OLTD 508 Blog Post #3

I have mixed feeling about about the amount of violence found in video games.  I am often shocked when I hear my students (grade 3) talking about how they watched an episode of “The Walking Dead” on the weekend, and describe all the gory details to their classmates, or when they write a journal entry detailing their entire winter break glued to a screen playing “Call of Duty”.  They often seem to have a better knowledge of some of these franchises than I do, which just seems crazy!  I don’t really have a problem with all of these first person shooter games, I’ve played them a lot in the past, and enjoy them quite a bit.  What worries me though is when kids are playing these games unsupervised, and at such a young age.

I grew up on Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake.  Each Iteration of these first person shooter games became more gorey as the graphics and computing power improved.  From my first experiences with Wolfenstein I was navigating mazes and killing blocky Nazis with a variety of military weapons.  By the time I got to Quake I was dealing with a number of undead zombies and grotesque nightmare creatures.  I feel like I was lucky because by the time these games improved to the point where they could realistically represent the violence they allowed you to engage in I was mature enough to draw that line between play and reality.  I was a shy, sweet, obedient kid who loved to go home at the end of the day and save the world through a computer screen.  Most of my friends were the same way, and none of the violence from these video games transferred over into our adolescent lives.  Would things be different if I had started earlier, or been introduced to a game like Quake before being gradually eased in through Wolfenstein and Doom?  I’m not really sure, but I do know that even with these experiences, it still makes me uneasy when I see young kids playing these types of games on their own.

I’m not sure how young is too young when it comes to violent games.  I started with Wolfenstein when I was roughly 10 or 11.  I see my grade 3s playing Minecraft, which has equivalent blocky graphics and the potential for a certain degree of violence (I just recently watched a number of grade 3 boys go on a bunny killing rampage within this environment which we had to have a talk about) and I’m ok with it as long as they don’t get too carried away.  Minecraft to me seems more about building and creating then anything else, so I really don’t have a problem with it.  I would have a problem with a game being played in class thats only focusing is on shooting bad guys.  I think I learned a lot of good things from playing Doom – spatial awareness, basic math, mapping skills and basic hand eye coordination.  It also taught me a lot of computer skills that I don’t think I was even aware I was learning.  I probably learned just as much typing cheat codes into Doom and Wolfenstein as I did using “all the right type”.  These games don’t need to be vilified the way they often are.  I’m sure Call of Duty is teaching kids today all the things I learned from Doom, and expanding on them in all kinds of ways.  The problem is that these games are teaching them a lot of harmful things as well.  What worries me the most is that kids are being parked in front of these games unsupervised and left to their own devices.  There are so many great conversations that we can be having with our students around these games and I think it is important to teach kids to think critically about their behaviour in an ingame environment versus their real lives.  They need to realize the many consequences that their in game actions may have if tried out in real life.  There are so many teachable moments in these games.  The trick is to identify them, and have our students take a moment to consider them when they are immersed in that gaming world.

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