!!!

P.S. You didn't print my comment from last night???


mikel said...

It's great to see a blog in New Brunswick that consistently talks about policy-or in this case lack thereof.

For debate, let us get this straight-are you really comparing researched studies with 'what you heard a senator say'?

Let's make another comparison. Why is it then that your (generic 'you') children can't walk into a sex shop and buy porn? They can't even buy porn in a store. And porn is about sex, a completely natural act, while killing, well, that's another story.

So the assumption is that there is something in a movie about sex that 'we' don't want kids to see until they are a certain age. But 'we' are making a far different decision when it comes to not only SEEING violence, but pseudo-actively taking part in it (video sex would be the only comparison I can think of there, so IF some company were to set up shop in NB with video sex with kids we can assume you'd be ok with it?).

We already KNOW that virtually ALL the kids in US shooting sprees were heavy violent video game players (although that doesn't by definition mean they 'caused' them).

But here's an interesting hypothetical scenario. Would legislators be just passing the buck if a new video game came out about a violent psychopath in rural New Brunswick who was decapitating people? Yet people who are victims of violence have to see an entire generation of psycho's growing up 'pretending' to do just that.

So let me present the unmentioned legislation here, the one which polls show most people want-and that's not just to have stickers on games, but get the games out of their communities. And think about it for five seconds-and actually WATCH one of these games for five seconds. There is also a lot of research that shows that governments LIKE this stuff because it makes it far easier to train people to kill if they join the military-the hardest job for the military to do.

In the states there is growing pressure to ban, however, legislators aren't keen to do so, so the attempts so far have been deemed unconstitutional (again, their constitution forbids a fourteen year old from buying 'juggs' but not a game where he gets to act out being a homicidal lunatic?)

So for legislation there is a compromise, namely letting COMMUNITIES decide whether they want them in their communities or not-by letting them vote on it.

Most people don't even agree with jailing people with pot, yet just look at what vilification 'dealers' get in society even though there are almost no violent repercussions to pot smoking. Booze likewise is assumed to 'not be good' for youngsters. So what does it REALLY say about our society when we tell our fourteen year olds "stay away from the booze cabinet and don't talk to girls....hey, why don't you pretend to gun down pedestrians and cops and slice off people's arms with saws for awhile?" And people are surprised kids have learning disabilities?

T.J. Burke said...

You're a genius Charles. Simply a genuis! By the way, I didn't get your message from last night.

T.J. Burke said...

Mikel - Do you really need to take everything to the extreme?

Charles LeBlanc said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Spinks said...

Yeah he does T.J. Something Mike conveniently forgets is that a blog is whatever the person blogging wants to write about. As I've told mike many times if there's an issue you want blogged, start your own blog (which he did for a time and abandoned). Trying to comandeer someone else's is...ahem...poor etiquette, something which most bloggers have unfortunately come to expect from our Ontario based friend.

Speaking of which, I'm off topic. My apologies and further apologies for the ensuing diatribe which will most certianly follow from Mike.

mikel said...

What's extreme about that? Those are the exact arguments that legislators and organizations have used in the states to attempt to get bans in their communities-that's where I got them from.

The hypothetical example about the 'new' game is straight from the news, as a video game company recently pulled a game off the shelves that was specifically about a group of mercenaries 'taking over' Venezuela and graphically wiping out those 'evil protestors'.

For the comparisons with pot, thats straight from opinion polls with teenagers who CONSTANTLY decry the hypocrisy of being able to readily get ritalin yet hearing such vilification against a plant that grows naturally in the wild as well as being told they aren't 'old enough' to see an R rated movie yet can play violent video games.

For the legislative aspect, thats right out of the states or just about every european country, even aspects of Nova Scotia's law. Namely, IF the provincial government refuses to address a problem then morally it should at least let another level of government have the ability to do so. It's usually the reverse, and issues come up first at the local level but the effect is the same. In Nova Scotia until recently it was up to municipalities whether they wanted to ban sunday shopping for example.

I'd disagree with Charles, there are hundreds, even thousands of important issues but this is easily also one of them. Many COUNTRIES in europe have banned some of those games outright. Just because you don't hear about it in the media doesn't mean its not an important issue. It's sad that stuff like this only becomes news after a mass shooting.

Next to the voting blog this is easily the most pertinent post of the blog so far. This is hardly the same kind of blog as, well, ANY other blog. THis isn't just the musings of 'some guy', even some SMART guy (or some crazy guy with a camera:). This is from a person who has the ability to introduce legislation on most of the matters, and private members bills on ANY others. So the conclusion at the end isn't just "let's all agree to disagree" or "let's forget about this because we can't do anything anyway". This one is "here's a piece of legislation that COULD be introduced, and here's why I'm not doing it".

I'm assuming thats exactly the reason why all the other MLA's have not adopted blogging even though its a good way to reach people-it can also be TOO good a way to reach too many.

Rob said...

Ten years old when Atari came out? What an old man, when I was ten we got the N.E.S.

Super Mario 3 and Kid Icarus stole my childhood.

D Stewart said...

I do find it hard to believe that video games in and of themselves are the harbinger of evil some like to portray them as. Society is a whole lot more complicated than that. We have lived through Pong and Pac-man and raised our kids through Atari, Nintendo and the various Play stations with no noticeable tendencies towards violent behavior. To be honest I still play on my PS2 on a semi-regular basis. The closest I ever came to being harmed by playing video games was the Saturday afternoon (many, many years ago)I spilled a draught on the "tanks" game at the HillTop.
What I did sometimes worry about was the amount of time they spent playing video games...or in front of their computers for that matter. Not because of the violence but because of the lack of social interaction and the lack of physical activity. Frankly I think those are by far the more serious repercussions of excessive video or computer gaming/use. So, seeing as Charles Leblanc is suggesting topics heres one that is at least some what related to the question at hand. Instead of spending money on laptops for every student in school how about spending it to get them up and off their ever softer rear ends on a regular basis? I would have to think that by stimulating their bodies a little more.. (I would include Art and Music as stimulants myself)you might find they simply choose to not set in front of the computer or video screen nearly as much.

D Stewart said...

One has to admit mikel does have a uniquely grating style. Unfortunately, one that can more times than not be summed up as a few good points wrapped up in a mind numbing amount of examples, hypotheses, explanations, justifications and excuses. It ends up looking more like a philosophy based on why say in one paragraph what you can say in eight, repeat twice and finish off with at least one addendum. Frankly I am willing to bet that except for the most hardy, eyes glaze over and the message regardless of how well intentioned becomes lost long before the end is ever reached.On the positive side mikel is if nothing else consistent.

mikel said...

I don't think 'pac man' is anywhere in the same league as 'grand theft auto'. It's true that in both the same type of aggression comes out, a player gets 'anxious' when playing them, but its a far different thing when a tiny yellow circle is eating dots and ghosts than when a person is taking a chain saw and hacking into something that looks very much like a real person.

As for the aggression, many other societies have commented on how our society is a VERY violent society. For example, just take a look at parliament some day on CPAC. Those guys often behave like monkeys and Charles has even mentioned fistfights at the legislature cafeteria. And those are the elected representatives who are generally in the same class. Look at the industrial history of the country and it was VERY violent. It's true that violent crime has been dropping, but not among the youth and its been remarked in many places that violent crime among youths is much more bloodthirsty than in the past.

It was actually quite recently that 'bullying' in schools was something that was even a problem. When I was in school if you complained about a bully the first thing your dad did was teach you to fight, certainly not to complain.

It's true that nobody has ever made the link between shooting a gun on a screen and walking outside and shooting a gun, but like the above says, life is complicated-however, there are pretty clear links, the guys at Columbine were VERY heavy into video games. Like Michael Moore said though, they went bowling before they went shooting-that doesn't mean bowling causes homicidal behaviour.

That doesn't mean that games should be banned, it does mean that its an issue that should at least come up and be addressed. Again, pot smoking has virtually no violent repercussions yet that doesn't mean its simply ignored-far from it.

D Stewart said...

Bullying in school a "recent" problem? Geez mikel were you home schooled or something? You know mikel, just because something looks good in type in front of you doesn't mean it's true...or that anyone will believe it.

mikel said...

No, I wasn't home schooled, thats how I KNOW that bullying is only now seen as a problem. I didn't say it wasn't always a problem-it certainly was for the kids, I said it wasn't seen as a problem for society. There certainly wasn't any 'zero tolerance'. I saw kids get beat up while teachers stood there and watched.

If you want to criticize, try reading the comments first.

D Stewart said...

Well frankly mikel I did read your comments and I stand by my interpretation of your original statement. Perhaps you might wish to consider being less ambiguous in the future. To that end might I suggest a few more paragraphs might well have been in order. That way you could have expounded on your statements with the proper examples, anecdotal evidence and overinflated conclusions .

mikel said...

Ok, that's fair enough. When I said 'bullying was not even a problem' it was a sentence that was explained in the following sentence and following paragraph. Had you only read that sentence then it would make sense to interpret it as meaning that NOBODY thought of bullying as a problem.

For example, if a teacher saw a student being beaten up and then told them to 'toughen up', or 'its good for your character', then obviously it wasn't considered to be a problem. It was obviously a problem for the kid who got beat up, but the remedy for that was always to learn to fight back. The 'problem' wasn't the bullying, but the lack of tactics or strength.

If a kid 'lost', then it was assumed that they simply weren't smart or strong enough, but that was never as bad as 'being chicken'. If a kid ran away and told the teacher that was considered bad form, and even in those cases teachers and principals rarely took it seriously.

That has changed now thanks to changes in society. Bullying is a big issue in schools. To return to these video games though, it is only a small minority that become obsessed or whose brain may be triggered to do something violent. To compare it to the gambling issue, none of this would be a problem if it weren't for the 3% for whom it becomes a problem. It's a problem of course because people don't live in a bubble and have numerous ways of taking it out on society.

So these video games may not be a big deal for most people, but for kids, even only SOME kids, it can have VERY dire consequences. It is mostly the parents of kids who have been killed in schools who are pushing this in the states, and just because it hasn't happened in Canada certainly doesn't mean it CAN"T happen. And that's besides the point that most of this stuff is just plain nauseating, far worse than any playboy magazine that kids aren't allowed to go near.

One of the saddest things is that if you look at how it plays out in the states, typically parents OVER-inflate the effects of video games and many politicians follow suit to catch easy votes AFTER a tragedy. Again, that was partly the point of Bowling for Columbine. So IF something terrible happens at some school in NB by some kid who happens to be an addict of some violent video game then parents and politicians will be screaming bloody murder about the evil effects of these things all over the place. But just not yet.

When studies show the result of some activity is heightened aggression (thats something we KNOW to be true about video games-even ones that aren't particularly violent) then thats easily an issue that should be on the legislative radar. If for no other reason than that most other legislatures are at least looking at it as a problem, which makes NB look like a province that really doesn't give much of a rat's ass about issues that may actually affect people but that don't get much media play.

That should clear it up.

PS: be careful what you ask for:)