Thursday, 28 January 2010

Scapegoats and Tanks

I was stumbling through the internet this morning (anything to distract myself from giving a presentation...) and came across a couple of articles that caught my attention.

The first, "Tanks, but no tanks" details how an iPod game ("Tank Battles in Suburbia"), a game that features New Jersey towns in it's level design, was received in New Jersey. To say the least, it had mixed reactions. The Mayor of Edison "Antonia Ricigliano" claims:
"Some of these video games are — my goodness — why are they so bent on destruction?"

An interesting question, Mr Ricigliano. May I retort? Have you ever played the game? Does your opinion on the subject extend any further than the title of the game? Are you, for lack of a better term, reading a book by it's cover? It would seem that Antonia hasn't done his research. So, I did it for him; TBiS (Tank Battles in Suburbia) is a top-down, low budget arcade shooter. It features a small tank sprite that fires small pellets (shells) to eliminate other tank sprites. Add to that buildings that are destroyed in ~2 hits and you have yourself an iPod game. (To see the game for yourself check the links at the end of this post.) It's about as destructive and dangerous as a cotton bud wrapped in bubble-wrap.
In a somewhat redeeming conclusion "Kathryn Weller-Demming" (a Councilwoman-at-large for Montclair) stated:
"I don’t think there’s anything a fictional video game can take away from what’s great about Montclair. Certainly no one should be encouraged to perpetuate violence, but video games don’t raise people. Parents raise people."

Somebody get that woman a cookie. It's uplifting to see somebody ready to say it how it is. After all, who's going to be driving tanks through New Jersey because they played it on their iPod? "Haha! I've come to the Suburbs to shoot at Tanks! What...? There aren't any here but me?... Hmmm... I didn't really think this through..."

The second article is considerably worse.
A nine year old boy from Stewart Creek Elementary School hung himself in the school restrooms. Stemming from this, a Clinical Psychologist Dr. Brenda Wade stepped in to offer her views.
She claims that tragedies such as this are due to two main factors:
-“More instability” in families, because of external stresses and the economy.
-Violent video games.
Yes. That's right: Violent video games kill... Or do they?
Dr Wade claims:
"We just covered, a couple days ago, the story that children are watching as much as 52 hours a week of TV and sitting in front of a screen."

Fair enough, a reasonable observation. But then she continues:
"A lot of that content is not uplifting and it’s not teaching our children how to handle problems and feelings."

Woah. Hold on there a second. We went from research to opinion in seconds. Since when are games not uplifting? They are played because they are enjoyed by the player. Another interesting point is that at no point is it ever shown that this boy played video games, never-mind those that are restricted. It seems like blatant scapegoating of a tragedy to me.

Perhaps the problem is elsewhere? Perhaps for example in family life?
Dr Wade seemed not too fond of this idea and stated that she doesn't "want to blame and cast dispersions” at what role the boy’s family may have played in the tragedy. This is an unusual claim as she previously said:
"The other factor is that younger and younger children are exposed to very violent videogames with content that I would shudder to have an adult watch on a regular basis."

So, to summarise; Children are playing adult rated games. Parents are buying their children adult rated games. The parent's are not at fault? Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Thank you Dr Wade.

Well, rant over. There are links to everything I've mentioned below.
What do you think about the articles? Let me know.


Sources:

TBiS Gameplay video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XzHm7F-3rQ

TBiS Sample Image:
http://iphone.iusethis.com/screenshot/iphone/tankbattlesinsuburbia.png

Game Poltics Article - Tanks but no Tanks:
http://www.gamepolitics.com/2010/01/27/tanks-no-tanks-nj-civic-leaders-react-game

Game Politics Article - Dr Plays Violent Game Blame Card:
http://www.gamepolitics.com/2010/01/26/after-tragedy-dr-plays-violent-game-blame-card

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