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Gamers might get a kick out of this...


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So, yeah...it's a research paper. My first term paper of my college carrer, actually. Most of it is fluff...but hey, what good research paper isn't? ^_^

There was something else I wanted to write here...oh, yeah! When I began writing this, my target audience was my oldest sister, the mother of Madison, who inspired me to write this. At said birthday party, she told Madison she had to stop playing the Spyro game, which ticked me off just a bit. And that little gush will make sense once you read the essay. ^_^

Just looking for comments. The paper has already been turned in, so there's no editing I could make that would help my grade, but if you see anything I missed, feel free to let me know.

Ok, well...paragraph spacing isn't working. >_< So, I suppose until I figure out how to change that, this will do..


Video Games, Your Children, and You[/CENTER]

About three weeks ago, I sat in the basement of my best friend?s house having the time of my life. Alex, Matt, Paul, and I were sitting on the floor, in chairs, on tables...basically any seat we could find, with fingers madly pressing away at buttons and eyes intently glued to the TV sets as our favorite Mario characters zipped around the screen on hi-tech go-karts. Items picked up from spinning blocks on the dazzling courses were shot off at each other, sending karts reeling into the side lines, water hazards, sand traps, and other dastardly pit falls. We spewed forth things like

?You suck!?

?Who shot that shell??

?Red block, dead ahead!?

along with other comments, curses, and cat calls, weaving almost poetically in and out of our tense silence and roaring laughter. With the racing over, we popped in Super Smash Bros. Melee and we beat the living daylights out of each other with still more of our Nintendo favorites.

For an entire night, nearly ten straight hours, we played, we laughed, and we bonded as only true Gamers can. It?s a tradition of our lives we?ve shared, sometimes among different friends and often at different times of the year. Even before our coming together almost five years ago, we were destined to be comrades simply because of our one common joy: video games.

Now I?ve gone and done it, haven?t I? I?ve said that ringing pair of words that today makes parents cringe, whimper, and worry over the health of the next generation. Video games have been blamed for everything from the common cold, to school shootings which include Columbine (Muscari 588), to turning children into mindless killing drones who only have a desire to, well, kill.

Yet can we really blame the media and parents for seeing us that way? I know all too well the stare induced when playing a video game and how a person loses all sense of time and place when swept up by Zelda or Donkey Kong. It frightens me when a) I look up from my game to see my five-year-old niece, Madison, and realize I don?t know how long she?s been watching, and b) she?s the mirror image of me: jaw slack with eyes intent on the screen, unblinking and (perhaps) a little drool on her chin. I wonder how this is going to affect her mind and her health. Is she going to grow up as the stereotypical, anti-social Gamer? How will the violence in my games transfer to her play with her younger sister, and to her cousins and classmates? I wonder, yes, but do I worry? Not really. After all, I?ve been playing video games since I was her age, and look at how well I turned out. People just don?t know, or refuse to realize, the good that video games can do.

One thing video games have always had going for them is their ability to improve and develop skills. And I?m talking beyond that old cliché of hand-eye coordination into useful skills that?ll help later in life. Spatial visualization is the ability to manipulate and rotate 3-D objects mentally, and ?students with a high degree of spatial visualization are high achievers in mathematics and science. Improving spatial visualization may have a corresponding affect on student mathematics? (Dorman, par. 22). That?ll come in handy when Madison gets into Geometry or Bio-Chemistry.

And if your child is looking to work on his or her problem solving, the Zelda Series has some of the most complex riddles, puzzles, and obstacle courses known to gaming. Claudia Wallis is a mother who became concerned when her son?s newest love, ?Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? began to get in the way of most school work and other activities. That is until one day she took an interest in Nat?s gaming obsession, and described the game as ?devilishly difficult. Besides mastering arcane weapons (no blood, though), he had to memorize different sequences of tones--magic songs that transported the hero. There were puzzles to solve, strategies to plot? (Quittner, par. 29). Recently Madison has taken a liking to a popular Playstation 2 game, Spyro the Dragon. This poses the player with the same quest: these people are in trouble. You need to solve all these puzzles to collect these specific objects and save them.

Sure, all those children?s shows like Blue?s Clues and Dora: the Explorer will teach your kids exactly the same thing...but those are on TV. As hard as they try, they will [i]never[/i] be interactive, thus limiting the effectiveness of their lessons. With video games, children are constantly trying and retrying to get this final gem or that last ring, and the satisfaction they get at the end of all their hard work is almost therapeutic.

Speaking of being therapeutic, there have been studies in which video games were used as therapy; ?For example, video games have been used in behavior modification therapy and as a pain aversion technique for children with cancer? (Dorman, par. 28). Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a disease in which key muscles in your body (specifically the limbs and torso) waste away...children as young as two can develop it, and they rarely live to see their twentieth birthday. A study showed that playing a video game, with controls modified by doctors to use the patients? respiratory efforts, may help [i]improve[/i] their muscular performance (Dorman, par. 28).

And those seizures often associated with the quickly changing scenes of video games? One-third of the fifty world-wide documented cases came from children who experienced non-video game related seizures in the past or were photosensitive to flashing images in the first place. Only 5 percent of the cases actually proved sensitive to photic stimulation (Dorman, par. 8).

As far as lounging around all day, while it in no way can be expected to replace physical activity, playing an active video game (like, say, Mrs. Pac-Man) for thirty minutes or so a day offers the same energy release as that of mild intensity exercise (Dorman, par. 5). At least my niece is burning some energy while she [i]plays[/i] her games...instead of [i]sitting[/i] on her butt and [i]watching[/i] TV.

That brings me to the next point. It can?t be socially healthy for my niece to sit around all day, can it? Why, when her friends are outside playing and enjoying the sunshine, she?ll be inside playing these blasted video games.

Which isn?t true; the anti-social stereotype of a Gamer is very misplaced. I relayed to you earlier a scene of a group of teens hanging out and having a party. A very geeky party, I?m proud to admit, but a party nonetheless. If your gaming child is smart (which you can already see is true simply because he or she is playing video games), your child will make friends who like being inside and playing a round of this game or that. The group will spend hours on end at the mall checking out the gaming stores or at another friend?s house playing the game you didn?t get for [Insert Holiday of Choice Here].

There?s also the fact that video games have become much more group involved in the past decade or so. When Nintendo first released Super Mario, it was almost a turn-based game, meaning players went until they die, then someone else picked up where the first left off. Someone else is getting the glory for your work. When you?re looking to be competitive and keep score, that?s just not practical. Duck Hunt was a primitive start at two-player, but that?s only if you were lucky enough to have two guns. And forget Donkey Kong and Zelda...that just wasn?t gonna fly. With the release of multi-player modes, Gamers can come together and play against each other.

Also, a study done in Japan (the birthplace of Nintendo) found that kindergartners who played video games ?showed superior development in several areas of social skills? and ?were reported as ?having more friends? and ?speaking more willingly? than nonplayers? (Dorman, par. 18). Madison is right in that age group, and I can assure you I have never seen a child so eager to make friends with the neighborhood kids...and invite them over to play Spyro.

So your kid isn?t going to be anti-social...but is he going to be violent? After all, they?ve done all these studies with the Power Rangers and other violent kids? programs and results show that a constant stream of violence into a young mind can warp it.

Well, first off, most of those tests proved either to be inconclusive or pointed to other sources of the child?s aggression. Some even go as far to say the children weren?t being taught violence by the show. The mimicking of punches and kicks where done in a passive, make believe fashion, and not to be malicious or violent (Geist, par. 38). Secondly, those tests were done on [i]TV shows[/i], and we?ve already gone over the problem with those, haven?t we?

How do video games affect a child?s aggression? A child playing a video game is shown to be less aggressive than one banned from the console. Killing the fictional characters shown on the screen serves as an outlet for anger, pain, depression, and frustration. And in teens, being a Gamer can dramatically decrease the stress usually associated with such a hectic time in life (Dorman, par.14). Madison is only five...but with school just around the corner and a whole new part of her life looming on the horizon, I can honestly say I feel comfortable knowing video games will be there to help her see life through.

Video games encourage learning, promote social activity, and help your child deal with aggression and stress; then why do horrible things like Columbine happen to and around these Gamers? Sadly, it all goes back to their upbringing and their relationship with their parents. According to Sylvia Hewlett, who wrote an article for Parade magazine on the critical role of parents, ?during the last 30 years children have lost approximately 12 hours of parental time a week. Since research has uncovered ominous links between absentee parents and a whole range of emotional and behavioral problems, that fact should cause us significant concern? (Brown, par. 22-23). The children who see violence in a game, and then go perform that violence on a real human being were in need of help way before that game ever got into their hands. They needed guidance and they needed rules. Most of all, they needed parents who showed them how much they were loved.

Pay attention to what games your kid is playing, and make sure that the parents of their Gamer buddies are doing the same. Set some guidelines, for yourself and for the kids:

1) Enforce your rules. Just because you came home late from a bad day at work is no excuse for letting them slide on the gaming regulations.

2) Know what they?re getting into. Do research. The Web is the best place to find reviews on any and all games. Find out what they?re rated and set a limit on what rating your child can play.

3) Play the game. Play it with them. Follow the example of Claudia Wallis and ask them to explain things to you. Not only will it let you look in on them, but you?ll get some good quality time in with your children.

4) For the younger ones: Make sure they know that doing what they see on the game is just pretend. They need to know that violence hurts other people and that hurting others in real life is wrong. And remind the older ones too...just make sure they don?t forget.

5) Watch them. Watch them, watch them, [i]watch them[/i]. If there?s any change in behavior, an unwillingness to give up a game, a growing aggression tendency, or just a gut feeling that something?s not right, you know you?ve got to do something, and fast.

You?re the adult and the parent; it?s [i]your job[/i] to make sure your child is happy, healthy, and safe.

It was just a week ago, and my family had a birthday celebration for Madison?s sister Camille, who just turned two. I entered my sister?s house, gave everyone a hug, and found myself being dragged away by an overly excited niece to see how far she had gotten in Spyro since my last visit.

?Watch me, Aunt Jenna! Watch!? and she proceeded to jump, fly, and glide her way almost perfectly through a stage, picking up gems as she went.

Once the entire family arrived, we soon discovered things were suspiciously quiet, lacking the sound of five toddlers rampaging through the house. I was sent to look in on them, and never in my gaming history have I seen so wonderful a sight. My oldest nephew had taken up the game, face scrunched in concentration, while his little brother and their cousin looked on in awe. Madison sat with Camille on the couch, a controller in hand, trying desperately to teach a game she barely understood herself.

I?ve seen the next generation of Gamers. They are cheerful and intelligent young boys and girls who will learn to love technology and share that love with others. They won?t be learning impaired, anti-social, or instigate school shootings. They will simply be happy, sitting in their best friend?s basement, playing their video games.
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That is great. lol.

A very good, well thought out piece and I have to show it to my mother. *grins* Heh.

Very good job. I was kind of sceptical as to whether you would be able to make a good case for it, but you have. Marvellous job.

Also, I have Spyro 1, 2 and 3 Good stuff. Your niece has taste.
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