Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just a Game?!

The hands of the clock beside her computer came to a full circle once, twice and continued circling; while she remained glued to the monitor in front of her bartering for goods, meeting a friend at the rendezvous and buying groceries. By the time she logged off, four hours had passed away, but nothing else had changed. It was her imaginary player that had moved into a new house, changed her baby and had lunch all in a neighbourhoud that does not really exist. From this ‘digital world’ of ‘Sims’ she came back, crashing, to planet Earth with a headache and red eyes, and finding herself hours behind schedule.

It is a familiar experience for those of us who have played any computer games lately. The entertainment industry is busting at the seams with ever-increasing options for all ages; and the young want nothing more than an array of ‘cool’ games. This is their paradise. The ‘young’ couldn’t be happier!

Parents striving to shield their children from modern-day vices believe video / PC games keep youth off the streets, out of trouble, away from inappropriate movies (?) and under their ‘watchful gaze’ (!) However, reality holds that to be inaccurate. In video / PC games a player usually competes against another player, striving to win and assert his control. Naturally the mind does not switch off as easily as the games console; and once the child is back into the real world, his / her mindset of defiance lingers and he / she is easily inclined to ‘rebel’ against many things.

A case in point: Grand Theft Auto (GTA). I am assuming that most of us, the young and their parents have heard about this game with all its… er… ‘reviews’ lets say. Here’s a quick sketch of it: the player ‘can’ run down old ladies & skimpily clad ones, steal cars, kill policemen and shoot pedestrians, and each of this ears you a score.

A game is a game, say parents (& youth; at the very least, it’s a safer alternative from the vulgarity on television. But is it? Probably true, if they actually are aware of the kind of games their children are playing. For instance, I saw someone… (Well OK! One of them was me) playing Smackdown vs. Raw, a wrestling game. OK, I was thinking, until I saw the female wrestler dancing and wearing what would (& should) qualify as underwear! The problem (please allow me to use that word) is further exacerbated by the animation & graphics designers who have done a fantastic job of making the imagery look REAL!

Am I writing more into this than necessary? The answer dear reader is ‘not at all’. Recent studies have shown that such games are associated with increased aggressive behaviour, thoughts, and effect, and increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial behaviour.

What’s the point in writing / reading all this? This will go on forever, you’ll tell me. It always does, you’ll argue. There’s no solution you’ll say. I don’t agree! There isn’t a problem without a solution. Videogames have become as much a part and parcel of our lives as the five times salah. Both the parents and youth need to make sure they have their head in the game! The games’ description must be read before buying, to make sure they’re age-appropriate and morally acceptable. A time limit must also be decided upon, so that playing remains a form of entertainment and a way to take a break from normal life routines. Let it not become a routine itself.

Self responsibility (on the youth’s part) holds a lot of requirement here. Unless one is strict with themselves, things won’t work out. Pitying oneself is the first step to self destruction. With GameBoys, Playstations and Xboxes in their children’s lives, moms have breathed a sigh of relief at no more broken window panes, and fathers are at ease for not having to pay for the neighbours’, while their children are venting their wild side on the games console and their teens are dawdling over their handheld devices. Whatever happened to quality time? (Read the last word again)