25 March 2008

Video Games and the News

Video Games and the News

It seems we all need a boogie man. Back in the 70s and early 80s it seems the thing that was ruining our children's lives was Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, they had made a movie about the situation starring Tom Hanks as the unfortunate young man who thought his character was who he really is. This was a total shame really. I don't have extensive knowledge of the D&D culture, but through my travels I have met a lot of folks that are very heavily into role playing. Not one of them I can say is a delinquent in any sort of the term. Maybe a bit nerdy and hard to follow when they talk about their experiences with their role playing game of choice, but all in all, would never even hurt a fly. Not one was a Devil worshiper, not one a drug addict, and not one a drunk. In fact, the ones I have met use the game in order to escape from their particular lives for an hour or so a week. I played myself when I was in Iraq and Diego Garcia. I knew little about the games, and knew less on how to play them, but it was great to be somewhere else in my mind for a while. I honestly think it's a better choice of entertainment than turning on the boob tube and letting your mind rot.

Why was this little hobby so demonized? I don't know, but it seems the media has a way of trying to blame the ills of our youth to something besides the parents or the individual that caused whatever atrocity that has fallen that particular week. The society in the US has turned into the "not my fault" society. No one is a drunk anymore, they have a disease called alcoholism. No one is a thug anymore, they are disenfranchised youths. It seems everyone is a victim of society now these days. To be honest, I don't buy it.

I believe we are all in charge of our destiny. If you don't like what's going on around you, where you are in life, and how others see you, the only person that can change this is you. To blame others is a sign of weakness and selfishness.

Now, let's look at what's really going on in life. Historically crime is down. Especially violent crime. If you look at the hows and whys of this it seems that video games have played a large part in this. The simple fact of this is, little Johny and little Suzy are busy playing Halo instead of out on the streets trying to figure out things to do. You can't shoot someone if you have a two handed controller in your mitts, and your busy using your mind to solve complex problems while trying to play detective to figure out what is going on in the story line. Video games have come a long way from pong. School shootings are way down. School stabbings and fights have dropped even further, and the media ignores these simple facts.

But one may ask why is it every month or so there is a horrific school shooting on the news? The reason is simple, times have changed folks. You can blame CNN. News is more prolific today than it was ten to even twenty years ago. As soon as something stupid happens, and it is deemed that millions of viewers will change their channels to CNN, Fox News, or what have you, that will garner more advertising dollars, then it will be shown as soon as possible. Technology has made the world's information instantaneous. This isn't a bad thing. The news corporations have a right to do what they do. But remember, you have the right not to watch. There is no law anywhere that forces an individual to watch TV.

There's a rule in writing, that even I know. Write what you know. This I believe should be a rule in our personal life, only comment on what you know. Awhile back there was a news segment on Fox News that talked about a sex scene in a video game called Mass Effect. The first thing asked to some doctor was, "Have you even played the game?" With no surprise the lady said, "No!" as if it were the end of the world for her to play a video game. For me, she lost all credibility and became just another talking head in my opinion. She commented on something she didn't know, but worse, she tried to come across as an expert. I do remember a few years back, there was a hack for a sex scene in one of the Grand Theft Auto games. The news corporations preyed on the fact that most folks don't know what a hack is. Just so you know, a hack is a piece of code written by someone other than the individual who originally programmed the game or software to have the game or software do something it wasn't intended on doing. A virus would be considered a hack.

Now, if you are a parent, I implore you to sit down with your children while they play the games. I am pretty sure you will be entertained, have some fun, bond with your children, and may even play the games. My parents did that with me and my brothers. Even to this day my brothers go home on the weekends and play games with my parents on a Xbox 360. Even my brother's wife gets in on the action.

Here's a quote now that wasn't from me, but my grandfather who was NYPD.

"You should be happy your boys play games. It keeps them off the street."

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