Sample B - English 201 L2 Soma F eldmar Rated M for Mature...

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Unformatted text preview: English 201 L2 Soma F eldmar 4/10/2010 Rated M for Mature: Understanding the Benefits and Consequences of Children Playing Violent Videogames. Video games, especially those with violent content, have always been the source of controversy. With the advent of newer, more advanced gaming technology, video game worlds have become even more realistic than ever, allowing game developers to push the envelope regarding storytelling capacity and the amount of violence they put in a game. One such advancement was the advent of the first person shooter. This placed the player directly in the shoes of his avatar, and allowed him to engage in Violent acts through the eyes of his character. This progress forever changed the industry and opened up a whole new dimension in storytelling for videogames. As the first person genre gained popularity, it also gained controversy, culminating in the late 19905, following a string of school shootings that rocked the nation. Politicians and the mass media immediately began a reactionary campaign against violent video games, claiming that they were the cause for the unfortunate events that took place in those schools. While this general media panic is often seen in a very negative light, in some ways, it prompted a more sincere study of the affects violent video games have on children. The affects of the political and media turmoil still plague the industry today, and in many ways it has shaped, and helped reform the industry. Many modern games are viewed in a much more positive light than their predecessors, and the potential benefits reaped by their educational, social and ethical benefits are just now coming to light. However, it is still far too early to judge videogames based ‘ on this newly emerging research. Currently there is convincing evidence that games can in fact cause children to be more aggressive if exposed for too long. In order to properly understand videogames and how the current generation views them, one must look at the manner in which they are used, and properly weigh the prospect of increased aggression and obsession against that of social acceptance, and moral and personal growth. One of the most pervasive reasons violent video games are seen as such a corrupting influence is that of the media coverage immediately following the school shootings aforementioned. Several politicians and media Violence awareness groups took the opportunity to spread their ideology and build up trust with their constituents to combat a phenomenon, about which little was known. Karen Sternheimer, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California, writes in her article, “Do Videogames Kill?” about the creation of the “folk devil”, and how Video games were demonized by both the media and politicians. These “folk devils”, she claims, are created “in the absence of a simple explanation, the public symbolically linked these rare and complex events to the shooters’ alleged interest in video games” (Sternheimer 1). While this is a natural human response to the unknown, an attempt to make a subject tangible in order to present an issue as solvable, the idea of the “folk devil”, is far different. While a simple identity of the unknown allows one to properly study the issue and find a solution based on analysis, a “folk devil” serves no such purpose, but to distort the facts and confuse the issue. This warping of the issue helped so-called “experts” rise to notoriety by simply cementing on some benign aspect of violent Video games such as the advanced level of technology used— while at the same time ignoring the same advancements in other Violent media. According to the Entertainment Software Association (BSA), despite various claims about how easily children were corrupted when playing Violent video games, “Violent crime decreased dramatically from 1998 to 2008, while video games sales soared, more than doubling from $4.8 billion to $11.7 billion.” This further illustrates the fact that politicians and mass media networks were not interested in spreading accurate information, but rather in broadcasting stories that would sell. Sternhiemer notes that “Headlines such as ‘Virtual realities Spur School Massacres’ (Denver Post,Ju1y 27 1999), ‘Days of Doom’ (Pittsburg Post-Gazette, May 14 1999), ‘All Those Who Deny Any Linkage between Violence in Entertainment and Violence in Real Life, Think Again’(New York Times, April 26 1999)... insist that video games are the culprit” (Sternheimer 2). The language used in such articles was the greatest weapon the media wielded in their hostility tOWards videogames, and as a result, the utilization of such blunt, powerful language created the perfect environment for exaggeration, misinformation and fact muddling. It left virtually no room for proper analysis or debate, as it would have been a political nightmare for a politician or member of the media to associate themselves with a “known evil”. This disregard of other important factors in the shooters’ psyche often fell by the wayside in the majority of the articles, which were more content to focus on the subject least easy to defend. After all, it was politically advantageous to focus on the practically unknown affects of violent games, than of the failings of the school counseling services. This confusion and exaggeration has made progress very difficult in discovering the true affects of violent Video garnes. In recent years, as more studies probe the affects of Video games on children, there has still been some ambiguity as to whether games teach, or corrupt the youth. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made a joint statement with senior members and organizations of the youth health medical community at the Congressional Public Health Summit on the issue of the effect of violent media, particularly video games and children. In the statement, the AAP claims that “Television, movies, music, and interactive games are powerful learning tools and highly influential media.” While one could argue that this statement could go in either direction, it is hard to claim that such tools are without merit. The AAP intentionally takes the middle ground on such issues; skirting the raging debate taking place at this time, listing both the negatives and positives of such “influential media”. The AAP additionally states that “the conclusion of the public health community, based on 30 years of research is that viewing entertainment Violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children”. Thetone of this statement is particularly troublesome; certainly it created cause for concern amongst parents across the country. Even still, violent games had only been around for a third of the time this study had been conducted, indicating an ever still illusive issue. While desensitization to violence and increased aggression are legitimate concerns, and can affect some children; it is most likely occur in cases where parental control is lax, nonexistent, or in those that are already in a precarious mental state to begin with. When one thinks of a child in such a precarious position, they immediately think of the most infamous school shootings; Columbine. Greg Toppo, journalist for USA Today attempts to clarify some of the myths about the shooters in his 2009 article “10 years later, the real story behind Columbine”. In an effort to help shed some of the confusion surrounding this infamous shooting Toppo depicts the Columbine shooters, not as video game indoctrinated robots, but deeply disturbed individuals. Toppo draws on David Cullen’s book Colombine for greater detail into the minds of the shooters. Cullen writes that Harris had “a preposterously grand superiority complex, a revulsion for authority and an excruciating need for control”, and that conversely, Klebold “was suicidally depressed, and getting angrier all the time”, and was paranoid ( qtd. In Toppo 1). Depression, paranoia, and simple psychosis coupled with the perilous difficulty of navigating through high school present a perfect environment for such individuals to cultivate their anger, essentially building their own hell. In addition to their isolation, these feelings of superiority and hatred would obviously draw the shooters to video games- they provide the perfect environment to act out their fantasies. The effect these games had on their decision to go to school and kill their classmates, however is questionable. While it is true that they were very disturbed individuals, it makes one question whether it was the Video games that desensitized them or the constant abuse both real and perceived present in their school. After all, for a person in a precarious situation such as the shooters, it is not difficult to imagine that with such isolation and abuse, the school shooters thought about inflicting harm on other students, regardless of whether or not they played vvideo games. While increased exposure to video games, especially ones with violent content in them can cause aggression in youth, it is important to understand how this aggression is built up, and if an alternative mode of game development could be created to reduce it. One such study was conducted by Douglas and J. Ronald Gentile, titled “Violent video games as Exemplary Teachers.” The Gentiles are an assistant Professor of Psychology at the Iowa State University and a Distinguished Educational Teaching Emeritus at the University at Buffalo, respectively. In this study, the Gentiles successfully prove that: Students who play multiple violent video games should be more likely to learn aggressive cognitions than those who play fewer. [And that] students who play violent video games more frequently across time are more likely to learn aggressive cognitions and behaviors than those who play the same types of games for equivalent time, but less frequently. Gentiles 3. In order to properly assess the effect this exposure had on students, the Gentiles identified seven dimensions that are most potent in reinforcing aggression in students, laying bare the essential elements of a violent video game. The dimensions the Gentiles determined, are heavily reliant on the various techniques of repetition, practice, positive reinforcement and multiple contexts games employ to ensure players are quickly able to achieve competence (Gentiles 6-9). While such a careful implementation of cognitive techniques can certainly increase aggression through prolonged exposure, their implementation is mandatory developers who wish to create an immersive environment with comprehensive game mechanics. While the prospect of creating an immersive game is a popular one, essentially all games, violent and otherwise follow this model of practice and reinforcement of aggressive behaviors. The widespread availability and competition within the game design industry only serve to perfect this learning technique. This is especially problematic among youth society where skill in this games is rewarded socially, creating a perpetual cycle, gradually increasing in aggression in order for children to be accepted socially. While the negative effects of long term exposure to Violent video games is clear, one crucial element was lefi out: control. Using data provided by the ESA, the Gentiles posit that “although most children play video games, the average age of video gamers has steadily risen to 33, demonstrating that many children continue to play video games into adulthood” (Gentile 5). . While these are reasonable hypotheses, it assumes that children continue their gaming habits into adulthood with no deviations whatsoever. Such shifts in play time can significantly change the amount a child can ‘learn’ from a game if there is a considerable amount of external restriction placed on how often a child can play a game. The ESA reports that 94% of parents monitor their children when they play Violent video games and roughly 80% of them place time limits on the amount of time a child can play a game (1-6). This would indicate that the amount of time a child is exposed to ‘learned’ aggression is relatively minimal, and even more minimized by fact that the parent is monitoring the child’s play. However, the Gentiles state, “because the average age of gamers has risen, many parents have likely become desensitized to violent content and less likely to monitor children’s games” (5). This indicates that the presence of parents may serve less as an active monitor or ‘referee’ and more as a spectator, as an encouraging presence solidifying the lesson of aggression. To View video games, especially those with violent content, in a purely negative light is to dismiss any form of media that has conflict in it as merely having conflict for the sake of it. Conflict or violence in games, is often used to move the player through the world, or to express a certain tone or internal conflict the player’s character faces. Michael Thompson, a journalist for Arstechnica.com, interviews Peg Tyre, a former Newsweek journalist, about her recent book Trouble with Boys, in which she argues that playing video games is an excellent way for diffusing the restlessness boys feel when constrained in school. Tyre states “we might see them as doing something potentially dangerous. But actually what they’re doing is playing around withideas of courage and valor, good versus evil, and teamwork. These are ideas we want in our culture” (qtd. in Thompson 2). Video games, especially ones with violent content have evolved significantly in the past decade, constantly experimenting with new modes of storytelling, and exploration. Rarely will a game developer make a video game that features violence for the sake of it. As Tyre observes, in virtually every game, the player is placed in the role as a hero, carrying with it all the positive traits children are raised to learn. It is important to understand that when players play a game, they are not simply automata; they identify with the character on a variety of levels, and it can be a particularly important experience for a child. Drawing on what Tyre said, children who play video games with violent content are not in it for the joy of violence; violence is just a means to progress the story, teach them new skills, and give them time to identify with the character they are playing. It is exactly the same with comic books, novels, and TV shows; you will rarely see any of them without any violence or conflict, yet the heroes represented are not psychotic; they represent the forces of good, and are the pinnacles of bravery, generosity and courage. According to Thompson, Tyre suggests to “let boys be boys by simply letting them engage in the aggressive fantasies that come to them naturally” (Thompson 1). By enabling boys to freely engage in these fantasies, parents are essentially providing them a conduit to release their restlessness and anxiety. This is particularly useful, especially in school, about Thompson writes “if you’ve been around schools or youth organizations, you’ve probably seen how even playfully aggressive behavior is often demonized by both parents and other adults” (1). This illustrates the affects of the ‘zero-tolerance’ policies against violent video games, and the misinformation spread about Video games: to target any form of aggression whatsoever. If anything, it demonstrates the need for Video games as a kind of mediator for students, especially boys. The learning techniques analyzed by the Gentiles in the aforementioned study are designed to be engaging, and to demonstrate competence. This means that by actively engaging in violent video games, students? and boys specifically, are not only able to properly act out their fantasies, but can do so in a manner most conducive to focusing their energy towards school. WNideo games serve as a source of self discovery for boys. In her 2006 Newsweek article, “The Boy Crisis”, Peg Tyre explores the issue of boys falling behind in school, compared to girls. In her article, Tyre states “thirty years ago, feminists argue that classic ‘boy’ behaviors were a result of socialization, but these days, scientists believe they are an expression of male brain chemistry” (Tyre 1). This implies that male aggression comes naturally as a sort of survival instinct, so that one is not seen as weak,i and capable of taking care of themselves to a limited degree. This could account for the common perception that boys who have been overexposed to Violent media are more aggressive than those who are less exposed. While long term, uncontrolled exposure to violent media does make both sexes more aggressive, this affect would be more pronounced in boys, who are known to be more competitive. Tyre states “that’s part of the reason that Videogames have such a powerful hold on boys: the action is constant, they can calibrate just how hard the challenges will be and, when they lose, the defeat is private” (Tyre 2). Following this line of thinking, the constant action“ and calibration is biwtflf . essential for any child to W their own personal limits, and ways to surpass them. Snce the defeat is personal they have no fear of being mocked by peers, building up their confidence for even more rigorous challenges. This is particularly true of multiplayer games, where the difficulty of the challenge is constantly fluctuating depending on who a child plays against. This is instrumental in building up their self esteem, building an understanding that the possibility for success only lies in their personal skill. As found by the Gentiles, this lesson can then be transferred to other situations, and could greatly help with the social interactions of the child in the future. The social interaction of violent Videogames is also a subject that is often overlooked by the media and politicians, who instead choose to focus on the most extreme, WMF CW5. Instead, the real question is not one about the negative affects video games have on children, but how the children play the games. As discussed earlier, there is a fine line between a child playing a game and a child getting something out of it, as long as there is a certain level of parental control. The Gentiles argued that parentsJ or even older adults would be ' 10 unsuitable for that task, as they would have most likely been desensitized to the level of violence , ane of the leading 1s ues W1 1n the g e society displayed in video games long ago Eiless a child’s parents have somehow become desensitized to time as well, it) t :36 they could still be useful as monitors of both the game content and the/Itime a child puts—intm we WWW ”Y .a W ______ A,“ val/South Korea, being one of the world’s most ‘wired’ countries, is an ideal example of this lack of control, and video game addiction. South Korea is an extreme case, known worldwide for 1“. its intensively competitive gaming community, and serves as a warning to most gaming 51M (gawk/«‘26 \lowéewcs communities toJmpose‘cmrtrolS’mnnnngthe-amounLoflmmnsmembers-play. In the article “Virtually Addicted: Weaning Koreans off their wired world” Nicolai Hartvig, a journalist for CNN reports on the government crackdown on video game addiction in South Korea. Hartvig states, “internet addiction has been a South Korean headache for almost a decade where more than 90 percent of households are connected to high speed broadband, and some 25,000 PC bangs supplying extra gaming space” (Hartvig 1). The degree of video game saturation in South Korea is truly astounding, and in such an environment? it would be incredibly difficult not to be swept up into the world of obses51végafn1hgeme overarching problem with Video games in South Korea isn’t one of violence in the games themselves, it’s because access to video games is uncontrolled, allowing people to play indefinitely. It is easy to imagine that in a society as fast paced as South Korea’s, the gaming community would be equally as cut throat¢ and a key element in...
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