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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Violent video games
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Friday, February 08, 2008

Violent video games

The above photo is of young people playing
Counter-Strike in an internet cafe in
Chico, California, in 2004. I could have
taken a nearly identical photo this after-
noon in one of hundreds of "cibers" (internet
cafes) all over Buenos Aires, throughout
Argentina, and in dozens of other countries.

i know - and have known - several people, some of them close friends, one of them my son, and two of them my grandsons, who like to play "first-person shooters," video games where the person playing kills characters in the games... some of the "deaths" involve large amounts of animated gore and some do not, instead representing "death" symbolically by having the character simply "disappear"...

the argument about whether or not there is a residual psychological impact from engaging for hours at a time in simulated "death" will, of course, rage on... i, for one, can simply not understand how there cannot be at least a desensitization effect... i've seen first-hand that there are definitely behavioral spin-offs to a heavy diet of wwe, but i can't say that about video games... however, watching my two young grandsons spending uncounted hours - in fact most of the time they are not either sleeping, eating, or in school - in front of the tv watching mindless cartoons (ok, i'll admit, i DO occasionally enjoy sponge bob) or playing video games, i have to believe there's an impact there...

here's one view...

Playing video games increases aggression in some children and young adults and normalizes killing, some doctors said.

Research suggests that violent video games can make children feel different. A brain scan of a teenager who has just played what was deemed a nonviolent video game was compared to the scan of a teen who had just spent 30 minutes playing a violent game. Indiana School of Medicine researchers said highlighted areas in the brains showed increased activity in the areas involved in emotional arousal.

"Exposure to violent video games, even E rated video games, increases aggressive thoughts, increases pro-social behavior and increases general arousal," said Dr. Greg Snyder, a psychologist at Omaha's Children's Hospital.

Snyder said exposure to violence in video games can desensitize a teen to the real thing.

Research from Iowa State University, Kansas State University and the National Institutes of Health reached similar conclusions. Compared to teens who played nonviolent games, those who played violent games had a lower heart rate and lower galvanic skin response when they were exposed to videos of real violence, the studies showed.

"The more normal it is, the more likely it is they're going to activate or engage in those behaviors when provoked or even unprovoked," Snyder said.

Tyler White, 17, said he has been playing video games as long as he can remember. He and his friend, Erik Grove, 16, play a game called "Gears of War." Both boys said they enjoy shooting games.

"With a shooting game, you can't actually go out and shoot someone," White said. "The whole thing with video games is, do something you can't already do in real life, at least that's what it is to me."

After they played the game for about 20 minutes, the teens said they didn't feel more violent.

The video game industry notes that the research also finds that teenagers have similar responses to violence in movies or TV. The industry said no one can prove a definitive link between virtual violence and the real thing.

Ryan Miller, the manager of general operations for Gamers in Omaha, said video games become an easy scapegoat when children turn violent.

"Just like any new media, it gets attacked. When any new genre of music comes out, it gets attacked. TV will, of course, get attacked. I'm sure, way back when, books got attacked," Miller said.

Other research shows that antisocial behavior is not a result of the game, but rather the isolation that results when children play the games along for hours on end.

All sides of the argument agree that parental control is important, whether it's in the purchasing of games or playing them.

here's another from several years ago...
For young men, first-person shooters are the hottest computer games around. That's why the Army spent $10 million developing its own. But there's a catch. Big Brother gets to watch you play.


For anyone who hasn't seen one of these games--known as first-person shooters--here's the gist of them. You're placed in a combat zone, armed with a weapon of your choice and sent out to find and kill other players. Knife them, club them, blow them apart with a shotgun, set them afire, vaporize them with a shoulder-launched missile, drill them through the head with a sniper rifle--the choice is yours.

Depending on the game, blood will spray, mist or spout. Sometimes your kills collapse in crumpled heaps, clutching their throats and twitching convincingly. Sometimes they cry in pain with human voices. Their bodies lie there for a while, so you can feed off them if necessary, restoring your own health. Then you can grab their weapons and set off to find another victim, assuming you don't get killed first.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but among young men it's far and away the most popular genre of computer game. Some psychologists and parents worry that such games are desensitizing a large, impressionable segment of the population to violence and teaching them the wrong things. But that depends on your point of view. If, like the U.S. Army, you need people who can become unflappable killers, there's no better way of finding them.

It's why the Army has spent more than $10 million in taxpayer funds developing its very own first-person shooter, and why the Navy, the Air Force and the National Guard are following suit. For anyone who thinks kids aren't learning playing shooter games, read on.


For gamers, the attraction of online play is obvious. In the cyberworld, you're not hunting down slow computer-generated Nazis. You're matching wits with real humans (sometimes real Germans), which somehow makes a kill all the more satisfying.

Moreover, computer graphics and sound have evolved to the point that it is easy to think you're in a tangible world. Your immediate surroundings vanish. Crickets chirp, bushes rustle, bullets whiz by your head and shower you with chips of concrete. Shell casings clatter to the floor. Mortars crump in the distance, and grenades send up gouts of rock and dirt. It's a loud, bloody, violent and altogether alarming world. Yet it is oddly exhilarating.

"I have to laugh when someone says, 'Oh, the people playing these games know it's not real,' " said Dr. Peter Vorberer, a clinical psychologist and head of the University of Southern California's computer game research group. "Of course they think it's real! That's why people play them for hours and hours. They're designed to make you believe it's real. Games are probably the purest example yet of the Internet melding with reality."


Top Counter-Strike teams and top players have developed cult followings, and with that have come fame and fortune. Management teams have sprung up to develop new talent, and cash tournaments are commonplace. Clans from 50 countries attended the World Cyber Games two weekends ago in San Francisco, competing for a $25,000 top prize and lucrative corporate sponsorships.

Team 3D, arguably the best clan in the United States, boasts sponsorships from Subway, Hewlett-Packard, Nvidia (which makes graphics processors) and Sennheiser (which makes audio equipment). The world's No. 1-ranked clan, Schroet Kommando of Sweden, is sponsored by Intel and has its own clothing line. Fatal1ty, a legendary Counter-Strike gamer, also has a clothing line and a Fatal1ty-brand computer motherboard coming out.

In addition, top players make extra money by giving private lessons for anywhere from $50 to $120 an hour, schooling players on strategies, gunnery, weapons selection and squad tactics.

the notion that there's no residual impact or, at minimum, desensitization resulting from the enormous amounts of time spent in this fashion is, to me, ludicrous.

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