[Quotes] Are Video Games Harmful?: A Book in My School’s Library

I got called in to sub this morning and, by an unfortunate miscommunication, I wound up with a good hour to spend in the school library. Now, I grew up in a library (my grandmother was a librarian) and I absolutely LOVE them. I can spend hours just perusing through and checking out whatever happens to catch my interest. Having a good block of time to do just that, I happened across a book from the “IN CONTROVERSY” series entitled, Are Video Games Harmful by Hal Marcovitz. I’m familiar with the series — or ones like it, anyways — and eagerly picked it up expecting to find a series of point-counterpoint essays on the topic. Instead, it read more like a light text book for 9-12-year-olds — not a crack mind you.

As I read, I couldn’t help but be a little bit floored at some of the statements they made. I thought I’d pull some of my favorite quotes and share them with you. Remember, this is a non-fiction book written with an air of authority. It was this year’s edition too, so no “outdated” excuse here:

Oh, and we’ll pick these up right after they criticize Grand Theft Auto for how a 6-year-old might interpret it.

“Women are often featured as victims who are included simply to give the players innocent characters to assault.” (p.20)

“As video games moved into the 2000s, women were depicted less as scrappy heroines … and more as prostitutes and victims of sexual violence.” (p.22)

I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a game allow “sexual violence” in any context. Not in the United States anyways, but they do make a point to mention the disturbing Japanese game RapeLay. I find it a little misleading that they don’t mention how players are free to attack male characters too. Sidewalk driving in GTA doesn’t discriminate.

“Earlier in the evening, the boys had been home in their basement, playing Grand Theft Auto III. It was Josh who came up with the idea: Instead of shooting at virtual cars, why not shoot the real thing?” (p.25)

OMG, I have a great idea. Instead of killing internet dragons, why don’t I go stab an alligator?! GENIUS. Seriously, two teenagers and neither of them had enough common sense NOT to shoot a .22 at the highway?

“The whole episode [at Columbine] had the eerie feeling of a video game.” (p.26)

“Members of a gang known as the Nut Cases played Grand Theft Auto III, then patterned their crimes after the violent acts they committed on-screen. During a 10-week crime spree in late 2002, 6 members of the gang are alleged to have committed 5 murders and dozens of robberies.” (forgot to mark the page, somewhere around p.27)

Because murder and theft are new to the gang scene. You know a good place to look, rather than at video games? What was the poverty level where these crimes occurred? How many of the gang members had prior records? How is gang activity and overall crime levels OUTSIDE of the Nut Cases. By the by, that’s a pretty poserish name too, don’t you think? Word has it they wanted to be the “Bloods” but someone had already taken it.

“Devin Moore admitted to shooting two police officers and a police dispatcher, leading investigators to believe he was inspired by the action in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.” (p.28-29)

Note, the author provides no additional information as to why they might have thought there to be a connection. Just “kid kills cops, cops blame games.”

Paraphrase: Do video games lead to addiction? An EQ player committed suicide. That must mean yes. (p.39)

“Some refer to it as Evercrack, believing it to be as addictive as crack cocaine.” (p.39)

Anyone who literally believes this has never tried crack cocaine. Three words: Tongue-In-Cheek.

“People will play … an hour of [World of Warcraft], let’s say, but then, after that, it’s no longer making them high. They want more. And so they play more. And they develop tolerance over time. … Just over a matter of weeks and months, people can end up with a severe addiction.” (p.42)

Blame the addictive personality, not the game. Seriously though, meet me behind the bleacher with your laptop.

“In Roxbury, Massachusetts, a mother woke one morning at 2:30AM to find her 14-year-old son playing Grand Theft Auto. When he refused to turn off the Playstation and go to bed, she called the police — it was the only way she could convince him to stop playing the game.” (p.43)

Okay, it was at this point — well, not really — that I started to question the author’s common sense. You know what, next time my wife insists on watching Grey’s Anatomy, I’m going to call the POLICE on her arse. Oh no, there will be no “reasonable resolution of conflict” under this roof. Thank you GTA Mom for giving me the courage to do what’s right.

“At first Ruya played occasionally, but she eventually found herself playing as much as 20 hours of World of Warcraft a week. … Soon World of Warcraft turned into Ruya’s whole world — she dropped out of school, stopped seeing friends and family, gained weight, and even stopped bathing.” (p.43)

Okay, I’m sorry, but doesn’t this just remind you of the South Park Make Love, Not Warcraft montage, where the kids all get fat and pimply to Eye of the Tiger? That’s pretty much what they say happened to this girl; she descended down into a little green cloud of elves and twinkie wrappers, dreadfully bereft of any kind of mirror or textbook. Again, ask yourself, are video games harmful? Watch out! WoW is casting it’s net at your right now! Sorry, I call BS. This is literally every bad stereotype rolled into one small paragraph. Plus, name me one girl that would admit to giving up bathing for the sake of her e-fame. Right, me either.

“A 28-year-old man was found dead, after spending … seven days straight playing the MMORPG Starcraft.” (p.46)

Clue: tighten up your research, buddy. Starcraft isn’t even close to being an MMO.

“A 15-year-old boy in Sweden suffered an epileptic convulsion after playing World of Warcraft for 24 hours straight.” (p.47)

“Chapter Four: Do Young Gamers Risk Their Health and Well-Being?” (p.52)

“Brian Allegre often allowed himself no more than 30 seconds for a bathroom break before rushing back to World of Warcraft.” (p.51)

5-mans or the health of your sphincter? Definitely 5-mans.

“Allegre finally learned about the harm he was doing to himself when, three weeks before his senior project was due, he suddenly realized he had not even started work on the project.” (p.52)

Okay, as someone who spends every day in a school, let me just tell you, this kid did not “suddenly realize” anything. Most schools remind their kids all the time about this kind of project since, you know, you can’t graduate without it. He put it off, probably didn’t care, and then used WoW as a scapegoat to cover his own laziness. Again, you have to question the author’s common sense.

“Research indicates that … the average young person is spending 4 to 5 hours a day inside on video games, television, & the internet” (p.60)

Should definitely add blogs to that list.

“Many studies have looked into video game use and concluded that gaming contribute to obesity.”

Maybe, but I think that IV feed of liquid fat coming from fast food, soda, and junk food pumping into kid’s arms might have something to do with it too.

To be fair, they do have a good chapter and several sections within those previous that talk about the good aspects of video games. The overall impression I got, however, was that the author knew what he wanted to find going in. The whole thing reads like a longer version of a college junior’s research paper. He picked and chose his topic and quotes to push his own viewpoint, only giving lip service to the other side of the argument. This was a far stretch from the “Equal Perspectives” books of my youth.

What bothers me about these kind of books is that they characterize gamers as some smattering of mindless drones with addictive personalities and little to no self-discipline or moral compass. They would have you believe that games so desensitize us that we equate the value of human life to the inanimate. Here’s a clue, I can’t break blocks with my head. Even if I could, coins wouldn’t pop out. And if I ate a green mushroom, I’d probably get sick, not grow three feet. Games are not real, are not close to real, and 99.9% of the people who enjoy them realize this. Moreover, as the ranks of gamers grow and take in new demographics, we’re also breaking free of the stereotypes that once relegated us to the outskirts of the main social circles. Gamers are successful, educated, family men and women. We don’t all live in our parent’s basement like some blind albino gecko. Sure, some people may, but shouldn’t that cause us to question the personality and mentality behind such an individual rather than the hobby with which they choose to spend their time? Games may act as an enabler, this much I can agree with, but only one amongst many and never a sole impetus for one’s own destruction. At some point, actual people need to take responsibility.

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