Quick Summary of the Effects of Video Games

Good article from LiveScience that summarizes the effects of video games on youth. My summary of the summary:

  1. Yes — there is such a thing as too much gaming.
  2. As with pretty much everything in life, certain people are more vulnerable to video game addiction than others. Although we know of the risk factors, by no means to we have a complete picture.
  3. Video games do have a tendency to cause young people to react more immediately to tense/bullying situations with violent/reactionary behaviors, as opposed to just walking away.

While it’s an overstatement to claim video games are bad for youth, this article and the accompanying research do support the idea that moderation is the key — as it is with pretty much anything.


Sexual Harassment Just as Harmful Online

Depressing but interesting read from the New York Times about the prevalence and harshness of the sexual harassment in online gaming. I wish I could say I am surprised, but not sure I can. It’s a “man’s world” in many of these games that involve violence, war, adrenaline. Add to that the disinhibition effect, and the rules seem to fall by the wayside. Fortunately, the article discusses how online gaming companies are trying to fight back. It also acknowledges that games that are more “clan” oriented seem to experience this issue less.

Internet addiction

While I still haven’t really formed an educated opinion about online addiction, I know a sad, compelling case when I see it. Brandon Crisp, a 15-year-old from Barrie, Ontario, was found dead as a result of chest injuries sustained when he fell out of a tree.

The reason he was in the tree in the first place was because he ran away after an argument with his parents over what they called his “obsession with an Xbox video game”

In an article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Crisp’s parents describe their son’s increasing need to play video games. The teen stated he stayed in better touch with his friends this way (instead of visiting them). Then, he pushed his parents to the limit when he skipped school in order to play. As many parents would do, they responded to his truancy by seemingly removing the problem — they took his Xbox away. He responded by running away, which resulted in his death.

We desperately need to better understand the levels of need the internet plays in various people’s lives. And we need to get a grasp on how to treat dependence on this medium. Clearly, in this case, cold turkey was not the answer and resulted in a tragic ending. But, is this case just a fluke, or should we warn parents NOT to limit gaming time if they fear their children are too wrapped up in it, at the expense of other activities? It’s too soon to tell. But, if this case tells us anything, it’s to be watchful for dependence on the internet and possibly work on intervening sooner rather than later.

Hot Penguin on Penguin Action!

Just trying to get your attention here with that provocative headline. Anne Collier, in her fabulous Safe Kids newsletter, alerted me to the Club Penguin game “Spin the Fish.” You can probably guess what it’s modeled after — the good old fashioned “Spin the Bottle” game in which IRL a group of young persons sit in a circle, a bottle is spinned, and the spinner has to kiss the person the bottle is pointing at (or be put into a closet with them for five minutes while everyone else stands outside with their ears pressed to the door). I remember in grade school longing for that bottle to point to Scott Cassidy or David Bowerbank. But I digress…

Not to be thwarted by the lack of real smooching, kids at Club Penguin (around ages 9 and up, from what I gather) are playing this game virtually. See it in “action” here:

Note how the fish doesn’t really spin. Note how you can react using emoticons about how you feel about being kissed by someone (too bad we don’t know whether these penguins actually know each other offline or not). Note how this is yet another example of how kids will do ANYTHING to express their crushes on someone — and can also snub certain peers just as easily. For more rules on how to play it “cool” (the unwritten rules of this unofficial game) during Spin the Fish, look here. The point in this blog I found most poignant is that the author commented that “No one asked me because I didn’t have my latest style on yet.” Apparently it’s just as important for a penguin to look hot as it is for a pre-teen

Experiments in virtual reality

Over the weekend I tried to participate in two different virtual reality type websites. Unfortunately neither were quite the positive experiences I was hoping for.

First I tried out Google’s new avatar-driven chat rooms Lively. I spent two hours preparing my avatar (can’t go in naked, you know) and then trying to figure out how to get INTO a room. Once I got into a room, my computer slowed down so much that I was going crazy trying to mentally adjust. Instead of trying to chat with people, I started searching rooms. I visited the “Love Sweet Love” room, the “Dating Cafe” and then even took a virtual tour of the Google facilities in the “Lively: Google Room,” but I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s because it’s too new, but it felt clunky and not quite user-friendly. Maybe teens can deal with that, but tech-savvy adults might be annoyed by the quirks that it still has. I was disappointed that I didn’t feel “at home” after setting everything up and removed the program from my computer soon after giving up on it.

Second, I put my big girl panties on and looked into Second Life. I think my experience would have been more positive if my internet provider gave me more bandwidth and my computer went faster, but I made due with what I had. I carefully read the “Big Six” (community standards) and was almost scared that I’d make an accidental mistake and get myself kicked out before I even began – especially when my character first appeared naked! I was pleased to see these rules set out so clearly before being able to join, and wish that I had speed/bandwidth to see if they work!

Second Life’s “Big Six” are six behaviors that would result suspension from the site:

1. Intolerance – “The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.”

2. Harassment – “Communicating or behaving in a manner which is offensively coarse, intimidating or threatening, constitutes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or is otherwise likely to cause annoyance or alarm is Harassment.”

3. Assault – Most places you can be in Second Life are “Safe,” where you cannot shoot, push or shove another resident. I guess this also means there are areas that are “unsafe” where these actions are to be expected?

4. Disclosure – “Sharing personal information about a fellow Resident –including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, and real-world location beyond what is provided by the Resident in the First Life page of their Resident profile is a violation of that Resident’s privacy.”

5. Indecency – “Content, communication, or behavior which involves intense language or expletives, nudity or sexual content, the depiction of sex or violence, or anything else broadly offensive must be contained within private land in areas rated Mature (M).” When my character showed up nude, I was worried that I’d be kicked off immediately as I couldn’t find an “M” anywhere on the page. Good thing it was the introduction page where other new characters continually showed up nude.

6. Disturbing the peace – “Every Resident has the right to live their Second Life.”

I was intrigued to see whether these rules were followed within the community. Maybe those readers who are frequent Second Life users can explain it a bit more to me; I’d really like to know more! Also, if there are other online virtual reality “games,” that are geared towards teenagers, I’d love to hear about those to see if I can’t experiment some more!

Become the Bimbo you always wanted to be!

There has been quite the stir about a intriguing website; MissBimbo. Geared toward the “tween” set, this site allows users of any age (although the creator states that it is geared towards nine- to 16-year-olds) to create their own “Bimbo.” Remember those Tamagotchi toys that everyone had a few years ago? This site has been likened to a perverted (both literally & figuratively) online version of those toys.

200,000 girls have created their own “Bimbo” they spend about 20 minutes a day playing Sudoku, buying new clothes and even hooking up with fake boys. The site also allows you to “face-off” with other “Bimbos” doing challenges. Doing these things earns you “Bimbo dollars” and “Bimbo Attitude points” which up your status on the website so that you can “stop at nothing to become the reigning bimbo!”

I tried to sign up (who doesn’t want a naked virtual character to babysit, earn money for & dress in “clubbing clothes”?) and was fully registered before receiving an email: “due to unforeseen worldwide interest in Miss Bimbo we have had difficulty in maintaining our game in the manner players have been accustomed.” No publicity is bad publicity? What happens when it shuts down your website? I may keep an eye on this to see if I can eventually join.

Different areas of the game encourage you to do certain actions:
“Accidentally forget to wear underwear – two days of guaranteed publicity!”
Level 7: “After you broke up with your boyfriend you went on an eating binge! Now it’s time to diet … your target weight is less than 132lbs.”
Level 9: “Have a nip & tuck operation for a brand new face. You’ve found work as a plus-sized model. To gain those vivacious curves, you need to weigh more than 154lbs.”
Level 11: “Bigger is better! Have a breast operation.”

These action requests are what cause comments such as those from Dee Dawson, a medical director of Rhodes Farm Clinic in England “This is as lethal as pro-anorexia websites. A lot of children will get caught up with the extremely damaging & appalling messages.” Beat chief executive Susan Ringwood agrees saying that “the website could make girls believe that weight & body size manipulation [are] acceptable.” I grew up playing Pac-Man and have yet to eat a bunch of dots after chasing them around in a dark maze. I also played a game where Bugs Bunny used ether to kill zombies and I’ve never had the urge to knock someone out with the anesthetic.

I really don’t know whether to laugh at the site & the hubbub about it, or to be disturbed by the site & encouraged by the outrage towards it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to virtually “bag [my] billionaire boyfriend” to earn mucho “mula”.

Do you think that a “Himbo” version would ever be released? Why or why not?