Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another discussion that will end nowhere...

Yesterday - on Monday - we (that is the people in southern Germany) unfortunately had another former student returning to his school and running amok. As almost always in those cases it was a man - and he owned a computer with the game "Counter Strike" on it. This morning one of the first things I heard in the morning news on the radio was "we need a stricter policy towards computer games".

Now, this is nothing new, as I already pointed out more than once in my posts. Whenever something like this happens - or the elections come closer - politicians start such discussions about how to control 'dangerous' computer games.

Now, first I have to point out the fact that "Counter Strike" is no real game, but just as mod - a modification, that means a program that only runs with another program and changes the original program - to the game "Half Life". Now "Half Life" isn't really seen as a 'dangerous' or 'violent' game at all, but the mod is. "Counter Strike" 'simulates' a fight between terrorists and counter-terrorists. It is a multi-player-game and focuses on the players of one team to work together. To win a game against a good clan - as teams of players working together on a more or less permanent basis in all sorts of multi-player-games are called -, you have to be well trained in the game (movement, surroundings, game mechanics, shooting) and have a good strategy. If you miss the first, you'll be shot down one by one because you're not able to stop the others who do it better. If you miss the second, you may shoot down some of the others, but in the end - as a game of "Counter Strike" usually consists of a certain number of rounds - you will always lose. It's not just mindless shooting, as magazines and documentaries on TV and in other media often portrait it.

In Germany those games are often called 'Killerspiele' ('Killer Games', as I already mentioned) or 'Kriegsspiele' ('War Games'). As you can probably deduct from those names, they're seen as something evil. Now, even though a lot of people don't like to hear it, chess was the first war game, because, when you really get to the point, it is a simulation of a battle with each side having the same number of units and trying the same manoeuvres to win. Even though this usually is not the case in war, chess usually was used to train young men, who were supposed to lead armies, one day for their tasks. They could learn a lot about tactics without actually killing people. Nevertheless a lot of people allow their children to play chess.

Please don't misunderstand me, I do not see chess as a dangerous game, I simply point out that games always simulate something. Kids shouldn't play "Counter Strike" - I'd rather have a ten-year-old playing chess ... it'd be better for his concentration if nothing else. But I don't see a computer game for grown-ups or older teenagers (16 or older) as the reason why somebody goes into a school and kills his former class mates or teachers. There are other reasons, lots of them, which should be fought with all means.

In fact statistically (and that's my own little statistic here) almost any boy 16 or older who has access to a computer and the internet will have "Counter Strike" somewhere on his hard disk - and a couple of girls as well. It would be more surprising if one of those who run amok - who usually are above 16 and male - didn't own it.

I know that the discussion about computer games will now run a couple of weeks (two or three on the outmost, I should guess) and die down ... until the next election, of course. I slowly tire of this spiel. Just because most older people in Germany (older starting somewhere around 40 at the moment as far as this is concerned) don't have a connection to computer, video games or the internet, it is not necessary to always paint those things as 'evil'. They have their bad sides, as everything has, but they have a lot of good sides, too. It would be nice, if once, just once, the journalists could find the power to really bring those out as well. I've read one, just one, fair article about online games in a normal magazine (not the games magazines) and that was countered immediately in the next issue. This kind of "oh my god, we wrote something good about games, we have to correct that mistake immediately"-reaction sometimes makes me sick - even more so than that to always write bad things about computer games.

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