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May 8, 2013 at 3:50 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Violent Digital Age

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Spawn Point Blog Series

When I sat down to pen this entry I was, to borrow a Tony Stark phrase, "a piping hot mess." I had just finished watching a piece done by Katie Couric on violent video games and was at a loss as to how I should feel on the subject of scare tactics and the world we live in. There was something maddening about this show, something sinister and foreboding laden deeply within its structures. I was going to write my piece on this, but upon further investigation, I found a gaming journalist that I have a great deal of respect for, had done it already. If you are at all interested, I encourage you to read his piece on the show.

As for me dear reader, I have become rather tired of this fight and the mudslinging that occurs on both sides. I have written on violence, I have written on parenting, I have written on the origin and development of these games, and I am tired. It seems as though focusing on the blame only creates more of the same, and I love the video game industry far too much to become jaded in pursuit of a redemption not yet warranted.

I feel both edges of this sword; the fear of parents hopelessly out of touch with their children, and an industry still shocked that they found the burning spotlight. Neither are wrong, and neither are right, they are merely speaking different languages. And why wouldn't they be? Parents are seeing fundamental changes in their children that they couldn't even begin to grasp. Never in their wildest dreams had they expected an entertainment industry to capture the psyche of their child like gaming has. Gaming offers their kids a reality and reward that lived only in the fairy tales of their youth. When faced with the prospect of a reality laden with outdated teaching methods and a culture of misunderstanding that prescribes pills to cope, their kids retreat to a place that's comfortable. A place that accepts them fully. A place that rewards them for every progressive step.

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." - Albert Einstein

Looking out from this place at the world laid before them, this world of antiquated ideals and stubborn ignorance left over from war time preachers, our younger generations see nothing they want outside of the video game realm. There is magic to be had there. There is imagination. There are heroes.

The video game is innovation incarnate. Even the tech industries of yester-year pale in comparison to the strides made yearly by the gaming industry (yea Apple, even the kids noticed the iPhone 5 wasn't a step above the 4). Each year is another immersive step into studying the human condition through interacting with video game software. Each year is bigger and better, bolder and brighter, boisterous and beautiful.

I ask again, when faced with the prospect of sitting at a desk for 50 years, or designing the most innovative of digital art forms, why wouldn't our younger generations choose to throw themselves headlong into video games?

Parents/Educators/Mentors/Various other groups having trouble with change and looking for someone or something to blame

There is one immutable truth that seems to be forgotten frequently in this increasingly heated debate between various groups and the video game industry: time moves on. Time moves on, and with its inevitable passing comes change, both cultural and philosophical. I don't know about the rest of the world, but we Americans seem to be having a spot of trouble with this. Instead of working for an age of enlightenment and prosperity, we continue to look back at the times we thought this was achieved.

"Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist." - Michael Levine

In this age of rapid technological growth and stagnant personal progress, I believe we have to grasp at progress where we can and make it work for us. Too often we look at technological progress and stagnant personal growth seeing only cause and effect. In no way can the two be seen as unrelated, but I do think we have been putting too much stock in the blaming of the former for the latter. When, in reality, it is our own lack of willingness to move forward that has held us back.

In my mind, there is only a small portion of our society that has truly used technology to progress it goals: the corporate entity. Both manufacturing and marketing have become the cornerstone of our lives because they are backed by efficient technologies and the minds to keep them as such. Business, mass production, marketing, these are all technologically oriented behemoths now, and they are all looking for the next best piece of software/hardware to take them to the next level.

"Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children." - Markus Zusak

Personal growth, on the other hand, has been stagnated by our use of technological progress. We are essentially taking part in all of the same activities we were before, we just have access to a larger swath of it. Our communication has devolved, as has our motivation to become any better at it. We have collectively put aside the digestion and retention of knowledge for the quickest answer that allows us to rub in how fast our phone is. We have sacrificed exploration in the vain thought that the stars through a screen hold even the faintest comparison to lying in the grass on a clear night. We have allowed intellectual discussion and a personal opinion to become a digital thumb gesture.

In allowing this burgeoning dichotomy to come to life, we have paved a road for our children to do the same. Our utter lack of intellectual pursuit and thirst for knowledge is the ground work we have put down for our children, and they have built upon it in kind. Who are we to expect them to live the same lives as us? To value the same things as us? To live up to our elderly expectations?

Our children's lives are dominated by rules made centuries ago, and we don't give them enough credit for being intelligent enough to seek out ways to remove themselves from this system. In fact, we don't them enough credit at all. We are far too busy looking down upon them and trying to mold them to our way of thought that we have neglected the inherent genius held within innocent discovery.

Innocent discovery should be the building blocks of our children's growth. I recently spent a weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and my little niece. Surrounded by all the toys the first few years of childhood warrant, my beautiful niece reached for her daddies belt that was lying next to her. I watched her manipulate this belt, attempting to discern its greater purpose, with great joy. There was something so very simple, and yet profound, about this experience. It made me sad to think that we have been robbing our youth of this by merely giving them the knowledge to survive life, not the experience to appreciate it.

"Children must be taught how to think, not what to think." - Margaret Mead

Maybe if we began to appreciate life for the beautiful experience that it is, a video game would again become a hobby and not a way of life. As it is right now, the colorful world and the power of control held within this digital realm are far more appealing than the institutionalized propriety we offer them.

The Video Game Industry

We are in the spotlight now my brethren. The time for hiding behind free speech and artistic interpretation is over. Too many young minds experience our lifestyle for us to carelessly ignore the implications of such fame.

Do not do away with the violence, for it is an integral part of our being, but explain the consequences of such acts. Violence without cause is the mindless drivel of lesser beings, and we have the capability to do so much more with it. To illuminate the effect violence can have on the human psyche.

As a gamer, I know that you are heading in this direction. Each year I feel the characters react more and more negatively to violence without purpose...and I dig it.

I know you don't need a pep talk, but stay strong. The education system is starting to catch on to the potential held within, the world will to.

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