Guitar Hero and violence in computer games

My husband has been out of town all week…not because he’s a “guitar hero.” That’s not the reason for the subject of this post. (In fact, he’s the only one in the family who does not play a musical instrument.) No, he was just traveling for work.

Yesterday was the only day all week the kids and I were actually all HOME in the evening. So, what did we do? We played Guitar Hero on College Student’s X-box. Oh, if my husband could have seen us!

You have to understand, I am not a “gamer.” Besides whatever came with the computer, the only computer games I own are Scrabble and Lexicon (which is a word game some friends of ours designed). College Student showed me a game called Portal a few months ago, which is apparently The Best Game Ever Made (it’s got a pretty catchy little theme song, too)…I could barely work the controls. This gaming thing is not me.

And Guitar Hero is not my kids. Well…I could’ve seen Junior High Kid playing it before last night. He does actually play a bass guitar, after all. But not College Student. Both these kids have mocked the guitar hero game for as long as I can remember (i.e. “that’s not a REAL computer game!”) And yet, College Student ended up playing a similar game with friends of his a couple weeks ago and he liked it enough that he decided he had to own Guitar Hero.

So yeah…we were all getting into Guitar Hero last night.

It was fun, but I don’t think anyone is actually learning to play the guitar from this game. College Student was glad I said that. He and I have many conversations on violence and computer games. He contends computer games do NOT make kids more violent…not by themselves. I don’t know…he makes some pretty compelling arguments, but I still think computer games, TV, all forms of media are at least desensitizing people to violence. But College Student says that playing a game like Halo, for example, doesn’t simulate what it’s like to shoot a real person any more than Guitar Hero simulates what it’s like to play a real guitar.

Is he right? I don’t know. I’ve never shot anyone…and neither has he. (In fact, when I did that Citizen’s Police Academy class, we had a night where we got to hold a gun and we used the actual simulator the police use to train. Their simulator is VERY realistic. What you’re seeing on the screen is life-sized. I squirmed a little as I watched my classmates get up and deal with situations involving traffic stops that went bad…but then the simulations changed to school shootings! I couldn’t do it! Even though it wasn’t real…it was just a simulation, I couldn’t get up there and take my turn. Just watching those simulations got my adrenaline pumping…a couple of them even brought tears to my eyes. Right there in class. So no, I didn’t want to get up there and hold a gun and go through the simulation. The school shooting simulations especially were just too REAL for me! But…I’m not a gamer.)

It does make me think about how kids have played through the years. My kids did not have toy guns to play with. They didn’t even have squirt guns until someone gave Junior High Kid one at a birthday party when he turned six. But my brother had toy guns. And my parents both had very realistic looking toy guns when they were kids. Did anyone worry back then that allowing their kids to run around with toy guns and “shoot” at each other would make them more violent? Which is worse…shooting a 2-dimensional figure in a computer game by holding down a button or holding a toy gun in your hand and “shooting” it at your friend down the street?

15 thoughts on “Guitar Hero and violence in computer games

  1. My son, Theo, is a very sweet little dude. Nurturing, kind, just a nice kid. He refuses to play with guns and always has because he does not like the idea of killing somebody, even to pretend to kill somebody. He gets very solemn when he talks about this.

    He does play with plastic swords and light sabers. In those games, though, the weapon is for fighting (and running and leaping around with), and never for killing. They’re always part of elaborate imaginative games, too (the latest one is Fire Ninjas. He has a first grader who is his Fire Ninja apprentice, even).

    Related point. In my novel, my world is a Victorian England analogue, which means there should be guns. But I designed the magic system purposely to make guns impossible to use. I hate them.

  2. Wow.
    I will never enroll in a citizen’s police academy class. I have a hard time with violent movies–I just don’t watch them. I’m fine with PG and very selective with PG-13.

    I’m scared we are desensitizing our nation. There are (emotionally), I think, problems when people don’t think that violence is a problem.

  3. When I firts started working in mental health as a practioner it was in Eastern KY …. a long way from Fairmont, MN LOL … I worked with one of the first school shooters … From a clinical perpective it was interesting but hard to deal with a total lack of empathy.

    I wonder if that what is what the probelm is – lack of empathy rather than the games themselves …

    Just a thought …

    Hope all is well …


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