It is expected that by the end of October 2009 Venezuela will have in place legislation prohibiting the ownership of violent video games and toys. The all-out ban is something of a rarity, but many governments around the globe are trying to regulate video games, for example banning the sales and dissemination of games with violent and explicit content to minors and by introducing content rating systems.
The proponents of Venezuelan legislation see a direct link between video games and crime. They say too many of the young players easily trade joysticks for guns. On the other hand, the opponents point out that most studies found no evidence that violent games prompt violent behaviour in youngsters.
The debate is very old. Sometime in the third century BC, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato said that exposure to art which contained violent images or themes encouraged people to act out their own brutal impulses. His student Aristotle instead felt that those same violent images had a cathartic (“cleansing”) effect on the individual, allowing him to purge himself of violent or negative feelings in the act of experiencing the art in question.
A couple of thousand years have passed, and the debate is as inconclusive now as it was then. Moreover, just as then, both sides feel strongly about their respective point of view.
Parents’ concerns about video games are not limited to potentially unsuitable content. Many worry about the amount of time their kids spend in front of the screen and the physical effects of an inactive lifestyle.
However, carefully selected video games, consumed in reasonable quantity, can be beneficial. Video games are more challenging than most traditional board games and require good visual-motor skills, strong analytical abilities, flexibility, adaptability, and a great deal of patience and focus.
The fact that gamers often score better than non-gamers in various tests designed to measure certain skills does not necessarily mean that your capabilities will blossom if you play carefully selected games: it may be that individuals who already possess superior abilities are more likely to choose video gaming as an activity in the first place.
Still, it has been noticed that gamers exhibit very high levels of concentration while playing. This can be exploited by educational institutions. With the help of video games, schools could teach students without the latter even realising they're learning, to the satisfaction of both.
Video game players are becoming more diversified. They are no longer recruited from the ranks of teenage boys. Both older men and women are now more likely to be attracted to gaming than they used to be. (Part of the explanation may be the kids who were twelve at the time of the birth of the gaming industry are still playing in their thirties and forties.) On top of that, the spread of computer technology means that gamers are no longer geographically confined to developed Western countries.
However, the demographics of video game characters have not kept up with changes in the cross-section of players. A recent survey revealed that males, adults and white people are over-represented in games, while females, black people, children and the elderly are under-represented.
Even a cursory glance at the thousands of video games populating the bidorbuy Gaming category seems to confirm that this is indeed so. We did not find even one game with little old ladies as main characters!