The Problem with “The Demise of Guys”

Video games, especially online MMO’s can improve typing speed and skills. Sure, you have horrible “1337″ speak out there, but you also have people who have improved their typing and communication skills via gaming and believe me those skills are gained in action and often violent games. ~J.A. Laraque

The Problem with “The Demise of Guys”

This editorial is to an article featured on CNN discussing the Demise of Guys.

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I think it is time we really start to separate the extreme cases of gaming with general gaming itself. While I understand studies like what was done in the article listed can be helpful, it can also give the wrong impression causing people who believe by reading this that they are now educated to make rash and often wrong decisions.

Sadly, like most discussions where the person is attacking something, the worst of the worst is shown and then the spotlight is pointed at the everyday gamer with an ominous warning that they are a ticking time bomb, but like everything that can be an addiction, you can learn to par take in moderation and still live a “normal” life.

This is where studies can go off the rails when we start wanting to see what is normal. Mainly the problem is regardless of how scientific a study is when you toss in the pursuit of normalcy then the question is, whose definition of normal are you looking to reach.

Let’s take marriage as an example. More and more people are either not getting married or they are getting divorced faster than ever. I am sure you could link many things as reasons why that is including gaming and porn, but this is what you do not read much about. First, many women had no choice but to get married because of the rights women had and how they were treated. Even today many people still believe if you are not married and with kids by 35 something is wrong and this can lead to people jumping into horrible relationships just to meet some goal.

Women have more choices and so do men. Choice brings freedom and people will not only choose not to marry, but to leave a relationship if they feel it is not working whereas fifty years ago they had almost no choice but to work it out. The same goes for relationships in general. You are not confined to meeting people in a bar or at school or church and this changes the relationship dynamic because you might take your time and look around. Also, again, with more choices comes more freedom so if a relationship is not going well you know there are more options than say if you lived in a small town and only fished in the local dating pool.

As far as education, I am sure that video games has caused many to get lower grades or miss a test, but the same could be said for almost any other activity. As an example, a study was shown that more kids ditch school once they can drive. Another study shows that high schools that allow off campus lunches have a higher ditch rate. This is where moderation versus the extreme cases comes into play. You can make a bad call and play Diablo that first night and mess up a school day, which I could believe many had done. The question is, how many people made up for it and day 2, 3 and 4 they did not ditch because they only wanted that first day and pushed the rest of the week so it did not hurt their overall grade.

The same goes for work. If we want to look at video games as reasons for lost productivity then we have to look at the internet as a whole and smart phones and sports and talk radio. Even cigarette breaks which are all but extinct caused lower productivity.

Violence is another one of those issues that again pushes an old debate and gives us a new target to focus on. How many fights and love of war and guns came from playing Cowboys and Indians? How much desensitizing comes from Action News and 24/7 coverage of any violent event? Again, there are links that video games can cause some desensitizing, but studies like this make it seem like a large part of the issue when for most of the population it is an extremely small one. What you expose your children to and when make the difference along with all the other experiences of their life, removing gaming is not the answer just as much as removing television is not. This comes down to exposure in early life and how it is dealt with.

Another thing to remember is just because someone who did a violent crime claims it was because of a game that does not make it so. One, a person can lie. Two, if they did not play a game before the crime, because games did not exist, then it would have been a television show, a movie or music. Again, studies like this gives people the false impression that video games are the root cause and massive changes to games or removal of games altogether would solve the issue. The problem with that thinking is other signs and symptoms are ignored or downplayed and nothing helpful gets done.

We also need to look at what video games have done in the positive. Studies have also shown that video games improve hand eye coordination and stimulates the mind in the positive. Of course, you do not need Mortal Kobmat or Call of Duty to do that, but even violent video games can reduce stress and actually relax people in the end. Now you do not have a 10-year-old playing Gears of War, but an older informed gamer will have no problem playing a violent game and separating that world from reality.

Video games, especially online MMO’s can improve typing speed and skills. Sure, you have horrible “1337″ speak out there, but you also have people who have improved their typing and communication skills via gaming and believe me those skills are gained in action and often violent games.

Going back to communication, video games have improved that as well. Sadly, many of us still live in the past and believe online communication is not real and that real communication can only happen in person. Considering that 50 years ago people were more cut off from each other than now I always found that strange. We are more exposed, for the good and the bad, but in gaming and for the gaming generation this is our Elks Club or bowling night, it is our book club or our sewing circle and the rest of the world has to wake up and understand that.

Even as far as relations, there have been fights and bullying and racism within and caused by games. However, that person who is politically incorrect in a video game is much more willing to befriend someone who is African-American, Hispanic or homosexual than the clubs and organizations of the past. I personally as a black man have made friends with people and ended up meeting them outside of the game and remained friends for a long time to come. In game, we still talk trash and you might even think we dislike each other or are truly against a particular race or orientation, but that is furthest from the truth.

There will always be the extremes and the exceptions. The key is to truly understand the video gaming world as well as our evolving world. We still tend to live in the past and we always look back with rose-colored glasses. Couple that with the fact that because we often make decisions based on what we feel society, religion, political affiliation or family tells us we should do we end up bitter and resentful later in life and look at the upcoming generation as being horrible.

The American dream used to be a wife, 2.3 kids and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence but the American dream just like America itself evolves and changes and we need to rethink our lives along with that change.  This applies to the gaming debate because people see games and try to put it in terms they understand from the past and based on their beliefs of what we should be doing and the result is they think it is wrong and then they rally against it.

Online dating use to the looked upon as the worst thing to do, as if picking up random people at a bar is somehow better. Today more people than ever use online dating and it is becoming just as normal as the bar scene. The same is with gaming and computers. In the 70’s it was a fringe activity and today everyone is playing something. We need to adapt gaming to our world, today’s world not the world of the past. Take out the extreme cases and look at the everyday man and woman gamer. Only then, will we get real answers, grow as a group and improve upon our lifestyles.

Brain Blackout: The war against the Media

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I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine. I was trying to explain to him how Santa Claus was not real. I told him it was impossible for a man to deliver all those presents in one night and had proof that his parents had bought him those Charismas presents. He did not want to hear it, sticking his fingers in his ears he closed his eyes and started repeating; “I’m not listening!”

I was ten and he was six. A reaction like that would look pretty silly as an adult, but the way some people rally against the media and the internet, it isn’t far off. Sure, there is a lot of miss information out there and the truth is our news today is much less true journalism and much more reality television. With that said however, the idea some people have of tuning out news altogether, to me at least, is much more sinister than just avoiding trashy programming.

I like watching programs about slavery times and the period of Jim Crow. For me, I like to see how people reacted in both historically accurate recounts of those times and the social commentary in faction during that time period. A friend once asked me why I watched that stuff all the time, why do I read blogs from people who are clearly racist and hateful. My answer was, I read and I watch so I can learn and understand from all angles. I believe it gives me a better perspective and increases my knowledge on the subject.

Recently the trend for some is to scream at the top of their lungs that the media is bad. There are some out there that would have you tune out to it all. The television is bias, the internet is full of lies and evil, and the books are written by socialists. Pretty much they are asking you to either get all your information from them, because they are the only ones who are telling the truth, or that you remain ignorant and allow others to tell you what you need to know.

As far as I am concerned this is another form of book burning. If you can convince someone that everything they read, watch and listen to is bad, then that will severely limit their sources to educate themselves. What you will be left with is a large portion of American’s who when you try to explain why what they heard from their one source is wrong, they will put their fingers in their ears, closes their eyes and say; “I’m not listening!”

Everyone knows knowledge is power; it is why it was once illegal to teach the slaves. In the past many communities would shun anyone who tried to educate the people and science was nothing but the devils lies. This kept the people closed minded and out of touch which allowed their message to be the only one heard.

There are people out there today who still believe Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. There are people who believe President Obama was not born in America and if you try to educate them and show them proof they have, to them, the perfect defense. “The mass media is full of lies!”

I believe my life has been enriched because I spent a lot of time with different cultures. I learned from different people with different beliefs and ideas. Even when reading the blog of a self-professed racist I can learn something that can be useful. If nothing else, I am exposing myself to different views, which I believe, is an excellent way to educate one’s self.

Unfortunately, with all the progress we have made with technology and the ability to access information and education in seconds, there are some who are turning away because they believe the information out there is false and detrimental to them.

Perhaps life is easier that way. Often it is simpler to not explain your beliefs to others. What you think is right, is right, and no one can tell you otherwise. Just like many of our parents use to say; it is because I said so, or, that is just the way it is.

That is not good enough for me. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet. There is bias on the television and lies on the radio, but for me to close myself off because of those truths would be detrimental to what I want in life, to learn, to explore and to understand. I refuse to turn off and turn out. I will listen even if I do not agree because I may still learn something. The worst question is the one that is not asked and the best answers are useless if there is no one to hear them.

Breaking down the Video Game addiction debate

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video game addiction

A new study was recently conducted that talked about the link between mental health issues and video game addiction. I for one would first start by saying that if it has already been established that you are addicted to video games then you already have a mental issue. The study looked at three thousand 4th through 8th grade children and found that nine percent of them had “pathological gaming” problems.

The study showed that mental health issues including depression, anxiety and poor grades led these children to access video game playing. The study stated that children who are socially awkward with a high tendency toward impulsive behavior and who had played a great amount of video games are at higher risk to become addicted to them.

Many people with some stating that they used “flawed methodology” have attacked the research study. There definitely are some issues I have found with the study, but first let us look at the CNN report.

Age Defined

The first issue I have with the study is the age range. Perhaps once you reach the junior high age video game addiction can become more of a concern due to the different social structures you will find yourself in. However, parenting is still paramount and if your 4th grader is becoming addicted to video games then it is solely the fault of the parent.

While issues before a child is born can cause different mental issues in children it is how you are raised that will determine when and how those issues will come about. Even if your child becomes a video game addict once he or she beings college it can be prevent by parenting or general supervision long before then.

If a parent cannot, does not or will not take the real time it takes to raise a child then that child will cling onto the first stimuli that it finds be it games, television or even positive activities such as reading. An active parent who is in control can allow the child to experience games, books, and television in the proper moderation without becoming overbearing causing the child to rebel just because.

Social Structure

When it comes to social awkwardness, the lines can become blurry mainly because the idea of what is socially acceptable changes from week to week. At one time, anyone who used a computer or played video games was looked down upon yet today it is much more accepted and mainstream. Again we return to the issue of age because as you develop and grow you are discovering what kind of person you will become socially. Just because a child may choose to remain quiet and listen to a conversation as opposed to talking the lead and running it does not necessarily mean your child has an issue or will develop one.

When we talk about social awkwardness the problem comes about when we compare how the person acts in different to other children, mainstream concepts of social acceptance or even the parents own social history. Often if we do not understand the ever-changing social structure, we will find fault where there is none. On the other hand, many parents are in denial and will misdiagnose why a child is not fitting in.

It is far too easy to point to a gamer that spends a lot of time playing video games and state that his lack of “face time” with other human beings is a result of that gaming time. For many gamers the act of gaming is their social time especially in games where you play in team or guilds or with thousands of other players. In addition, many gamers have tried to find common ground with other children in the outlets they have access to such as school, the neighborhood and other activities and found they relate to other gamers.

This is where many studies fail in my opinion because they refuse to adequately study the social dynamic of gamers. While it can be a generally true statement that a gamer is less socially mainstream than a non-gamer it is not true that being socially mainstream is the best course for every child. If a gamer has a strong core of good friends, who can provide positive reinforcement then it should not matter as much where that common ground was found, as long as the act of gaming does not hurt the child physically or mentally then choosing to ally his or herself with other gamers can be socially healthy.

Moderation

In the end, it again comes down to parenting and control. If a parent takes an active role and is willing to learn instead of just reacting then it is much easier to distinguish if your child is finding friends within the gaming community or is turning to gaming because of an inability to make friends in the real world. If you monitor your child’s game play just as you would their television time or even food intake it will become easier to discover the truth.

There is a balance that all parents must maintain between keeping a watchful eye and smothering and it varies from child to child. I personally was the type of child that needed an over-viewer, someone who watched from a distance to make sure I was okay, but not directly involved in my minute-to-minute activities. However, children are different and each parent must find out on their own what type of monitoring style works best.

Variety is still the spice of life and as a child, it is important to expose your children to different stimuli while they are young. Even someone who becomes an avid gamer to the point that it becomes a career path can benefit from having experienced many different things as a child. I have personally been exposed to many different social and cultural events, sometimes kicking and screaming and through in the end my love was for computers and video games I know I am a better person for having had those experiences.

Being a gamer does not mean that is all you do. Today’s gamers can go to a sports event, watch a movie, listen to concert and then go home and play hours of World of Warcraft. In order to get to the point where one outlet does not control your entire free time one must be exposed to new things and the things they enjoy the most must be in moderation.

Home Study

The main problem with a study on video games and its effect on someone socially is that the study often does not research the full home life of subject(s) in question. Take for instance weight as an issue. If a child was overweight and then tuned to gaming did the study take that into account? How about the parent, was enough research done into the parenting style? Many parents would be on guard when their child is under study, how does one find out what effect their parenting had on them before they even had a social life to examine?

This was not an endeavor to discount the effects of excessive gaming; it was more to show that linking social or even mental issues to one cause is flawed science in itself. Even if a study was to take into account that many other factors could have led to social or mental problems if video game addiction is in the forefront then many readers of the study will stop there and not dig further.

Real gaming addiction should be studied and the people who are trapped need to be saved and this will not happen with the way we currently look at it. It will take real steps and a lot of background and extensive research to discover why anyone turns to any one thing to be their everything.