On yesterday's episode of Buzz Out Loud (Episode 729), one of my favorite podcasts, a listener wrote in and said the following:
Canít remember the episode but itís the one discussing the effects of violent games.
So I got to thinking, if violent games encourage violent behavior, then surely sporting games should encourage the same? And musical games make you more musical?
Just a thought.
I hesitate to bring this up because I am afraid that it will lend credence to the idiotic theory that violent video games make people more violent. My intention is quite the opposite. The reasons why arguing that violent games (or movies, for that matter) cause violent crime are too easily dismissed to be worth debating. However, Kevin's email poses an important question: Do non-violent games encourage their players to engage in the same non-violent activities?
Perhaps this is a bad example of video games' non-violent influence, but I'd like to use the example of how video games caused me to start playing hockey.
When I was in high school, my good friend Paul and I got really into the EA Sports NHL Hockey franchise. I had played previous versions of the game but the version that really got me hooked was the PC version of NHL '94. It was during the player lockout and after playing the game nonstop, continually winning the Stanley Cup with various teams we were growing antsy for the actual hockey season which was still delayed.
With no other hockey to watch we took a drastic step: we decided to actually play hockey. You know, physically.
We went out and got some sticks, purchased a net, goalie pads and a number of orange balls that could easily be fished out of the shrubbery when they went missing. I even bought rollerblades and taught myself how to rollerblade. Over the next few months we became extremely involved in all of this, spending hours and hours outside usually with myself, or my cousin Jeff taking slapshots at Paul who was shockingly adept at stopping the puck (read: silly-looking orange ball).
I can't imagine this is unique to me. Video games often caused me and my friends to venture outside and use our imaginations to replay what we'd seen in the games.
After playing Ultima IV I raided my mother's spice cabinet and created viles of reagents to use so I could create my own spells. I took this out in the woods behind my house, prepared for a possible orc attack. Thankfully the orcs never came but there is no harm in being prepared.
After playing the original Legend of Zelda my cousin and I went into my father's woodpile and scavenged pieces of wood which we hammered hilts on to create our own wooden swords to battle Ganon. For some reason we were convinced that my swimming pool was Ganon's toe. Apparently our perspective was a little off what is represented in the game.
After playing Space Quest I became very interested in science fiction and began reading a lot of science fiction books and writing my own terrible, terrible science fiction stories. Years later I would be delighted to discover that as embarrassing as these stories were, they were on par with all of L. Rob Hubbard's books. This would have reflected better on him if he had been 9-10 years old when he'd written the Mission Earth Series.
After playing Grand Theft Auto III I did not go out and shoot hookers. If the inability to steal that damned ice cream truck and complete my car garage didn't tip me over the edge then nothing will.
I've killed a lot of various lifeforms in the past 30 or so years in the form of goombas, peahats, trolls, orcs, tanks, worms, Ur-Quan, mafia bosses, metroids, octagon batteries, ghosts, space invaders and Covenant Elites. That being the case, I haven't killed anyone in real life. I haven't even gotten in a physical fight with anyone in real life. In fact, I haven't even ever punched anyone in real life. (Note: I tried to punch my cousin once but it didn't really connect because she was much too elusive.)
The only affect on my life from video games seems to be positive. The affect has been in the form of an increased amount of creativity, a desire to actually get outside and play sports, an interest in reading, and a desire to write extremely poor science fiction.
It would be interesting to see a study on the positive affects of gaming, as was suggested by the hosts of Buzz Out Loud. Clearly that won't be funded by any of the governmental agencies who fund the studies of opposite affects in an ongoing effort to make the world safer by eliminating all artistic endeavors they deem to be in poor taste.
I'm sure the positive affects are not huge either. Games are primarily just a means of entertainment. The reactions and influences from them is largely dependent on the individual playing them. If you have a few screws loose and are considering shooting up your school, then a few dozen hours of Grand Theft Auto may just push you over the edge. But then again, maybe reruns of T.J. Hooker would do the same.