THE TWELFTH NAY OF CHRISTMAS: STUBBS THE ZOMBIE

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: Hey, everyone loves zombies – just look how many movies and TV shows feature the creatures. In this particular video game, the really cool part was that it turned the whole horror genre around by letting the player become the brain-munching monster, roaming the city, hunting humans. Stubbs was also one of the first horror games to use humor as part of the action – leading to what the game’s creator called “funny results.”

WHY IT WAS BAD: According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, Stubbs was encouraging cannibalism in kids! “It’s something we’ve never seen before,” NIMF told a crowd at their 2005 press conference to announce their annual “Games to Avoid” that year. Stubbs supposedly send “the worst kind of message to kids” and was “dangerous to your children’s health.” While the organization never had the power to actually ban a video game, for 15 years NIMF would post the list a few weeks before Christmas, hoping to scare parents away from purchasing them as gifts for their kids.Over a hundred video games made NIMF’s “Games to Avoid” over the years, some of which were super popular, including Doom, Grand Theft Auto and Halo. All these games mentioned so far were rated M for Mature. Which means they’re for 17-year-olds and not kids – so what exactly was NIMF so worked up about? By the way, the group dis-banned in 2009. Ho-Ho-Ho.

stubbs-the-zombie

And now that you know how dangerous toys can be…

 

HAVE A VERY WARY CHRISTMAS!

FEAR OF THE NOW

The current excerpt at Tor.com (and don’t worry – there is still plenty of book left to read once they’re through excerpting) features an overview of a condition some in society suffer from called “Fear of the New.”

While there is a theme running through “Fear of the New” which highlights the ever-evolving nature of communication (from pencils to printing presses to phonographs to computers), that is not the only type of new technology that had folks sweating: plenty were also once afraid of that big scary thingamabob called the steam engine.

As a tie-in with the Tor timeline we offer an update on the latest in terrifying tech: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Built between 1998 and 2008 – and then tinkered with for another five years – the giant device is designed so that scientists can throw particles together really really fast to test different theories of high-energy physics. The most common fear people have over this super-sophisticated (and super-expensive) science experiment is that once activated it would DESTROY THE WORLD!!!

Some (non-scientists) worried that the LHC could create microscopic black holes that would hang around long enough to lodge in the planet’s gravity well, thereby giving this mini-black hole the time and energy it would need to expand into a hole so big it would consume Earth inside out. So far, it looks like that hasn’t happened. But if you want to be sure you can check this website:

http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/

Even though the LHC has been fully operational since February, some panicked members of the public are still sending death threats to the poor physicists involved.

So, guess that means some people have a legitimate reason to be afraid.

 

BAD FOR YOU SNEAK PEEK AT TOR.COM

Heads up to followers of the BAD FOR YOU website (both of you): Tor.com, a hub site for “all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers” will be excerpting sections of BAD FOR YOU beginning Monday, as part of their recognition of Banned Book Week (September 22−28). Never heard of Banned Book Week? It’s an annual event “celebrating the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association. Though, along with all the celebrating, there’s a big dose of lamenting as well.

Why so sad? Because of all the books still getting targeted for challenging, censoring  and outright banning from book stores, libraries and schools, that’s why. A total of forty-four for 2012-13 (and that’s the Illinois Library Associations short list).

BAD FOR YOU is honored to be a part of the celebration and thanks Tor Publishing for allowing us to participate. The history of comic book and book banning (and burning) is the main focus of the first section of BFY. In particular, censoring fantasy material for the sake of sensitive kids — since they weren’t supposed to be sophisticated enough to tell the difference between make-believe and real life. It’s an old story…one that started with Plato (yeah, that one).

Banned Book Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read Foundation; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; National Association of College Stores; PEN American Center and and Project Censored.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Whew!

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.
64g

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.

 

THE TIMES THEY AREN’T A-CHANGIN’

“If we teach the children how to play and encourage them in their sports…instead of shutting them in badly ventilated schoolrooms, the next generation will be more joyous and will be healthier than the present one.”

Does the quote above sound like something from a recent editorial about what sad little shut-ins kids have become because of the influence of internet and social media? In fact, it’s taken from Public Opinion: A Comprehensive Summary of the Press Throughout the World, Volume 18, published in 1895. This nugget of wisdom and worry is but one of many available at The Pace of Modern Life, a section from the web comic xkcd. You can also read many more in BAD FOR YOU’s timeline titled FEAR OF THE NEW. At least you can when it comes out in November.