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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kirby on Video Mayhem

Ron Kirby of the Salt Lake Tribute has found a topic too disturbing for comedy: the extreme evil of some modern video games. (I didn't say all!) Parents, you need to understand the content of some of the popular games out there.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Parents need to understand not only the content, but the time involved. I can think of thousands of things a person can be doing verses playing video games 2 hours a day.
1. Getting enough sleep and exercise.
2. making cookies for, and visiting the widows and widowers.
3.Blessing a single brother of sister.
4. Helping a single mom with her children for an evening.
5. Talking to your family and playing a family game.
6. Studying scripture.
7> Sharing your garden with those less fortunate.

Where is the good that has come from video games?

captveg said...

Where is the good that has come from sculpture and painting? From film and music? From photography and literature?

Video games are a medium, nothing more, and are therefore neutral in and of themselves. To blame the actual medium for wrongdoing is ludicrous.

Now, like all potential art forms that tell a narrative story, there is abuse of that medium for unwholesome content and context. Like a movie or a book, it can be used as a deterrent to social interaction. Or, on the otherhand, you can get a fun game that 2-4 players can play and have MUCH social interaction.

The current perception of video games in the mainstream public and media is unfortunately skewed by the mid-20's male mentality of violence + sexual innuendo = entertainment. Yet this is not the dominating factor of most video games.

Personally, I've been playing The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap on my GameBoy Advance SP over the last few days and I'm male, and 26. I have not neglected General Conference, Family Home Evening, hosting guests last night, and my occupation. And that's just in the last few days.

The game is great entertainment, it has an engaging storyline, and narry a drop of blood or anything else that is more than G-rated level. Great puzzles, great characters, great animation, etc. Very, VERY high selling game. Extremely popular. You hear nothing about that because it doesn't fall into the stereotype of violence.

And while that list of better things to do is wonderful, let's not step outside the realm of realism. By that argument, one should never see Hamlet, or sit down to watch Casablanca, or read Emma, or revisit I Love Lucy, or contemplate the paintings of Monet, the photographs of Dorothea Lange, or Michaelangelo's David.

Charles said...

Art is traditionally a spectator event. You see the painting, hear the music, or feel the sculpture. Art as an interactive medium seems to be fairly new.

Interaction is more entertaining than art is. Art tends to move the spirit to feel something being conveyed by the artist. Its goal is a connection through the medium between the creator and the observer.

Interactive art is more entertainment. The artist creates and through the medium the observer experiences the art and participates in its creation. The connection becomes two way rather than one way.

When we observe art to gain the connection to the artist we are seeing that person's vision unfold in us.

What makes video games so dangerous is that they encourage us to nurture those instincts which are often in direct opposition to God's commandments. When we nurture such desires they make themselves manifest in us and become part of our lives.

Jeff is very correct that parents need to be highly involved in what their children do. Games, music, and cartoons are not for the younger generation the same as they were in our generation or our parents'. It is first our responsibility to our children to understand what they are doing and guide them in what is right. But it is everyone's social responsibility to make availability to such materials appropriate to who they are intended.

Anon is also correct. The scriptures do say we need to watch ourselves with idleness. This includes art, music, TV and movies as well as games.

It is the choice between doing something that is right, and something that may not be wrong, but detracts from us doing what is right.

Some forms of art can be enjoyed while doing worthwhile activities, I can listen to music while performing service projects. Art can hang on my office wall while I perform callings, but the interactive games take all our time and when they nurture the baser instincts of man, they chase the spirit of the Lord away.

captveg said...

Never did I say that parental involvement wasn't important. Anyone that looks at a history of my comments on this blog will see that I am very vocal about parental involvement.

But c'mon - you ALWAYS listen to music while doing service projects? You read Treasure Island while Home Teaching? You never look and contemplate that painting on the wall and focus 100% on it? If you don't, why have it at all?

Art is as interactive and engaging as you want it to be. A performance of Peter Pan is just as interactive as Tetris if the viewer makes it so (and claps for Tinkerbell).

The truth is that like most activities we engage in, we need balance. One cannot be reading scriptures every waking minute, nor should they be. Nor should someone devote all their time to watching films. But doing both of these is hardly inappropriate. In fact, if the glory of God is intelligence, a varied intake is consequently strongly recommended.

Saying that video games require too much involvement is a strawman argument. It takes no more involvement than what one puts into it - just like any art form.

I understand fully well that there are those that get trapped into a universe of their own and go 24/7 video games. In no way am I supportive of this. This can, and does, occur with every other art form. It especially occurs with popular art (music, films/television, video games).

Every individual needs to determine for themselves whether they are at the point of detracting from their responsibilities as a Christian, both on a personal and service related level. I just find it brazen and incorrect to suggest that involvement with video games is always detracting to the spirit, either by content or scale of "interaction", or that involvement with music in any vein larger than a passive background element is always at the sacrifice of a service project.

God wants us to have some time for ourselves aside from scripture study. There's no valid argument against video games being part of that time, speaking generally. Of course, personal situations will vary; after all, a parent of four has more concerns and responsibilities than someone who's single.

Charles said...

Hyperbole, unlike flattery, gets you absolutely no where. No where in my post did I mention ALWAYS listening to music (of any type) while doing a service project. I merely pointed out that such things can be done in tandem to other works.

Also, no one ever said that ALL video games or for that matter video games ALWAYS detract from the sprit.

With art we get what we put into it. But I can ponder the artistic value of a piece after viewing it. A movie takes about 2 hours, a book 2-3 days, a piece of music 3-15 minutes. I can observe these things and think about them anytime I want.

And yes I might pause to look at a painting or seriously contemplate another work, but I wouldn't like stare at a painting for 20-40 hours in a single week.

Video games often have an amount of time they are designed to be played for before completing the game. Many are in the hundreds of hours of play time.

Balance needs to be taken. But the real problem with many of the popular games is that they encourange a disproportionate amount of time to be devoted to something that is not wholesome.

You said that games are just a medium. What are they a medium for? IF they are like art, then they are designed to carry a mood, idea, opinion, or emotion from the creator to the participant.

If the goal is a negative consequence then the medium is negative.

Television, MP3's, jpg's, DVDs are all mediums, but the specific images conveyed through them have motives. That alone makes the specific images of the medium positive or negative based on context and content.

captveg said...

Hyperbole, unlike flattery, gets you absolutely no where. No where in my post did I mention ALWAYS listening to music (of any type) while doing a service project. I merely pointed out that such things can be done in tandem to other works.

But why did you mention it? For the sake of justification of music as an art that doesn't distract. Which is falacious. it should distract. If it doesn't command one's full attention at some point, why bother?

Also, no one ever said that ALL video games or for that matter video games ALWAYS detract from the sprit..

Unless I read you wrong, you said that because video games required a higher sustained level of participation/interaction, that "It is the choice between doing something that is right, and something that may not be wrong, but detracts from us doing what is right." So, essentially, video games are always a choice that detracts from doing what is right. I cannot accept that as true.

With art we get what we put into it. But I can ponder the artistic value of a piece after viewing it. A movie takes about 2 hours, a book 2-3 days, a piece of music 3-15 minutes. I can observe these things and think about them anytime I want.

You can't reflect back on the story told in Final Fantasy VI? You can't recall and appreciate the design and look of the plains in Ocarna of Time?

And I don't think length should have anything to do with it. Is Burns' Civil War too much of a time investment to be worthwhile art? Should no one ever read The Stand because it pushes over 1000 pages and would take the average person well over 40 hours to read through (40 hours being the general level of "quality quantity" in current games)? In fact, like a good book with a long narrative, or a several season television show, video games can tell very satisfying stories with long arcs, complete with secondary smaller sub-stories. Whether one plays for 15 minutes or two hours at a time is entirely dependent on the participant, just like it is with a novel or episodic television.

And yes I might pause to look at a painting or seriously contemplate another work, but I wouldn't like stare at a painting for 20-40 hours in a single week.

Well, paintings don't have much narrative storytelling going on. However, I personally have had the wonderful experience of being engaged by a great novel for 20 hours within a week. This is the more valid comparison.

Video games often have an amount of time they are designed to be played for before completing the game. Many are in the hundreds of hours of play time.

And episodic television or long novels don't have set estimated times? Can one really read Pride and Prejudice in the same 15 minutes it takes to contemplate a Van Gogh?

Balance needs to be taken. But the real problem with many of the popular games is that they encourange a disproportionate amount of time to be devoted to something that is not wholesome.

And that's where making personal decisions about content comes in. If a particular game has abundant time devoted to inappropriate tasks, then there is something else to play, just like with films there is something else to watch.

You said that games are just a medium. What are they a medium for? IF they are like art, then they are designed to carry a mood, idea, opinion, or emotion from the creator to the participant.

Let's take Ocarina of Time again. Wonderful, multi-layered story with broad dramatic themes (nobility, sacrifice, heroism) and wonderful subtle character moments (the moment of Link approaching the window with Zelda is as wonderful a cinematic moment that any film would be proud of). And I already mentioned the pictorial quality of the plains. Nothing in video game history can better riding Epona around those plains for pure aesthetics. The music is also as impressive a score as anything made by John Williams.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that the best games bring together the qualities of all arts and blends them together. They are like cinema++.

If the goal is a negative consequence then the medium is negative.

The goal is neither negative or positive. Television can bring us General Conference or pornography. The presence of the latter in no way makes the medium negative, no matter how much the filmmaker's goal of such material is negative.

Television, MP3's, jpg's, DVDs are all mediums, but the specific images conveyed through them have motives. That alone makes the specific images of the medium positive or negative based on context and content..

The specific images/stories conveyed through video games have motives. I fail to see how anyone could recognize this. If the story behind Metroid had no motive, why put it in their? It is more than window dressing. t's a compelling story.

In the end, video games are the new art form, and the world needs to wake up to it. The medium is only a toddler. Like the teenage-aged motion picture, there are growing pains yet to come. But it's here to stay. They tell stories, they present themes and human concepts through narrative and picture. I ask, how is this not a medium for art to thrive in?

captveg said...

"I fail to see how anyone could recognize this." should read "I fail to see how anyone could not recognize this."

Daylan Darby said...

Not that I'm innocent of playing video (computer) games [far from it], but I can NOT imagine God playing 'The Legend of Zelda', but I CAN imagine God listening to Mozart.

I realize that I might be projecting my notions Godly behaviour on Him and I also realize that He doesn't need to 'de-stress' like we mere humans do, but FOR ME I believe that there exists a ranking of behaviour even in the gray (not evil, not saintly) zone and in all things I ought to try and improve.

Thinking about this causes me to wonder what our Father was when He was 'as man' - maybe He was a video game writer???

captveg said...

I understand your point, but let's not get crazy here. I mean, from my perspective, God is very much a Schindler's List fan. Not that I imagine him sitting down to watch it, but rather I know he understands why that film has helped me be a better person. Does he dig Don Giovani? I'd say yes, but most likely in ways and for reasons I have no ability to fathom.

But like you said, this is certainly stepping into projecting limited human understanding onto a perfect being we marginally understand.

Bookslinger said...

daylan wrote: "... wonder what our Father was when He was 'as man' - maybe He was a video game writer???"

Taking certain scriptures literally, one could assume he was a carpenter.

Charles said...

I am not saying that video games as a medium are not in and of themselves bad or good.

But after thinking about it maybe they are. For that matter maybe art, music and blogging are as well.

I've always been one of the mind that things can be broken into the category of good and bad. I don't like to subscribe to the whole grey area theory.

But there are scales of good and bad and everything fits somewhere in there.

If anything does fit into the purely neutral category it would probably be mediums.

But as far as medums go you have to admit that the form conveyed through that medium influences whether that specific medium is good or bad.

I'm not talking about specific games because we could argue very well that chess, pong or myst are not bad games. But we could probably agree that GTA, Mortal Kombat, and the likes are bad.

In that sense those specific forms influence the medium, making the medium in that instance unworthy.

From a spiritual standpoint we are counselled to seek after the best books. Look for things which are uplifting and positive. But we are also counselled to seek after God.

How we do that is going to be up to the individual. Some may find spirituality through art, some in games, dance, family and others through traditional church activities.

Charles said...

Before you decide to dissect my opinion line by line, rather than taking it a whole, I can offer some clarification to my thoughts.

Art is not a medium. Art is an abstract concept created by man as a form of expression. The medium that art takes is a tangible thing. Paintings (drawings and other traditional art) require a surface and materials to create a visual piece. Music requires sound vibrations, instruments etc. We can go on but that should satisfy us.

Art as an abstract concept is neutral. It is, if anything, a form of communication. The mediums (as abstract ideas; the idea of music) also are neutral but once they are put into a specific form that medium is transformed from the abstract to the specific

Similar to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (something cannot be observed without changing the object of observations) I would apply this to the mediums. While the concept remains neutral as that concept becomes form, certain principles can be applied to that form.

captveg said...

Both of those posts are great, Charles.

I don't think I said that art in and of itself is a medium. If I did, it was a mistake to say so. Rather, the manner by which art is comminicated is the medium, whether it be sculpture, photography, oil painting, etc.

Whether the popular material within the medium ends up defining the medium as a valid venue for art is up for debate. I don't think the popularity of GTA should be reason to dismiss other games or the medium itself, just like I don't think Playboy should discount the photos of the Civil War or the medium of photography by itself. That's just the way I see it. :)

Measure said...

I just want to say that although I have enjoyed blowing digital brains to pieces since my impressional teenage years with Wolfenstein 3D, and every first-person shooter that has followed, I have not ever had the urge to so much as buy a gun in real life.

I've also found I enjoy it even more if the digital brains I'm splattering belong to a real person sitting somewhere else in the world, also with a pc or game console. Extra bonus if they're in the room with me. I would never so much as hit any of these people in real life.

I've also found that I really enjoy watching digital blood splatter on the walls behind said brains. I don't know why because seeing large amounts of blood practically makes me faint in real life.

Based on these experiences I will probably allow my teenagers to play games that are rated M for violence.

I think that the reason I enjoy these seemingly abhorent things is pretty much the same reason anybody enjoys videogames.

Videogames allow players to experience fantastical things that, for the most part, they would never get to do in real life. Compete in the Olympics, Save a princess, Solve a murder, Kill a cop.

I don't think that just because someone does something in a videogame, it will make them want to do it in real life. It certainly hasn't done this for me, my friends, or my family.

This is way too long a response for the original post, but hey, who's gonna stop me?