Video Games: The High Tech Threat to Our Younger Generation
Anyone who has ever walked through a shopping mall on a weekend knows
how popular videogame arcades have become with our young people. It is becoming
a force in the lives of millions of kids all across America. Parents and
teachers become more concerned and worried when they see their kids devoted to
videogames. They are highly concentrated because vidiogames greatly influence
the mental and learning processes of the younger generation. Many parents
believe that their children learn values more from the mass media rather than
their from homes. Generally speaking, the video and computer game industry has
been a growing concern to the religious groups, responsible politicians and
bewildered parents for the disturbing contents and the substandard themes in
some of its games. The videogame technology must be recognised for its role and
influence on the younger generation because, for better or worse, it clearly
affects their academic and social life.
Indeed, statistics are really alarming on the videogame industry. It is
a multi-million dollar business growing at 40 per cent a year from 1987 to 1993
(Palmeri 102). Tetzeli in his article "Videogames: Serious Fun" compares
videogames $ 6.5 billion--a--year business to the Hollywood film industry (110).
He continues to point out that two Japan based conglomerate have put about 64
million videogame machines in US households in total. In addition to that they
also produced and licenced for all their softwares for their machines (110).
Palmery estimates to produce and market a ful featured videogame it would costs
up to $10 million (102). Because of the cost producers attempt to make a return
on their investments and earn as much profits as they can. To achieve their
goals, they feature more blood, gore and human dismemberment in their games to
appeal to the younger generation because violence sells. According to Palmery
the game Mortal Kombat has sold a record 5 million copies for about$65
The advanced technology in upcoming videogame machines even allows the
players to interact with screen images in ways never before possible. Analysts
in this field say that it is only a prelude to the emerging world-wide network
popularly known as the electronic information highway( ).
Two of the Japan's formidable corporate giants, Sega of America Inc.,
and Nintendo of America Inc., are a real force behind the growing phenomenon.
`The world wide home--videogames marketwhich they dominate is worth arouwnd $20
billion, of which about two-thirds represents thegames themselvesand one third
the machines theyare played on....Their empires are based on a manufactureing
and distribution system built around cartridges and dedicated machines (Massacre
71). Their battle for the market share and the massive multi-billion dollar
world wide market and their expensive advertisement battles have attracted the
public attention(Hulme 20). For instance, ten million marketing budget and the
publicity fuel a national debate on Videogame violence which obviously helped
Mortal Kombat finish the year as the top selling Videogame of the year is the
another success story. The game should bring $150 million in one year revenue
by the end of 1994(20).
Who else is to blame other than the technology itself for the public
outcry against the violence and sex in video games? Some computer experts say
that with a modem, most videogames could be accessible, just like making airline
reservations and holding library books. It is that easy. Evans, a concerned
mother of two boys, complains, "You see, those mothers know when their kids go
to the mall or some place like that, they won't be able to buy cigarettes, or
alcohol or pornographic magazines." Evans continues, "But kids can walk into
any movie rental store and pick up one of these violent video games, nobody will
say no. The parents feel like they lost control with thesegames" (Browning 691).
Alain Jehlen says, "Our children are spending countless hours with these
machines, their eyes glued to the screen, their fingers madly pressing buttons
to meet contrived on-screen challenges" (74).
Nowadays, technology has become even more advanced and is able to
produce CD quality stereo sound and three dimensional images without any jerky
movements. It is almost like a short action film than the sticky figures of the
computer programs of the mid eighties (Source). For now, the overall sales of
16-bit hardware systems have slowed dramatically as videogame players wait for
the next generation of 32-bit and 64-bit systems due next year from Nintendo,
Sega and Sony Corporations (Fitzwrald **).
For now, the main issue is violence. Richard Brandt, in his essay titled,
"VIDEOGAMES: Is All That Gore Really Child's Play?" paints some graphic
pictures of the hard core violence( ). While Nintendo, the trend and price
setter of the industry acknowledges that two thirds of its consumers are under
15, they released a game called Street Fighter II, which features a character
gnawing on opponent's head with all the usual violent formula. In its another
massive hit 'The Mortal Kombat', each time a fighter lands a good punch or kick
the victim emits bright red animated blood flying . Players can win a fatality
bonus. The winner might knock off and rip out a still pulsating heart by hand
or tear off opponents head and hold up victoriously the spinal cord dangling
from its neck (Brandt 38). Brandt also observed, a 19-year old playing Mortal
Kombat, in San Francisco arcade, enjoys the fact that "it doesn't look fake.
It's a lot more real with all the blood and stuff"( ). What a taste! What is
the purpose of videogame producers other than making money by exploiting animal
desire and pure violence in the mind of our younger generation?(38). In fact
it appears to be a growing demand for more violent sports games as well. Bing
Gorden, a senior vice president of Electronic Arts Inc.., revealed when he
recently tested a new hockey game with 25-year-old. They demanded, "Where is
the blood?"( 38).
Tetzeli points out that up until now the videogames are only a boys
game. So far girls have not been a factor. Most of the titles targeted only
male audiences and are based on boys themes such as street fighting, car racing,
and football. But now Sega of America's CEO, Kolinske has diverted his
attention on women segment and set apart a team which comprises of well known
female marketers and game makers to produce games according to the femenine
taste. In that way they strategically targeted to enter into our living room
like that of the television (116).
"It is a cultural disaster," lamented a successful producer of NOVA, Mr.
Jehlen, a popular science documentary and an accomplished writer, "but it does
not have to be a negative force. While most of the games of today's market
show shooting and kicking and not of much thought, the videogame format has
tremendous potential"(74). He believes that a video game can be a mental
exercise machine(Jehlen 74).
Since the videogame industry is a relatively fast emerging industry,
scientists have performed relatively little research on this area. However,
while some condemn it outright, others endorse it conditionally. Unfortunately,
definite answers are not yet available despite few complete articles on this
subject, as it is a fairly new field of research. Researchers claim that video
games can help develop necessary problem solving abilities, pattern recognition,
resource management, logistics, mapping memory, quick thinking, and reasoned
judgements( ). Helping to learn when to fight and when to run actually helps
in real life situations (207). Brody honestly believes that videogames could
give children a sense of mastery. For them success become like an addiction,
and each time the games nourish them with constant doses of small successes
which they deserve to become "confident citizens"(53).
A senior fellow of Manhattan Institute, Peter Huber overwhelmed many
people by testifying that his 6 year old daughter learn basic musical notations
by shooting ducks in the electronic key board which is linked with a MIDI and to
a software that runs on another computer. Huber testifies, "television -even
Sesame Street- holds no interest for her at all. What I see in her experience
is the face of learning transformed, almost beyond recognition". This proud
father further admonishes, Don't let your children (or may be grandchildren)
miss the train (182).
Referring to the findings of some doctors, Sheff points out that playing
games has the power to soothe any kind of pain for two reasons. First, the more
they interact with an undivided attention towards a game, it is clinically
proven that all kinds of pain and every thing else considerably vanish. Second,
the player's highly excited state of mind generates a steady flow of a "feel --
good--chemical called endorphin into their blood stream. Endorphin is known for
its natural suppressant for pain and develops a sense of euphoria. Playing
games like Nintendo can create a sort of high, like that of jogging (204).
In an interview with the Information System and Computer Science
department chairperson and his staff with a working knowledge of interactive
multimedia and computer generated games, they acknowledge that the modern
information superhighway is clearly a link to the world and it is here to stay
and cannot be ignored. Dr. Ellis Brett, recalls that a decade ago, we lived in
a world of isolation with TV and mainframe computers, but now we live in the
digital age', an age that bring virtually every thing into a cartridge or a CD.
He occludes, "A teacher, a desk, and book are not adequate any more".
This point bring us back to the original thesis, that the videogame
technology must be recognised for its role and influence on the younger
generation because, for better or worse, it clearly affects their academic and
The problem here, however, is not the educational or entertainment games
but with the violent and substandard ones. Many parents see their children
learning the values from mass media and video parlours rather than from schools
or churches or homes. According to Browning there are two facts that are
disturbing and have emerged from the congressional debate over violence in the
media. The first one is that most parents feel that they are engaged in a
battle with computer technology and other reason is that some parents apparently
feel they are losing the battle (691).
In the April 1994 issue of Marketing Age , Kate Fitzgerald reports that
the growing angry to the public outcry during 1993 forced the Nintendo to
reduce the most violent scenes from Mortal Kombat's home version. But Sega, and
the other America's very own competitor Atari refused to reduce the violent
content. As a result, the No 1 Nintendo reduced to No 2 and lost its market
share and millions of dollars beyond recovery. Uncompromised to the public fury
the Sega took the No 1 position in the industry. Hayao Nakayama, president and
CAE of Sega Enterprises says: Unfortunately, Nintendo is going down."
Nintendo's genuine efforts backfired. Instead of deterring blood lust, it drove
more than 1 million action hungry teenagers to its rival Sega. Which afford the
pure hard core violence of the original arcade game. This year (1994) Nintendo
realised its hard earned lessons and its past 'mistakes' and compromise with the
moral responsibilities and expected to pick up significantly but to become its
old position to No 1 remains questionable.(Fitzgerald 3)
One latest development , as part of a new industry policy urged by
congress and by the arm twisting tactics , both the companies have voluntarily'
added on package messages warning some content may not be suitable for players
under 17. In reality, despite evidence that such warning some times increase
sales of violent video games. (Fitzgerald 3]
It is a good sign and relief that is the past few months, the ever
growing violence of the videogame has swept over even congress. Herbert H. Kohl,
D-Wis., the chairman of the senate Judiciary Subcommittee of Juvenile Justice ,
and Joseph I. Liebermann, D-Conn., the chairman of the Senate Government
Affairs Subcommittee on Regulation and Government Information, looked beyond
television, to violence in video game(Browning 691).
During a recent (1993) congressional hearing Senator Herbert Kohl
announced that if the video game industry does not monitor its contents,
congress will. Kohl and other senators are co-sponsoring a bill that
facilitates and gives one year ultimatum to the videogame industry to create a
set of standards that likely include industry wide ratings. The latest
development during March 4 1994 is that because of the pressure rendered by the
publics and other interest groups and the congress the game makers voluntarily
come forward to announce the creation of the Industry Rating Council and
embraced self regulations ( ).
The New York Times dated 15th June 1994 reports that the Industry's
principal trade group announced two important news recently. The good news is
that the computer games industry will develop a rating system to voluntarily
label the amount sex and violence in about 2000 new games that reach the market
each year. According to the source of the industries trade group, the bad news
is unfortunately the 5,000 computer games already in stores, Mr Wasch reports,
would not rated(Rating 36).
Bob Garfield, an expert on videogames software in his regular column in the
Advertising age angrily exposes that the hideous manipulation of children's
psyches is a disgrace and further charges the industry for aiming to 'Be heard
by exploiting kids' distress(21). During the on-line interview with the
Garfield through the Ad Age Bulletin Board Service (bbs) on Prodigy at EFPB35A,
he responded by reiterating the same idea with more statistical data. To some
extend he sounds reasonable and his comments are logical but his criticism on
the U.S base Atari and other similar producers are concerned he is more of a
business oriented and patriotic. He seems to be concerened more about the
financial point of view than the cultural and moral aspects.
The question remains who judge the culprit? Should it be the culprit
themselves or a responsible government agency?. It is a sheer mockery to the
censor board and the justice system as a whole. There should be an equality
under the law. Cinema and video game or any other media in this matter should
be considered equally under the law. Videogame industry is not only controlled
by the two largest Japanese corporations such as Nintendo and Sega but it also
severely affect the very fabric of the younger generation and the society as a
whole economically. The government should take the moral responsibility to
curb the illicit effects on its future citizens by establishing a uniform code
of rating system all over its 50 states like that of the censorship on cinema
and other popular media.
For example, in all the Hawaiian islands the stores that are selling
fake guns, combat 'videogames' and other war toys may be forced to post warnings
to the extend the general public to be informed about the playthings that can
increase "anger and violence" in children. The state of Hawaii have been passed
a bill which would require the stores to place signs on shelves in stating :
"Warning. Think before you buy. This is a war toy. Playing with it increases
anger and violence in children. Is this what you really want for your child?
(WAR TOYS). Which may not be very effective altogether to control the
vidiegames with violent contend. But still the warning gives a chance and may be
the parents pause a moment before they decide to buy any thing for their
Voluntary rating system or any other form of self regulatory arrangement
will only help to widen the loop holes of the existing system. By including
this multi billion dollar industry under the existing film rating system or
something similar to that would greatly reduce the risk of violence and
ultimately would prevent the youths on turning for violent solution for all
their problems. And also would help to form a violent free life style and
prevent the younger generation and spend their quality time with their studies
and parents. All other arrangements will, at least help us to further delay the
process of controlling the emerging violent theme and content of the many
thousands of videogames yet to be produced or released.