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Vol. 2, Issue 4
December 3, 1999


Down the Pipe

Get it?

by Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon

I  received lots of great comments from my last column. Most of them were from parents or older brothers and sisters, each with a warm story to tell about a young ´un just getting into gaming. There were a couple that were along the lines of, “You monster! How could you use your computer for a babysitter!” and “You’ll turn your little boy into a homicidal teenager if you keep that up, ignorant bastard.” I replied to one of them in this week’s mailbag, but it just didn’t feel like I’d said enough on the subject. And then I read a few articles that suddenly came up last week on violence in video games, so I just had to throw a tirade together and unleash it on the world.

As I said in my response in the mailbag, show me a homicidal kid who blames computer games for who he is, and I'll show you a kid who had problems long before he started playing the games. I don’t believe video games can be held responsible for the moral or ethical attitudes that people develop. Same goes for TV. I think these people either don’t have the inherent ability to distinguish the real world from the fantasy one, or they simply don’t care.

To a lot of people, the fantasy world is an escape. Be it video games, or TV, or a really good book, this fantasy world is a place where they can go and withdraw from the problems of real life. As problems become worse, the fantasy world has a greater draw. You escape more often. You get more into it. It’s almost like a drug. At some point you start questioning what is the dream, and what is the waking world. It’s this point where most people will draw themselves back. If they can’t, then they get lost. The fantasy world takes on its own life. But make no mistake. The fantasy world does not conquer the individual, the individual surrenders to the fantasy.

The general response to this by government and concerned parents alike, is to force a rating system on our games so that we know which games may or may not be appropriate for our children. I dislike broad sweeping rules like that, but it’s probably the way to go. We can’t watch every child to see how his or her moral and ethical behaviors are developing, and we can’t trust parents to do it. The best we can do is limit their access.

One thing I will agree with, is that parents are ultimately responsible for their child’s upbringing. Contrary to what some readers think, I don’t let my kids play just any game. But I pay no attention to warnings on boxes. I look at each game in turn and make my own judgement. Now that’s easy for me because I’m really into gaming and I know what’s what. For the average parent, who perhaps knows nothing about games, it’s probably a lot tougher. Thus the advisory warnings on boxes are a necessity.

But there’s something that I feel is more important for parents to do. Watch your kids. When little Tommy chases after the cat with a knife, it’s not a sign that’s he playing too many violent computer games, or that he saw one too many episodes of Bugs Bunny, it means that he’s got far more problems than you or I understand. There’s a deeper issue of ethics and morals and your kid isn’t developing them properly. That’s when you need to start worrying. If you never see them showing compassion or caring or loving for something, anything, then there’s a problem. Take them to a quack and be sure.

As for me, I don’t worry about Zachary. He can be playing a violent game on the computer and enjoying it for all it’s worth, then the next be very concerned over a small cut I have on my knee. “Hurt, Daddy? Hurt? Kiss better?” At 3 years old, he knows the difference between this computer world and his own. There are very clear lines drawn. When he gets mad, he lashes out. But he always comes back, apologetic and truly remorseful.

Do I use the computer for a babysitter? Hell yeah. Well, sometimes I do. But anyone who has 3 or more kids will tell you: children can be a real handful and they’ll drive you mad if you let them. We do as much with our kids as we can, but every now and then you need quiet time to recoup. Stick them on the computer or in front of the TV, because their sanity starts with yours. Get it?

- Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon is currently exhausting all his free time researching Beer Goggles.


 

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