Wednesday, February 06, 2013

smoke up, johnny

This is a short ramble, but I'm curious. It's been touted many a time that video games have been shown to have no effect on kids' headmeat. I'm going to play along for a bit, because I'm pretty sure that this:

actually had very little mental effect on my brain as I wasted my early-1980s youth playing quarters, Frogger, and chasing high school drawers.

What about now? Based on some minimal research on the Web, the first real first-person shooting (FPS) game that was fully functional was Wolfenstein (1992). From that point until about 2004, FPS games were almost exclusively PC or Apple OS based; in about 2004 (or so) the re-birth of the home gaming console came to pass and Halo (2004) and Call of Duty (2005) began the onslaught of FPS games. Also, remember that  in the 1990s and early 2000s the limitationson on computers in a house that Little Johnny could play shoot 'em up: Either by capability, or the fact that you weren't letting that little bastard on your $4,000 Pentium. Any studies from the past that cite the nil effect of video games on kids can be disguarded - for the simple reason that they don't take into account the FPS genre and ubiquity.

Let's do some math - if I assume that the kids we might be concerned with are those that are now 7 (like the kid so proudly describing his FPS shooter love and skills at the barbershop the other week, while his mother looked on proudly); and generally, those more likely to have been born between 1995 and 2005. All of them range in age from 7 - 18 and it's impossible to even comprehend how FPS games affect them. We can't possibly know, can we? It's all well and good to say that Missile Command, Tetris, and Galaga had no ill mental effects on me (even if they did make me delay my homework or chores), but to move that data forward and say that this current 7 - 18 crowd isn't being mangled at least a bit is crazy. The idea that kids can be the shooter, can see all the blood and gore, can have missions that never end, and the the fact that they never 'die' probably puts an illusionary tilt on their psychology. So, your kid claims they understand the difference? Are you sure? Probably. I suspect that around 2023 we'll see studies that show a massive, violent influence on the kids that grew up playing these games.

I knew the difference between reality and games when I was young. I knew I wasn't a frog. I never came upon a giant monkey rolling barrels at me. Those game weren't actual things that happen in life.

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