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Splinter Cell
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Do games make you clever...?
Duke NukemThe issue is as old as gaming itself and has been vehemently discussed by the parties involved ever since. Now a Home Office study recently published by the English newspaper "The Guardian" revealed what every gamer knew all along and what sociologists and worried parents have been reluctant to believe: gaming makes you clever! That is all the more surprising for those who have always held violent games responsible for the social brutalization of our youth. Although there have been several studies into the matter, they have all come to various conclusions. It's therefore unlikely that this study can guarantee us complete validity, but at least it has some interesting theses (at least for gamers) on offer.
The British study:
SeveranceThe British Home Office study summarized the results of 20 previous surveys on the behaviour of children who liked to play excessively. One of these surveys concluded that, compared to other children, most of the children who had been glued to the screen for at least five years showed a higher degree of intelligence and motivation but were often enough misunderstood due to their gaming passion. A follow-up survey five years later found out that they had fared well educationally, attended college afterwards and had taken on an above-average occupation. And even though most of the studies reviewed by the Home Office came to the conclusion that violent games led to a short-term increase in the children's aggressive behaviour, there is currently no evidence available that computer games have harmful effects for children in the longer term.
A misunderstood hobby?
MystThat is all grist to the mills of those who have been forced to justify themselves for their hobby in front of their worried parents for years. Although we watch ever more violence on TV or even in the everyday news, it's the games that have a low reputation on the grounds that gamers have direct influence on the action taking place on the screen. Similar to violence on TV, there are naturally many games dealing with violent content to a more or less high degree. In a wrestling game, for example, you handle a different form of violence to that found in first-person shooters. What's interesting about it is that only 1 per cent of all games are solely suited for adults, while 90 per cent are classified as suitable for children under 15. By the way, the world's bestselling game with 5.5 million copies sold worldwide is Myst, a violent-free adventure with puzzle-solving elements.
Who's to blame?
Soldier of FortuneHowever, people are often quick to overlook that fact since also the media plays a vital role in spreading the bad reputation of the computer industry. Reports on bloodthirsty gamers who were said to be responsible for various massacres in schools, once more evoked the image of the socially stunted and dulled computer gamer. But many simply don't take into account that more violent games such as Quake 3 or Soldier of Fortune surely cannot be blamed alone for causing these tragedies. It may be true that games lower the inhibition level for a few gamers, but such violent behaviour wouldn't break forth without the basic foundations laid beforehand. Besides this, some of studies reviewed found out that games can also serve as an outlet for pent-up aggression - not to mention the teaching effects of games such as the popular Sim series.
To the article
published in:
The Guardian

No violence
Individual responsibility:
id SoftwareAll in all, the British Home Office study is unlikely to provide us with an complete insight into the matter, but at least it tries to tackle the issue from a more neutral point of view, not only focussing on the possible negative effects of gaming.
In the end, of course, everyone has to judge for himself how much gaming and how much violence he can bear. It goes without saying that also the parents have to do their duty in this context, but in most cases they don't have the slightest notion of the games their offspring are playing. It's much easier therefore to blame violent games for the social brutalization of one's child than to analyze one's own behaviour. It is to be hoped that studies such as the one mentioned above help to reduce prejudiced attitudes towards games and gamers alike. No matter whether games make you more intelligent - tackling the issue less one-sided would already be an intelligent step into the right direction. Let's wait and see how things develop in the future.
© 04-17-2001 by CE