Sunday, October 22, 2006

Are computer games evil?

My first real post is about computer games, actually. I don't know how it is in other countries, but in Germany most media - except the games magazines, of course - treat computer games like some sort of training for future mad gunmen. To me, who has been playing computer games for years (I'm 32 at the moment and have played computer games since 1993) without experiencing any urges to go out and kill people, this is always very annoying. Recently a couple of magazines ("Der Spiegel" and "P.M." among others) have put out articles about computer games running along the lines of 'games are bad for you'. They usually argue with either people getting more aggressive because of games or people ending up all alone and not caring for anything in this world because of games.

Do not misunderstand me: I don't thing 3D-shooters belong in the hands of kids. I do believe kids ought to spent a lot of time in fresh air and certainly not play games like 'Prey' or 'Quake 4'. To me it's the same as not giving horror movies to kids below a certain age. Just as a kid doesn't need to watch a movie supposed to be watched by people above 16 or 18, it doesn't need to play a game like 'F.E.A.R.' or 'Half Life 2'.

At the same time I'm old enough to still remember the way people used to talk about movies - especially horror movies - when I was a teenager. Then, before games became photorealistic, everything bad a kid did was blamed on those horror movies. You could hardly blame 'Pong' for it, after all it was just a square ball (?) and a pair of paddles moving up and down the sides of the screen. This can in no way be interpreted as picturing actual violence.

The violence has increased in the meantime, that is true. But so have hopelessness, unemployment and fear of the future. Is it so far fetched to think that those factors - and others - do have something to do with the higher rate of violence in the world?

The second big argument the magazines and TV documentaries have at the moment is the addiction to online games some people have developed. While it surely is true and sad that people spent all their life in the virtual world, it's not just games people can become addicted to.

There are people out there addicted to sports. They spent all their spare time working out and training to get better at the sport they've chosen for themselves. At the same time a bit of work-out surely is good for you.

There are even people out there addicted to work. They spent all their time working, not just because they need the money, but also because they crave working. The only time they realize their spouse has left is when they find fresh shirts missing in the cupboard. At the same time working usually is seen as something good.

So yes, there are dark sides to gaming, just as there are dark sides to everything else in life. But computer games can be something interesting and useful as well and it would be nice if the people from those magazines realized this soon. And it would be nice to find an anti-gaming article wrote by somebody who actually knows what he or she is talking about, just once. Going over the first two paragraphs and finding three or four things the writer mentions which are completely wrong - facts like the name or content of a game - simply makes it hard to take the article serious.

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