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Virtual wars and your child’s future this christmas

Here’s something to think about this Christmas, when many of your children will be begging you for the latest computer game titles such as World in Conflict or Crysis. These are a new generation of superbly realistic experiences of military conflict. In one sense they are safe, because no one is actually harmed, yet in another, they are very dangerous.

While psychologists are seemingly yet to exert enough pressure to┬áhave them banned (if they are even trying, I don’t know), many children will spend hundreds of hours participating in invasions, wars and ‘peacekeeping missions’ of all descriptions. They will put soldiers to sleep with darts then creep up on them and shoot them in the back of the head, point blank. They will learn the art of killing with cold detachment. They will learn to reason based on orders and objectives and lose a part of reality, in which all people have precious lives and violence is never the answer.

What this means, worst of all, is thay they will be converted to the idea that human nature is negative, and that we are doomed to a future of war. Our children will believe more in the power of technology and war than in their own inner power to bring about positive change, call that what you will.

America’s military has even been known to sponsor games such and use them as recruiting tools. They are not looking for patriots, they are looking for skillful killers and adrenaline junkies.

No doubt your children will be expecting one of the recently released games – that have new levels of graphical realism. Take a moment to think about the possible effects on your child, and the future repercussions for all children in the world in generations to come. And their mothers.

Choose from titles which are not based on reality. No doubt your children already demand explosive gun-weilding action in their games. Choose fantasies like Unreal Tournament 3 or Halo. Choose thrillers like Bioshock. Do not choose Crysis, World in Conflict… just read the back of the box to see who your kid will be shooting at. Makes sure they are not real, identifiable nationalities: past, present or future. For God’s sake.

If you are involved in the video games industry, please have a think about games that will be exciting and engaging enough to kids without desensitising them to war. The war stories these kids are normalising hell while we are doing our best to bring heaven to earth.

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  1. First of all, BioShock is hardly a “safe” alternative to games like Halo and Unreal Tournament, as this trailer will attest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmw78t8NgIE

    Second, let kids play whatever videogames the want, within reason of course. A game like Halo, in which the only ‘gore’ is the bright neon-blue blood of aliens, would be suitable for kids age 12 or 13 and up. Of course, games that depict extreme violence and realistic blood and gore should (and ARE) restricted to older teens. But if a child’s parents have done such a poor job raising it that it cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, that is hardly the fault of videogames or their developers. if we ban videogames because of their content, we may as well ban all objectionable books, movies, plays, and music while we’re at it, eh?

  2. The important thing to remember is that, just like in any other medium like films, books, etc., there are video games for kids, and there are video games for adults. Some games for adults should not be played by children. Halo may not be as goretastic as titles like Gears of War or Bioshock, but since it can be played online, where many of the other users tend to use hateful, demeaning speech towards one another, I’d keep it away from the tykes, too. The campaign mode, however, is certainly no worse than any PG-13 movie. I’d say it’s acceptable for those who can handle the average PG-13 film.

    There are plenty of older titles that parents and adults can turn to, such as last year’s Viva Pinata, which is a brilliant game that players of any age can enjoy. It’s truly a treat. Pokemon is always a good bet, and there’s also a new Mario title coming out in November that Wii owners can play. (And as sales show, there’s certainly a lot of Wii owners!)

    I think the best solution would be education. After all, games already sport a ratings system, much like movies. Since people don’t seem to have a problem with movies, why is there so much hoopla around games? Oh, because games are interactive. Rubbish. I’ve seen R-rated movies that are far more violent and gruesome than most M-rated games.

    Anyway, I think your message is a good one. I agree that sometimes, there seem to be far too many aggressive war games out there and not enough peaceful titles. But the truth is that, in fact, there are far more E-rated games than M-rated games on the market. It’s just that the M-rated titles get more advertising and publicity. Think of the marketing blitz that surrounded Halo 3. You won’t find the same thing happening for Viva Pinata: Party Animals this Christmas. And there lies the crux of the problem.

    Beyond suggesting games “not based in reality,” like Halo 3 and UT, why don’t we have our kids play games that aren’t violent at all? Yes, many kids can handle the virtual violence and have a good grasp on reality versus fantasy. But sometimes the alternatives are just as fun, if not more so. I myself love the occassional round of Halo 3, but I’ve found lately that I much prefer the more peaceful fare of Drawn to Life on DS, or even Dynasty Warriors, which, though it’s arguably violent, is less so than many other games. I agree that a lot of FPS and war games promote aggression. Want to argue with me? Let me ask all the Halo players something: How angry do you get when someone acts like a “n00b” or when there’s someone on the other team who just seems to keep killing you over and over and over? I think the sheer volume of swear words and hateful speech launched across the servers after every match is testament to how aggressive games in turn promote actual aggression. Is it long-term aggression? No. Will it cause someone to become a murderer? No. But it CAN put you in a pretty foul mood. I know this because I’ve seen it myself and experienced it firsthand. Not everyone gets pissed off after a round of Halo, but a great number of people do. I doubt they’d get as angry reading a book.

    Anyway, this is getting to be too long. Good blog. Hope you have a good holiday.

    :)

  3. To Reynvann-

    The issue isn’t blood and gore. The issue is making real wars mainstream popular culture. I was saying that games like Halo, Bioshock and Unreal Tournament might be a good choice, because although gory and violent, they don’t focus on an identifiable enemy, such as in games where we fight against real countries and ethnicities.

    Games are rated as to their bloodiness and content, but little or no thought seems to be given to the fact that some of the games have children fighting real nations, and others are pure fantasy. However there is a difference because in the reality simulations you shoot koreans, vietnamese, venezualans. It’s a glorification of war and death.

    When I play games I seem to feel the difference. Taking aim in a war simulation feels markedly different to taking aim in Unreal Tournament. One is play, one feels more like training.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. Hi Maximus.

    There are a lot of topics I would like to see continued. But what can we do? The makers of games like World in Flames, where Venezuela is invaded because of a “power hungry tyrant” who messes with the US oil supply (almost prophetic!), say, as if we had that power, to create war.

    But who sponsors these games? The military, in part. Do a search on military sponsorship of these games. I know it was the case with World in Flames. There’s even “America’s Army”, produced directly for the US Army.

    Anyhow, I heard all this. Not 100% sure if it’s true but I wouldn’t be surprised, the way they recruit in the US at the moment, setting up shop in poor neighborhoods and asking people how they feel holding the weapons.

    But no matter who sponsors the games, from the psychological perspective for the children who will be playing them, I hate to see other countries and ethnicities become the ass end of an innocent adrenaline high, in fiction or reality, or the bit of both were our prejudices tell us games where Koreans or Venezuelans die are OK.

    Again, just imagine a FPS on the market in America which consists of America being invaded because of any number of reasons, including monopolizing the world economy for its own good. How would that go down? Undoubtedly, the game would be seen as the first wave of a real attack, a real political message. Especially so if the game was sponsored by a foreign military.

    Alistair.