Video Games: The High Tech Threat to Our Younger Generation

Anyone who has ever walked through a shopping mall on a weekend knows

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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

social life.

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.