Game Consoles

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Manhunt 2 [1] , a recent and popular game console, claims it brings “all the fun of a killing spree to the comfort of your living room.” It provides the player most creative ways to slaughter a fellow human. It shows three easy ways to use a plastic bag to kill someone. And provides other killing options such as the electric table saw, the shovel, the shard of broken glass, and so on. The bespectacled protagonist of Manhunt 2 is capable of murdering without conscience.

Grand Theft Auto, a video game that many people have in their homes, is blamed for the cold- blooded shooting spree carried out by Devin Moore in Alabama. The game is also under fire for the option it provides to unlock sexual content from the internet.

Two teens, imitating moves from the Mortal Kombat [2] video game, beat up and killed the 7-year old sister of one of them. According to a police affidavit, the teens were baby-sitting the girl while her mother was at work.

New Gaming Experience

The experience of being a gamer has changed radically. A new generation game console hits the market every 5 or 6 years, exploring realistic three-dimensional worlds in high resolution with surround sound. Latest are the next generation of consoles led by Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. See Console comparisons [3]

Game consoles have replaced video games. There are a range of game console models available in the market nowadays. Nintendo GameCube Black Game Console is one of the widely popular multiplayer gaming and online gaming. This is popularly known as a home console for it is recommended for home use only.

Microsoft’s Xbox, one of the most well-known game consoles, has been devised to interface with the Internet, keeping in mind that the Internet has made online gaming a more preferred platform than console games. Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 are also designed for online interaction, enabling gamers to compete against each other, download videos and games, or swap friendly insults in a chat room.

Game Addictions

Among all the charges leveled against game consoles, the foremost is that they are addictive. So addictive that if denied children are known to have all the symptoms of withdrawal, including the shakes. Among other charges are compulsive behavior and loss of interest in other activities.

Research reports of a decade ago had shown video game junkies to be highly intelligent, motivated and achievement-oriented individuals. But the 21st century games are so engrossing that today’s studies reveal the opposite tendencies. This is attributed to today’s games being more psychologically rewarding, which leads to addiction.

Cause for Growing Concern

Most of the video games in the market are meant for the 7 to 17 age group who play an average of eight hours a week. There is growing concern among parents, educators, child advocates, medical professionals, and policy makers about the subset of games that feature violence, gore, and antisocial behavior. It is believed that ultra violent games are inappropriate for all children and harmful to some.

Research had shown young people could generally distinguish "cartoon" violence from "real" violence, but the interactivity involved in today's games seemed to pose a much bigger risk than previous generations of young people had faced.

Concern about violent video and computer games is based on the scientific evidence providing a cause-effect relationship between television violence and aggression among the children and youth who watch it. This research became the basis of a hypothesis among many social scientists that video games could be expected to have an even greater impact for the following reasons.

• As there is more personal involvement of the player with the characters in the game, children are more likely to imitate their actions

• The nature of game consoles is such that they require active participation

• There are lots of repetitions involved in these games which help increase learning. So if the games are violent the effect is a behavioral rehearsal for violent activity.

• The reward system in video games promotes faster learning

Much less research has been conducted on video games compared to TV. But studies have constantly shown that violent games increase aggression compared with behaviors displayed after playing non-violent games. Another study among 8th and 9th graders showed that those who played more violent video games were also more likely to see the world as a hostile place. They tend to become argumentative and get into physical fights.

Only Some Are Violent

Game consoles are generally associated with violence though all games are not so. According to a rough estimate only 15 percent of the games are violent. They are all perceived as violent because most of the successful games are violent and these get maximum press attention because of their controversy. People remember news about Grand Theft Auto [4] but possibly remember nothing about games like Banjo Kazooie [5], Gran Tourismo [6] or any of their other non-violent counterparts.

Many argue that a few games cannot be used to brand the industry. Sims [7] is very mentally challenging. And kids are getting a great mental workout from engaging in these games.

Parental Role

A study at the Indiana's School of Medicine in Indianapolis found that about two-thirds of parents surveyed said they had family rules about how much and when video games could be played. But half of the children surveyed said their parents never discussed video gaming with them. Three of every four parents said they "always" helped decide what video games their children might buy or rent, yet, only 30 percent of the kids said that was the case.

In this digital world, children are introduced to video consoles so early that they are tempted to spend more of their time on these than on their studies. Parents should take care to protect them from unfit games by providing them with the right games. Refer to full review of a game God of War [8] which warns parents not to expose this game to children because of excessive violence in it.

Video game addiction experts from the Nottingham Trent University provide a ready reckoner for concerned parents:

First find out if

• your child plays every day

• often plays for over 2-3 hours at a stretch

• derives excitement out of the games

• feels deprived and restless when they are not allowed to play

• plays at the expense of social activities

• neglects homework

• tries to reduce play hours but can’t

If the answer is "yes" in most of these cases then your child may be playing too much and you have to take steps to

• Replace violent games with educational games

• Discourage solitary play. Make him play in groups

• Set strict time limits for play

• As a last resort take away the game from him and give back in parts.


Refer ESRD

There are 7 ratings assigned by the ESRD or the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Here are those:

• EC or Early Children - These games are meant for children age 3 years and below to play. Contents are safe and pose no danger to a developing child

• E or Everyone - For all from 6 years and above. They contain minimal violence with occasional use of mild language.

• E10+ - For children 10 years and older. Contain cartoon, mild violence or fantasy, and use of mild language.

• T or Teen - For 13 years and older. They have more violence, minimal blood, use of strong words, and crude humor.

• M or Mature - These are not for kids and suited for ages 17 years old and above. They have graphic display of violence, sexual content, blood and gore, and use of strong language.

• AO or Adults Only – These are not for children of any age as they display frequent blood and gore, violence, use of strong words, and graphic display of sexual content including nudity.

• RP or Rated Pending - This rating is given to games waiting for final rating. All games without EC, E, and perhaps E10+ ratings should be avoided by children.


Advantages Over Computer Games

Some of the advantages of a console-based gaming system, compared to computer PC games are:

  • It is less expensive than a computer.
  • Setting up games is easier on a video game console.
  • Video rental shops offer console-based games on rent.
  • Unlike computer games you can sit comfortably on a couch while playing
  • You can add on special accessories like steering wheels and vibrating controls to add interest value
  • Console based games offer better graphics and speed than PC games.
  • The games you purchase will be compatible with your system
  • You get multi-player options.

Disadvantages

  • Once outdated the system has to be discarded
  • Hardware upgrade options are less
  • Additional fees may be required for playing against other players through an online connection
  • Like a computer console based gaming system cannot be used for other functions


References

  • Connecting Entertainment and Technology
  • More Bad Press for Violent Video Games: Effects of Video Games on Children
  • The latest on Game Consoles
  • Video Game Violence and Public Policy: National Institute on Media and the Family
  • Atechnology blog: Xbox Video Game Consoles Enhance Gaming Market
  • Drawing a line between what is right and what is wrong is the responsibility by parents to their children :: Console Game News
  • What's Better? Game Console or PC Games?

See Also