Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Video gamers are evil
I like the TV show CSI, the original series playing in Las Vegas. But of course I also watch the spin-offs, in spite of them being less good. Yesterday I watched one episode of CSI Miami which was really horribly bad, plus being quite insulting to video gamers. I was about to tell you the story, but somebody at Salon already reported it long ago.
While the guy playing 70 hours of video games straight and dying from it actually happened in Korea, that death only got about 1 minute of the show. The rest was about the much more unlikely case of a group of students re-enacting scenes from a video game with a strong resemblance to Grand Theft Auto in real life. They even carried little counters to count their 2,000 points for shooting a real bank cashier, only intent on winning "the game", not really interested in the money they robbed. Machine pistols provided courtesy by the game companies manager, as a marketing tool.
Now I don't belong to the people who deny that video games can influence people. Positive influence of video games, for example in improving your eye-hand coordination is scientifically proven. Learning game software is a multi-million dollar business. If you believe that a medium can influence somebody to some good purpose, you need to accept that it can have a bad influence as well. Media are just blank slates, good and evil depends on the content depicted on them, not on the media itself.
I do believe that violent films and video games can change a teenagers general attitude to violence. And him watching too much porn is likely to change his attitude towards women. Nevertheless nearly everybody is able to distinguish reality from fantasy. While overexposure to violence in media might change somebodies general attitude, it is highly unlikely that he will want to re-enact Pulp Fiction or Grand Theft Auto. The very few isolated cases that can't tell reality from fiction are just as likely to jump of the roof trying to play Superman as they are to play Dirty Harry. Making violence in media illegal to save a handful of nutters wouldn't work, and would be more likely to make people unable to deal with the all too real violence in the real world.
As the Salon article said, it is kind of ironic if a TV show which is full of violence (the episode before that had somebody shot in the eye with a nail gun) preaching against the evil influence of violent video games in a case which isn't even remotely likely. It just scares parents who don't understand their teenage anyway, and makes them see dangers that don't exist. Overexposure to video games in general can have negative effects on your kids, for example in social isolation and falling grades. Them robbing banks isn't one of the dangers.