Pac-Man Fever for the 21st Century

by alphamonkey on May 1, 2008 · 7 comments

in Uncategorized

Pac-Man Fever for the 21st CenturyOne of the reasons I adore longtime Buddha pal Andy Cochrane & Sam Haber’s posts & comments over on the AV Club blog is that while we often disagree in principle when it comes to matters tech/ethics related, they’re very very good at getting a conversation going.

Recently they’ve done a few posts about the various media portrayals of the apocalypse Grand Theft Auto franchise, and quite a discussion resulted.

Because I’m shameless (and not finding much that interests me on the tubes today), I’m going to collect my scattered thoughts on the subject here.

True fact: My wife will not let me drive after I’ve played Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 or Gran Turismo. It’s just a given that I’m gonna drive a little harder after playing those games.

True Story: I also remember leaving the theater after seeing a sneak-peek screening of The Matrix and wanting for the life of me to throw down right then and there.

Also true: Watching Wes Anderson movies makes me very, very sad. Often that feeling lasts for a couple days.

Why do video games continue to get singled out as how they influence players when ALL media elicits emotional (and often a corresponding physical) response? Isn’t that in fact the very point of media, regardless of the medium?

Where’s the study to measure the aggression effects of listening to the Jason Nevin’s dub remix of N.E.R.D.’s ‘Rockstar’? (Does wonders for my blood pressure, let me tell you) or AC/DC?

Hell, where’s the study to measure how much of an asshole you become after reading Ayn Rand books? Or Hemingway? What about the pretentious bastard effect of Bukowski? Think of the children, indeed.

But it ALWAYS comes back to video games. Why? What is it about the medium that enforces some notion that it’s more effective at influencing behavior? I’ll tell you why: Because we still can’t wrap our skulls around the notion that video games aren’t inherently a medium for kids. For all the advances the medium has made over the years, there’s this ridiculous notion that the only adults that play games are somehow arrested adolescents that comprise a hidden nation of basement dwelling man-childs.

I find it fascinating that there is no peanut butter/chocolate combination quite as powerful as media/parenting wherein all common sense must be cockpunched into oblivion.

The notion that playing a video game (either singularly or as a cumulative hobby) would prompt a child not already prone to anti-social or violent behavior into running wild in the streets like some flesh pixel God of War is so far beyond the notion of plausibility as to be almost laughable (that is, if the notion wasn’t given so much credence by otherwise intelligent people).

We’re a culture that desperately needs someone/something/anything to blame (provided it’s not, you know, us), which wouldn’t be so bad if we could manage to look at things on a macro level. Blaming video games for violence and bad behavior in kids is like blaming the Gutenberg press for cancer.

Here’s the scary truth: Ours is a culture that is wildly in flux. Our notions of how the world works are vastly behind what our science shows to be so. Personal responsibility has been supplanted and overtaken by the glorification of victimhood. We’ve traded reason and analysis for gut-reaction and commentary, and we traded the reward and responsibility of raising our kids for an increasing unattainable middle class entitlement and three car garage.

Everyone of those factors contributes to an anti-socialization of children on a level that Rockstar’s programmers couldn’t hope to achieve in their wildest fantasies, no matter how many hookers you can kill in game.

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  • RazorFine

    Video games are an easy target for people, a scapegoat which isn’t well desgined to fight attacks the same way the big studios are able to. They have a bit of an inferiority complex and their attackers use this by showing themselves as superior by denoucing the media and proclaiming they have never done anything as ridiculous or evil as playing a video game (not understanding the inherent contradiction). They are the comics of 50 years ago. Those with little to no experience to the media are roused to action without ever examining the product for themselves, or taking into account the medium can be used to target different audiences and different ages and understanding not everything is made for an 8 year-old boy.

  • saint nightwalker

    Let’s see, aplphamonkey makes a long boring post which I think is going to be a bout pacman, since he’s got a picture of Pacman up there, so I’m hoping that there’ll be a link to a site where I can maybe play pacman, but oh no, it’s just more of alphamonkey’s bleating and farting and shitting his pants about how the media in all of it’s forms doesn’t influence society in any way, shape or form, blah, blah, blah.

    Charles Manson.

    The Beatles White Album.

    Sharon Tate.

    Gee, how are those three things connected?


  • .alphamonkey.

    Wow, that’s a staggering amount of lucidity on your part, Ben. Oh, wait… Charles Manson was a violent and anti-social misfit prior to the White Album, and blaming the death of Sharon Tate on the Beatles’ album makes about as much sense as blaming Iran-Contra on The Clash.

    I’d say I was glad to see you were signing off your posts appropriately, but I think that even the mentally retarded would be ashamed to count you among their ranks.

  • andy cochrane

    I was thinking about something today- remember when D&D was going to cause a massive increase in murder, rape, and violence? Remember how anyone who played it was sick in the head (or would be very soon after playing it)? I remember that.

    And now all those D&D players are in jail for rape and murder and all those other crimes the game forced them to commit. Man, I sure wish they weren’t all in jail; we could use our entire Tech industry back, couldn’t we, America? Man I hate how reactionary we all are.

  • .alphamonkey.

    I hear they rule the prisons with an iron fist. All live in fear of the 20-sided shiv and the terrible halflings and bards who wield them.

  • Andrew DeGolyer

    I can’t even drive after playing Mario Kart…… If I play Need for Speed or one of the like I can’t drive for a week. I’m stuck riding my bike for fear of losing my license!!!

    The idea that video games is the cause of violent teenage outbursts is false. It may be an encourager for a already ingrained behavior, but cannot be the soul cause of the issue. Why do you think these games are so popular in the first place. I play Medal of Honor cause its a safe way for me to fight “Ze Germans”. I play Need for Speed cause its a safe place for me to drive at stupid speeds. I play Mario and Sonic Olympics cause its the only way I’m ever going to be allowed close to a javelin.

    Like you said, just a scapegoat for our own needs to have the house thats twice the size we need, and the big SUV, and the second or third car, and the motor home, and the boat, and the beach house………..etc. We need everyone in the house to have two or three jobs now, and that makes our kids sad and lonely and miss us, which turns to anger. Eventually we start feeling guilty, but our kids loads of video games and whatever other toy they want, when all they want is our time. That anger festers, gets worse, and then you have crazy people with guns. Makes me sad….

    Shoot, I just ranted didn’t I…

    And now I’m late for work….
    Thanks guys. I’m totally blaming you for that.

  • Pingback: Grand Theft Childhood & Teenage Survelliance | Transbuddha()

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