THE ELEVENTH NAY OF CHRISTMAS: EA SPORTS MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

Bad For You’s special Christmas countdown of twelve of the weirdest, most outrageous, totally craziest bans, blocks, recalls and protests ever over toys. We’re not saying some of them aren’t earned, but do you think ALL of these toys are dangerous? 

WHY IT WAS FUN: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a brutal fighting game where players can pretend to punch, stomp, kick, knee-slam, elbow and karate chop the heck out of their opponents! But unlike the real cage matches the game is based on, if you get pounded by another player in this virtual world, it only pain you feel is your hurt pride.

WHY IT WAS BAD: Think it was banned because of its violence? Wrong. In Denmark, the marketing of energy drinks is prohibited, which just so happens to be the product heavily promoted throughout the game. But Venezuela did become the first country to ban all violent video games. Then-president Hugo Chavez called Nintendo DS and PlayStation “poison” (a different kind of toxic toy). PlayStation is also illegal in China. The Communist country believes its a waste of time (wonder what they think of Hula-hoops and Pokeman?).

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HEADLINES/DEADLINES

When tragedy strikes, such as the mass shooting yesterday in Washington DC, members of the media naturally jump on the story and search for the quickest way to grab viewers’ attention as the news unfolds. This time, because of the alleged shooter’s “obsession” with playing Call of Duty, journalist rushing to meet their deadlines, focused on this angle of the story — all the better to whip up the moral panic already present in the public minds over violent video games.

Some examples of today’s headlines include:

Aaron Alexis: Washington navy yard gunman ‘obsessed with violent video games’

Washington Navy Yard shooting suspect Aaron Alexis ‘was fan of violent video games’

Washington Navy Yard killer often played “violent video games”

Alexis Friend: Shooter ‘Obsessed’ With Violent Video Games

But if readers look closer at the details around the suspected shooter, they would discover that the headlines could have just as easily highlighted other aspects of Aaron Alexis’ life, such as…

NAVY YARD GUNMAN BIG FAN OF VIOLENT AMERICAN FOOTBALL

NAVY YARD GUNMAN TRAUMATIZED WITNESS TO 9-11

NAVY YARD GUNMAN ARRESTED IN 2010 FOR SHOOTING GUN AT HOME

NAVY YARD GUNMAN PLAGUED WITH HEARING VOICES IN HIS HEAD

NAVY YARD GUNMAN BLACKED OUT AND SHOT UP CAR IN PAST

NAVY YARD SHOOTER, AFTER TWO SERIOUS INCIDENTS WITH GUNS, STILL ABLE TO PURCHASE WEAPONS

NAVY YARD GUNMAN DEVOTE BUDDHIST

(OK – maybe not that last one. But it’s also true, and shows just how complicated it can get, trying to boil down someone’s life into a headline…to meet your deadline.)

MORAL PANIC IN REAL TIME

Remember the post from last week about a tragic shooting in Louisiana? An 8-year-old boy shot and killed his grandmother with a handgun he found in the house and the news media, naturally, jumped on the lurid story. A quick survey of headlines spawned by the event makes it clear where the media (and cops) initially laid the blame:

Police: 8-Year-Old Shoots, Kills Elderly Caregiver After Playing Video Game

Louisiana Boy, 8, Shoots 90-Year-Old Relative After Playing Video Game, Police Say

Cops: Boy Played Video Game, Shot 90-Year-Old Relative

“La. Police Say Boy, 8, Fatally Shot 90-Year-Old Relative After Watching Violent Video Game”

“8-Year-Old Intentionally Shot and Killed Elderly Caregiver After Playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’: Louisiana Police”

The conclusion anyone would reach, were the story to have stopped there, was that the murder was motivated by the violence portrayed in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. But the story didn’t end there…though, as usual, the amount of coverage the correction received couldn’t compare with the original moral panic the media whipped up after the shooting. “What police initially called a ‘homicide’ has been ruled an accidental shooting,” according to a report at Game Politics.

Following the incident the Louisiana judge who decided the boy could remain in the custody of his parents also added this very important observation: “On whether the shooting was a homicide or an accident, the judge said that it was definitely an unfortunate tragedy.” In other words, the child was not programmed to kill by a video game. Instead, he was sadly mistaken that the gun he pointed at his grandmother was “a toy gun…a play gun,” according to the judge.

This revelation will come as no surprise to researchers Christopher Ferguson and Cheryl Olson (author of, ironically, a book titled Grand Theft Childhood) whose latest study has concluded that violent video games such as Mortal KombatGrand Theft Auto, and Halo are not “triggers” that cause depressed kids or those suffering from attention deficit disorder to turn into “aggressive bullies, delinquents, or murderers.” In fact, their study Video Game Violence Use Among “Vulnerable” Populations: The Impact of Violent Games on Delinquency and Bullying Among Children with Clinically Elevated Depression or Attention Deficit Symptoms indicated that playing these games “actually had a ‘very slight’ calming effect on youth with attention deficit symptoms and helped to reduce their aggressive and bullying behavior.”

Kudos to them for their work, and additional kudos to Constance Steinkuehler, former White House “video game czar” (bet you didn’t know President Obama even had one), who responded to the shooting in Louisiana this way: “I find it an incredible distraction when something like this happens, and there’s this incredible tragedy, that we jump to these variables that if they’re part of the equation they’re almost negligible…variables like video games instead of the most obvious variables in the circumstances – there’s a loaded gun in the house.”

And…Boom – there it is.

 

Digital Detox

The Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center, a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania, is set to open the nation’s first in-hospital treatment for people obsessed by the internet. For a mere $14,000, patients get a 10 day program designed by professional head shrinkers with experience treating addictions to drugs and alcohol.
But many professionals are wary of using the term “addiction” (note the quote marks this time) when it comes to people’s inability to resist the lure of cat videos and keeping up on the what their Facebook friends had for dinner. Dr. Allen Frances, the chairman of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders a.k.a. the encyclopedia of insanity) and professor emeritus at Duke University said the disorder “wasn’t ready for primetime.”
Speaking of “primetime” most readers of this blog (including the authors!) are too young to remember when “TV addiction” was the fear sweeping the nation. Here’s a taste from a 1971 New York Times article entitled “Are You Hooked — By TV?” :
“…some addicts have shrunk into a schizophrenic state, withdrawing totally into the television world.” 
If you want to read more, you’ll have to use the… gasp… internet.
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VIDEO GAMES: THE GOOD, THE RAD AND THE UGLY (LEGISLATION)

It’s unBAD FOR YOU day, as we present the latest positive news on computer gaming. We begin with “Eye Soccer,” which looks like it could become a tool for understanding the optical impairments of schizophrenics. Scientists at the University of BC discovered that schizophrenics had a tough time tracking the little digital soccer ball on screen, as well as anticipating its future movements. This “broken connection” between what schizophrenics see and how visual information is processed may lead to new theraputic approaches in the future. Dr. Miriam Spering, who led the research team, sees “a lot of potential,” in the new study’s results: “I think we are some years away from actually making this a standard therapy, but it could become a tool.” All from a simple video game about soccer.

Ain’t that a kick in the pants!

Next up is a video game that helped scientists find brain cells (instead of destroying them, as some parents believe). Professor Michael Kahana and a team of researchers from UCLA and Thomas Jefferson University, have found a group of brand new brain cells which “helps humans navigate in unfamiliar territory.” The discovery was made thanks, in part, to a bike riding computer game. Epilepsy patients, with electrodes already implanted in their noggins, provided researchers with the ability to map what was happening, brain-wise, as the patients did a little virtual bicycling. By focusing on the connection between navigating the video space and the parts of their brains that were activated, researchers surmised that without these newly identified “grid cells, it is likely that humans would frequently get lost or have to navigate based only on landmarks.”

Now that scientists have discovered these “grid cells,” let’s hope they don’t lose track of them.

Speaking of tracks, after taking the top trophy at the Nationwide Series race track in Watkins Glen, Brad Keselowski asserts that it was video games which helped him master the course. “I remember I spent a whole summer when I was kind of locked in my parent’s shop,” Keselowski recalled of his childhood. “And I remember…sitting on the computer in the office area running Watkins Glen as a video game.”

Wow — can you beat that?!

Well, if you can’t (beat ’em, that is) then join ’em. At least, that’s the attitude the usually book-centric libraries of America has adopted — like in Baltimore County’s Sollers Point, where every Wednesday they let kids compete on an array of computer games, with a weekly Xbox afterschool program for teens. And Sollers Point library is but one of many using video games to lure in teens: “According to a study published in Library Journal last year, about 15 percent of libraries in the U.S. currently lend games to cardholders to take home. But other research shows that gaming in the library is far more prevalent — and teenagers game the most.” Part of the libraries’ reasoning for embracing Xbox is that teens may also bump into a real book or two, inbetween battling it out in a virtual world. There’s real evidence to back that up, too. According to Sandy Farmer, manager of Central Youth Services for the Houston Public Library, they’ve seen an increase of 15- to 20-percent in the number of books being checked out as a result of the Nintendo Wiis, DSs, Xboxes, iPads and PlayStations the library also offers.

Looks like video games not only help race car drivers, schizophrenics, and brain-cell researchers, it also helps with general circulation!

Too BAD (you just knew we’d have to use that word again) that New Jersey thinks video games are so potentially dangerous that they deserve a special pamphlet to WARN students about them. In June, the NJ Legislature passed a proposal requiring that the Department of Education must give out to incoming students “research and statistics on how violent behavior increases after exposure to violent [media]” and “scientific findings that show children who play violent games are more likely to be involved in physical altercations.” The only problem is the data on the negative influence of violent video games is highly debatable.

If you want to find out more about that, you can pick up a copy of BAD FOR YOU this November.

Link to the Jersey bill here.

 

Deluge of Digital Distraction

There’s no app for parents struggling with managing the digital generation but there are a pile of old-fashioned books coming out (these ARE for parents after all).  A rundown in the New York Times highlights three of them. Surprisingly, only one has the word ‘Addiction” in it and none are foolish enough to recommend parents try the “the Full Amish” digital blackout for any significant length of time. Perhaps most surprisingly, one even recommends that parents look at THEIR digital habits before bringing the hammer down and another advises one to “tweet mindfully”. But what’s the fun in THAT?

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