Friday, November 24, 2006

The same discussion again...

Another magazine has taken up the topic of 'Killerspiele' I've wrote so much about recently. They, too, obviously lack real information - or avoid relaying all information that doesn't fit with their view of computer games.

First of all I always wonder how psychologists are so sure the games make people more violent. I would rather think that only those who feel the pull of violence will be interested in such games. And those who play them may then perform violence in real life as well ... but does that mean that they would not have done the same without the games? We've had violence among teenagers - mostly from teenage boys - before computer games. At that time violent movies (usually seen on video as that was before the DVD) were usually claimed to be the reason for such behaviour. We'll probably have even more violence in the future, but it doesn't matter whether those games are still available then. I think we'll have more violence because life gets less and less secure for teenagers these days - and as boy perform less and less good at school, they will more probably not get a good job. Actually this afternoon I saw an interview with a psychologist who said that this theory (violence in games can make people more prone to using violence in reality) was still mostly unproven. He was probably more honest than the rest, because admitting that a far-spread theory is not proven takes more courage than just saying it is.

Second, the main reason why the quota of girls leaving Gymnasium (the highest ranking form of secondary school in Germany, roughly to be compared to high school plus undergraduate courses at college) with high marks has by now topped the quota of boys does not necessarily have to be that the girls spent their time learning and the boys spent their time playing games. Is it so impossible that the girls these days (and even about 20 years ago a lot of people in Germany still argued against girls attending the Gymnasium by pointing out that they would marry anyway and that this form of education was wasted on them) just are more focused on a goal ... like for example getting a high-paid job or becoming a scientist? Girls mature fasten than boys, that's become obvious by now. They go through most phases of puberty about two years earlier than the boys - which means they will lose interest in learning for a while about two years earlier as well and be focused on learning again by the time it becomes really important. I went through that phase at around 14 for the last time … and that means I had six more years to make up for the laziness. A boy going through it at sixteen or seventeen will more likely decide to leave school - especially as he has the right to do so at sixteen in Germany. So the girl will recover, concentrate on learning again and leave school with good marks and the chance to go to university, while the boy will drop out and thereby not have a chance to make it, just because of this phase. He might play a lot of violent games at that time, he might feel like a god, but that's not so different from a girl spending her time with her friend chatting or shopping or flirting with boys during her phase. Both put their own interests before their education.

Third I was most surprised to hear that people think the main goal for the producers of violent computer games was to sell them to German teenagers. Germany is a large market for computer games, that's true, but mostly the game industry focuses on the United States and Japan, which are more important markets and don't have such a problem with violence. They even cut the games for the German market before trying to sell them, mostly as far as certain symbols (usually those connected to the NS-regime) are concerned. The same goes for violence, which is one reason why for example the 'dead' zombies in the German version of "Half Life" just sit down while they lie on the ground in the American version ... and why blood quite often is green in those games.

What most magazines seem to ignore when it comes to "how has this young man been turned into a shooter" is the fact that in Germany (where it's quite hard to buy a gun legally) most of those who've run amok have been members of associations of sport shooters. There they have learned how to handle a gun, there they've had their 'training' in the real world. While you might train your reflexes in the virtual reality, you still have to train your body in the real world as well ... just because you have played "Counter Strike" you can't necessarily handle a real gun as well. So why is it 'bad' if a boy of sixteen plays "Counter Strike", but 'good' if he becomes a member of the association of sport shooters in his hometown?

It is true that games are sold to people officially too young to play them. There are a lot of 10-year-olds who own games with an age-restriction of '16'. But that's not because of the industry, it's because the shops don't do their job at controlling the sale. In the end those who should be guarding what their children see are not the sales-people or those creating computer games, but the parents. As long as they are not ready to really listen to what their children have to say about their games, as long as they are not interested in what their children do in their spare time, as long as they only see the simple black and white-pictures of the journalists about those games, they'll never have a chance to stop their children from playing games they shouldn't play.

A child always can get games it shouldn't get, there are various ways to even get games that may not be sold in Germany at all. Most of them are illegal, but that's not something kids care about. And with every "this game is bad, I heard it in the news" the children will respect their parents' view of the game less, because they know more about the games than the journalists do, obviously.

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