COLUMN: PMSS shooting game provides opportunity for debate
I'm not a big fan of violent video games and have had lots of time to think about them since my sons started playing games where shooting is the main objective.
First-person shooter games are particularly repellant and I am concerned about the long-term impacts of them on the psyche of young people. In a world where people increasingly connect online instead of in person, I worry about lack of empathy and compassion, and how young people — adults, too — may become increasingly alienated from one another.
Shooting games may contribute to that alienation and sense of being apart but I also see kids using teamwork, creative thinking and planning when they play the games. Kids also also post how-to-videos about these games online — and some even make them.
This week, a well-known young man whose community work I have written about before, posted a development video of a first-person shooter game set at Port Moody secondary school. He says he didn't make the game, and that may be true, but he is a graduate of the school and knows what it looks like on the inside.
Like mosts adults who have seen this video on YouTube (the video has since been removed but is available here), I was shocked to see the exterior and interior of this PoMo high school so graphically portrayed. Visually, it was a remarkable achievement in computer animation. At the same time, it was exceedingly disquieting to see soldiers in battle fatigues shooting it out in the hallways, causing the requisite spatters of blood.
This video is in its earliest stages and I would prefer it didn't contain references to a local high school. It's too close to home and too reminiscent of still raw tragedies in communities such as Sandy Hook, Conn.
But is it much different from the games that are bought and sold at local video stores? Not really. I know because I've watched the games my sons have paid for with their paper route and birthday money, and, at their urging, tried them.
Does that make me evil, or complicit? To some people, perhaps, but I think this is a debate we should be having in the community.
Sadly, there are those who would prefer to simply jump all over the youth who posted the video on his YouTube channel, and the reporter — me — who tried to bring the issue to light.
I may simply be excusing my own bad parenting for not banning these games from my house and poor reporting for not trying to run this young man out of town. On the other hand, there may be some positive attributes to these games. (I also notice that boys' interest in them tends to wane when girls start calling or texting, but that's another column.)
I also appreciate the thought and creativity that go into them. I recall, recently, seeing a video of Canadian humour icon and political satirist Rick Mercer donning motion-capture gear and role-playing a soldier in a first-person shooter game. The industry provides a lot of jobs for artists, writers and computer programmers. It is a significant economic generator in the province and despite their mature rating, most of these violent video games are bought by middle-schoolers.
That's a reality. So...
Instead of publicly crucifying a youth who posted a video of a game, still in development, on YouTube, we should be studying and debating these games and talking about them with each other — and most importantly, with our kids.
VIDEO RAISES DEBATE
Meanwhile, the video game's creators are wading into the debate with some thoughtful comments on their website. See the video and the comments here.
Diane Strandberg is a reporter with the Tri-City News.