Is it the case that computer/video games are agents for creating mindless, emotionless players? Do they simply make games players want to go out in to the real world and battle with another army, fight zombies with a sword blast other combatants to pieces with a range of high-tec weaponry? Are they the means by which we will eventually have social meltdown which will undoubtedly bring the moral panic chickens home to roost?
Okay, I am maybe over-egging the point here. You may have guessed that I do not subscribe to the opinion that games are adversely and negatively influencing players. I tend to think that young children, adolescents and young adults by far and away have an innate grasp of the differences between real and virtual worlds. Whether this was me as a child playing cowboys and indians with my peers or my friends children warring with their home made Lego light sabres, we knew that this was toy play. The same, I believe, a stands for computer games. James Paul Gee discusses this in his What Video Games have to teach us about learning and literacy text. He relates this ability to behave appropriately and differently in the virtual world from what you would do in reality to Erikson's 'psychosocial moratorium'.
Another interesting read on this matter is Gerard Jones (2003) Killing Monsters: Why children need fantasy, super-heroes and make-believe violence.
The author, who is a veteran comic book script writer, explains:
"....why validating our children's fantasies teaches them to trust their own emotions, helps them build stronger selves, leaves them less at the mercy of the pop-culture industry, and strengthens parent-child bonds.
and, more provocatively he argues that...
...packing a toy gun can be good for your son-or daughter. Contrary to public opinion, research shows that make-believe violence actually helps kids cope with fears. Explosive entertainment should be a family affair. Scary TV shows can have a bad effect when children have no chance to discuss them openly with adults. It's crucial to trust kids' desires. What excites them is usually a sign of what they need emotionally. Violent fantasy is one of the best ways for kids to deal with the violence they see in real life."
The reason for this post is that a colleague (thanks Barry) sent me a link that he saw in PC Gamer. The eCircus framework is an academic network that aims to explore the potential that games can play in supporting personal and social development. They have a particular focus on using games characters that have a degree of emotional intelligence within contexts that explore bullying and inter cultural empathy. I look forward to finding out more about this....