GOOD NEWS/“BAD” NEWS

Time for another BAD FOR YOU roundup of reviews (excerpts included; follow link for full post).

From graphic novel writer/researcher/editor Paul Buhle’s review for The Comics Journal:

“For a book aimed at kids, this one is chock-full of information, but presented so well in comics (and also charts and info-graphics) that the details are destined to move easily, and usefully, into young minds.”

From comic legend Tony Isabella’s blog Tales of Wonder:

“This non-fiction book combines comic-book storytelling – art by Pyle – with graphs and prose articles in a delightful journey through the centuries. … If I ever write a sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, you can bet Pyle and Cunningham have earned themselves a place in it.”

From a “Young Adult/Children’s Librarian in Indiana” blog:

“This is a cool exploration of the many ways that adults have tried to take away fun from kids and teens.”

And from a self-described “ artistic queer vegan feminist librarian” at the blog Glitter and Dirt:

“AHHHH! This book is awesome!!!

The whole of the piece is a testament to the historical and present American mistrust and mistreatment of youth– it’s totally great. I read it straight through.”

Our interview on the Geekdad site “Video Games, D&D, and Farting on the Bus: Bad for You Is Good for You,” got a discussion going about the once vilified game of chess.

That exposure lead to a post on a gaming website Gamasutra –  a coveted spot in the eyes of the authors, since BAD FOR YOU features a whole section on the debate about the impact of video games on kids.

“Like video games, chess was once decried as a time-waster that kept kids entranced at a desk for hours when they could have been outside playing or studying something useful.”

BAD FOR YOU even appears on a website about “BIGFOOT” and “THE PARANORMAL.” It’s a blog by the author of Legend Tripping: The Ultimate Family Experience. The website features an excerpt from the book about, big surprise, Legend Tripping.

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!

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?).

easports_mma_screenshot_656x369

 

 

 

ARE YOU GAME?

There’s a lot of scary claims out there about video games: that they’re too violent, that they turn kids antisocial, that they’re just plain BAD FOR YOU. But if you’re a gamer who would like to address those claims for yourself, the National Coalition Against Censorship would like to listen. And watch. The NCAC has a new film contest and the theme is “Video Games in the Crosshairs.”

So here it is, a chance for you, the ones who actually play the games, to voice your opinion in a creative and fun way. Deadline for submission is December 13th. It’s free to enter and the top three winners receive cash prizes. Money! For more video games!!! Must be 19 or under to apply. The first place winner will received a free one-week digital filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy, plus a $5,000 scholarship toward any one-, two-, or three-year NYFA program .

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.

 

VIRTUAL GUNS VS A REAL ONE

A sad and tragic shooting has brought the debate about violent video games back into the news. The event itself, the murder of a 90-year-old relative at the hands of an 8-year-old boy whom she was babysitting, has grabbed a lot of headlines in the last few days, in part because police report that the young boy was playing the video game Grand Theft Auto right before the killing. A good survey of the media’s take on the event is available at the website Kotaku.com. While the online article is a great source for media reaction to the story, as well as a good overview on the research about violent video games influence on those who play them, the final commentary from the writer is even more important to check out:

[T]there’s one issue that needs no research: eight-year-olds should not have unsupervised access to loaded guns. Period. End of discussion. This debate over video game violence needs to be secondary to the debate over real violence. When Louisiana police imply that Grand Theft Auto IVcaused this tragedy—and when the news amplifies that conversation with hyperbolic analogies and catchy soundbites—it distracts from the terrifying reality that an eight-year-old was able to pick up and fire a handgun…. He sure didn’t use a video game.

 

 

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.

 

JAIL & BAIL vs THE PROPER SCALE

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 2.54.37 PMIt’s seems location is everything when it comes to terrorist tweets and punishment-worthy posts. In Texas, Leagues of Legends player, Justin Carter, age 19, is just now getting out the cooler, thanks to an anonymous individual who posted his $500,000(!) bail. Justin’s crime was posting “Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head,” in a post-Leagues of Legends online argument . “I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.” Justin claims it was a joke (admittedly not a very funny one). Well, if he wasn’t “messed up in the head” then he probably is now after the abuse he suffered in his almost four months in jail. Click here for the details of that ordeal and the punishment he still faces for his facebook flub.

Meanwhile, cooler heads seemed to have prevailed in Chicago (it is quite a bit north of Texas after all) when “Mark” a 15 year-old high school sophomore threatened, via tweet, to shoot everyone in his hometown and “get away wit it just like Zimmerman,” He deleted the tweet after a quick backlash and asked “Why you taking it serious.”The local police seem to have approached it with just the right amount of seriousness, bringing “Mark” to the station and letting him go after questioning. “There is no credibility to the threat. He has no weapons and no access to weapons,” a law enforcement official said.