Gaming and politics

Well, even though this was widely linked last week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on it as well. There was a piece in the Opinion Journal (of the WSJ.com) by Brian Anderson about video games. It’s the same mantra we’ve been hearing but it never hurts to repeat it:

Video games can also exercise the brain in remarkable ways. I recently spent (too) many late-night hours working my way through X-Men: Legends II: The Rise of Apocalypse, a game I ostensibly bought for my kids. Figuring out how to deploy a particular grouping of heroes (each of whom has special powers and weaknesses); using trial and error and hunches to learn the game’s rules and solve its puzzles; weighing short-term and long-term goals–the experience was mentally exhausting and, when my team finally beat the Apocalypse, exhilarating.

And the ever-present challenge to would be gaming-Nannies:

With the next generation of high-powered consoles on the market or soon to appear, gamers will have even richer, more complex virtual environments, many of them nonlinear, to explore. Working through these worlds alone, with friends or–in the ever more popular “massively multiplayer online role-playing games,” or MMOs–with thousands of strangers is far from a “colossal waste of time.” Video games are popular culture at its best. Critics would do better to drop the hysterical laments and pick up a joystick.

Of course, that can be favorably contrasted with this article in the Washington Times about video game legislation, that claims:

For one thing, these laws have tended to be mostly symbolic; the fact that interest in them tends to fade in the absence of newspaper headlines suggests strong elements of political theatrics at play. Second, the laws are regularly struck down by courts for their dubious constitutionality, and everyone including the scourges knows this. Third, more than 9 of 10 retailers have policies restricting the sale of such games to children anyway. All of which begs a question: Just how sincere are the proponents of these laws? Most of them are Democrats with strong interests in easy “moral values” scores. Smells like opportunism to us.

Political theatrics? Political opportunism? Perish the thought!

As an aside, the Opinion Journal mentions the study done by Dmitri Williams at the University of Illinois (which I mentioned here) which uses the game Asheron’s Call 2 for its study. I’ve never played AC2 (or the first one, for that matter), but it doesn’t seem like that game would be explicitly violent or very gory. Is it? Are the violence and gore on the same level as a Resident Evil 4 or a Grand Theft Auto? And if so, can fantasy violence really be compared to a game with more “realistic” characters? Is running over an innocent bystander with a pick-up the same as smashing a goblin with a mace? Just a thought.

Related articles can be found here.

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