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Isle Dance

This is so very, very wrong.


Sadly, this does not surprise me. In a country where we dumb down our academic requirements, remove arts from the schools, and believe that the "no child left behind" rhetoric makes sense, this is probably the best we can expect. We cannot seem to grasp that if we as adults cannot think analytically (a skill developed through learning to read classical works; writing; arts; and many of the other subject we have removed from schools) we are unable to really understand what politicians are selling--we can't grasp how the lofty ideas of a federal policy will transfer to each of us personally. If, as adults we can't do this, how can we expect our children to?

Unable to grasp the long-range implications of something such as a law or policy, I'm not surprised that we are unable to analyze the moral and social problems presented by the Dexter show, much less the concept of a Dexter video game.

Mr. Blond

I notice you have several articles by Dave Grossman on this site. Unfortunately, his assertions are fraught with flaws and misstatements.

First off, most video and computer games cannot actually teach someone how to kill. The controller and computer mouse are obviously a different shape and different weight than a real gun, and they do not simulate recoil. The method of aiming and firing is entirely different. To this end, it is extremely different for these games to actually improve marksmanship. I'm sure Mr. Grossman would not assert that if someone were to obsessively play Madden Football, they could "train" to actually throw like Tom Brady.

Also, his assertion that these games are dangerous because the military uses them to train recruits to kill is also flawed. The military is a highly controlled setting with many other psychological pressures and controls that normal civilians do not face. Taking one aspect of military life and saying it can have the same effect without the combination of all others is wildly off-base.

Ms. Wagner, are you familiar with Gerard Jones? He has an excellent book on this issue, "Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super-Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence." He has said that media violence can actually help children develop a sense of power in a fantasy setting when it is not always possible in the real world, which helps them navigate their emotions. Here is an excerpt from his book:

"We've found that every aspect of even the trashiest pop-culture story can have its own developmental function. Pretending to have superhuman powers helps children conquer the feelings of powerlessness that inevitably come with being so young and small. The dual-identity concept at the heart of many superhero stories helps kids negotiate the conflicts between the inner self and the public self as they work through the early stages of socialization. Identification with a rebellious, even destructive, hero helps children learn to push back against a modern culture that cultivates fear and teaches dependency.

"At its most fundamental level, what we call "creative violence" -- head-bonking cartoons, bloody videogames, playground karate, toy guns -- gives children a tool to master their rage. Children will feel rage. Even the sweetest and most civilized of them, even those whose parents read the better class of literary magazines, will feel rage. The world is uncontrollable and incomprehensible; mastering it is a terrifying, enraging task. Rage can be an energizing emotion, a shot of courage to push us to resist greater threats, take more control, than we ever thought we could. But rage is also the emotion our culture distrusts the most. Most of us are taught early on to fear our own. Through immersion in imaginary combat and identification with a violent protagonist, children engage the rage they've stifled, come to fear it less, and become more capable of utilizing it against life's challenges."

I strongly recommend you read this to see the other side of this argument. He debunks Grossman's claims specifically in it.

jan Wagner

Mr. Blond,

Thanks for sending in your perspective. I will read Jones' book.

I expect is there is truth in both.. and the perspective on both sides is too extreme.

Personally I wish it was simpler times and kids were being raised in a more positive and loving environments. That is not the case for many so they will be our guinea pigs. We will get to see how they do.

You may wish to follow the work of Dr. Bruce Perry. He studies the effect of violence on the brains of children.


Mr. Blond

Thanks for getting back to me with your opinions. And I appreciate that you are open to reading Gerard Jones' work. I have, on your recommendation, found some info on Bruce Perry. I did read his article, "Columbine, Killing, and You." I do take issue with some of the statements he has raised:

"We have more available and efficient means to kill. And we are practicing. In the games we play — paintball, video games, and simulated war games — we are becoming practiced in the behaviors required to kill....Decrease the amount of time spent playing violent video games or practicing lethal behaviors. If you see younger children "playing" at killing, see if you can help them find other ways to channel their energies."

Again, this begs the question, how these games, and even just fantasy play against imaginary enemies, actually trains people in marksmanship and the actual skills needed to kill. Mr. Jones has also provided an answer to this:

"We don’t help children learn the difference between fantasy and reality when we allow their fantasies to provoke reactions from us that are more appropriate to reality. When a child is joyfully killing a friend who loves being killed, we don’t make things clearer for them by responding with an anxious, ‘You shouldn’t shoot people!’ Instead we blur the very boundaries that they’re trying to establish. We teach them that pretend shooting makes adults feel threatened in reality, and therefore their own fantasies must be more powerful and more dangerous than they thought. The result for the child is more anxiety and self-doubt, more concern over the power of violent thoughts, less sense of power over their own feelings, and less practice expressing their fantasies."

As to the assertion that violent media is desensitizing, here is a quote from Henry Jenkins, a professor of media studies at MIT.

"Classic studies of play behavior among primates suggest that apes make basic distinctions between play fighting and actual combat. In some circumstances, they seem to take pleasure wrestling and tousling with each other. In others, they might rip each other apart in mortal combat. Game designer and play theorist Eric Zimmerman describes the ways we understand play as distinctive from reality as entering the "magic circle." The same action — say, sweeping a floor — may take on different meanings in play (as in playing house) than in reality (housework). Play allows kids to express feelings and impulses that have to be carefully held in check in their real-world interactions. Media reformers argue that playing violent video games can cause a lack of empathy for real-world victims. Yet, a child who responds to a video game the same way he or she responds to a real-world tragedy could be showing symptoms of being severely emotionally disturbed. Here's where the media effects research, which often uses punching rubber dolls as a marker of real-world aggression, becomes problematic. The kid who is punching a toy designed for this purpose is still within the "magic circle" of play and understands her actions on those terms. Such research shows us only that violent play leads to more violent play."

You are right that we will have to wait and see what this generation of kids will do in and to society. However, stats from the FBI have shown that the youth crime rate, as well as the general crime rate, is at a 30-year low, and has been largely decreasing since 1992, around the time video games first started really getting violent. If that's any indication, I'd say we aren't doing too bad.

paintball sniper

I love that show. I can't wait to see it in a game.

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