Territory Stories

Sunday Territorian 23 Dec 2012



Sunday Territorian 23 Dec 2012


Sunday Territorian; NewspaperNT




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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited



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14 Sunday Territorian. Sunday, December 23, 2012. www.sundayterritorian.com.au P U B : N T N E W S D A T E : 2 3 -D E C -2 0 1 2 P A G E : 1 4 C O L O R : C M Y K Video violence and isolation a dangerous mix Lets play blame game David Penberthy penberthyd@thepunch.com.au Parents should ask more questions about the effects of video games on their kids T HERE was a moment this week, on one of those American cur rent affairs shows where the guests shout over the top of each other, which summarised the cultural problems surrounding the question of gun control in the United States. With straight faces, the panellists argued that in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre we should not be banning assault weapons but violent video games. Even by the abysmal logical standards of the gun lobby it was a new intellectual low, the absurd concept that its more important to crack down on games which simulate violence and desensitise young people to its impact, rather than the actual weapons which in the US are freely available to the type of psychopath who killed 20 children and six adults at a tiny primary school. The question of gun control is a domestic issue for the United States. Happily, Australia took action after the Port Arthur killings to make it pretty much impossible for people to get their hands on semi-automatic and automatic weapons. But de spite the flaw in the logic of those American TV panellists, in trying to remove the obvious and fundamental question of gun ownership from the gun control debate, I would still argue that they were on to something when they also raised the issue of video games. Its kind of uncool and grumpy to dare criticise video games in this country or even to speculate about their psychological and behavioural impact on those who play them. Gaming is a massive culture, too big to call it a subculture. It has its own TV show on the ABC, which I regard as one of the most unfathomable things on the idiot box, its presenters twitching about as if they have been up all night (which they probably have), talking a language I dont understand and wouldnt care to learn. When Santa arrives on Tuesday there are probably about a million kids who will get some kind of computer game, be it an innocuous Mario Kart or cooking game, or something more bloodthirsty, like those games set on the streets of Los Angeles where you get points for stealing cars and running people over and murdering the odd prostitute. A couple of generations ago, parents used to debate whether it was appropriate to give guns to their sons as toys. Toy guns werent banned in my house but they werent encouraged either, and I can remember a few raised eyebrows when one of the rellies gave me a black plastic submachine gun as a gift one Christmas. Two generations on and the nature of imagined or simulated violence is so much more sophisticated than simply running around the backyard shouting bang while holding a cheap Taiwanese toy. The violence is so much more graphic, and the number of young people exposed to it is off the Richter scale. Many if not most of the video games on the market have some kind of shooting or killing component to them, and the level of addiction they engender in kids has been well documented, with many children and teens being totally incapable of getting through the day without spending hours on the things. D URING the first Gulf War the American journalist P.J. ORourke wrote a typically excellent piece for Rolling Stone in which he described that conflict as the first war fought by the Nintendo generation. It was also the first war which received saturation 24-hour news coverage and many of the images we saw had a video-game quality. There was no footage of hand-to-hand combat, not even soldiers shooting at each other on the streets, rather clinical air strikes where soldiers would remotely use computer technology to take out missile silos and military installations. It was like watching a modern version of an old Atari game, except it obviously involved actually killing people and blowing up real things. This is the thing which makes me uneasy about video games. They have the effect of dulling the senses to the real impact of violence. Possibly more pernicious and troubling is that they encourage isolation. I know gamers would argue that they serve a social role in that they bring people together to compete, but all of those games are also played in a solitary fashion by individuals, and for hours at a time. If there is a personality trait shared by the sort of person who opened fire on those poor kids and teachers in Connecticut, it is that they are almost always loners who have lived in an isolated and unsocialised way, and gaming goes hand in hand with a miserable, attic-based existence. I am equally uneasy about the ham-fisted option of simply banning them, as to do so would constitute a form of censorship which I find instinctively troubling. Rather I would wonder whether the classifications in place are tough enough, and more so, whether parents could be a little less ambivalent about letting their kids live a protracted and unsupervised virtual existence. Computer games obviously play a handy childminding role. But at their worst they are one hell of a baby sitter, and not one you would normally let in the house. Rather than being cowed into silence for fear of being labelled spoilsports or wowsers, I reckon parents should become much more vocal in asking questions about the effects of these games. Anyway, thank you for reading. I enjoy writing these pieces and always like hearing from readers, be it for brickbats or bouquets. Apologies to those of you who did not receive a reply on account of the volume of correspondence. Merry Christmas to you all, and have a Happy New Year. OPINION sundayterritorian.com.au

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