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?


Guitar Hero and violence in computer games

15 thoughts on “Guitar Hero and violence in computer games

  • March 28, 2008 at 9:37 pm
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    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.

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    • March 29, 2008 at 8:54 pm
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      Theo sounds a lot like Ben at that age. I had friends who used to say “ALL boys play with toy guns…if you don’t give them a toy gun, they’ll just make one out of something else.” Not true! Ben wanted nothing to do with guns of any kind. He hated violence of any kind…no violent computer games (he was the only one of his friends who didn’t play Halo…in fact, he used to be very concerned about violence in computer games.) I couldn’t get him to try Tai Kwon Do or anything like that. I’m not sure what changed a couple years ago (he got a lot more friends???)…he’s still very sweet, so the computer games and the Airsoft hasn’t changed his personality any, but I kind of miss the pacifism.

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  • March 29, 2008 at 9:10 am
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    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.

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    • March 29, 2008 at 8:57 pm
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      I think we’re desensitizing our nation, too.

      If you are interested in a citizen’s police academy class, I hope you won’t let what I had to said about it dissuade you. The community you take it in might not even offer a simulator experience…and if they do you could always opt out like I did (or not even attend class that night). I’m really glad I took the class. I learned a lot…and I have new respect for what police officers go through.

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      • March 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm
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        I don’t think most countries offer citizen’s police adademy classes. I”m sure they wouldn’t let me, a foreigner take it.
        I’ve seen movies and had classes because of my husband’s job–we are at a greater risk.
        My husband has had a gun held to his head–by the police; I’ve had friends who have had guns held to their heads by police officers and others who have been shot at–by criminals. Living overseas isn’t this wonderland that people think it is.
        I’d rather stay away from guns.

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        • March 31, 2008 at 7:02 pm
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          Wow! I don’t blame you. Your husband has had a gun held to his head??? By the police?!?! Did they know he was a diplomat at the time?

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          • April 1, 2008 at 9:56 am
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            No. He was asking for help, because we were a little lost.
            It upset my kids. Yeah. It wasn’t a little pistol–it was a big gun.

            With one of my friends it was for 20 minutes and they didn’t like her diplomatic license plates!

            The problem is–the police always have their finger on the trigger, the gun is pointed at your head, and it is cocked, ready to go. A lot of innocent people get killed by the police.
            A lot more get killed by the criminals–when we lived there it was 28 a day. As in 28 murders a day.

          • April 1, 2008 at 3:48 pm
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            Can you say where that happened? I’m guessing it wasn’t Iceland or Finland…

          • April 1, 2008 at 5:53 pm
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            Sao Paulo, Brazil.
            The food is amazing!. I miss the food. The food–is indescribable.

            I don’t miss the daily danger.

          • April 1, 2008 at 6:27 pm
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            I’ll bet you don’t!

            My older son studied Brazil when he was homeschooled. The homeschool group we belonged to had a “food festival” and encouraged everyone to study a country for a month and then bring food from that country for the festival. We made some sort of Brazilian sweet bread, as I recall…it was good! I remember we couldn’t make a couple of the main dish sorts of recipes we found because we couldn’t find a couple of key ingredients.

    • March 29, 2008 at 9:02 pm
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      Sarah, I can’t watch violent movies, either. Same thing: even PG-13 is pushing it. As part of the Norton jury I was supposed to read Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars and the violence in it was so repulsive that I couldn’t.

      The stupid thing about fictional violence is that (IMO) it can often replace things that are harder to write but ultimately more satisfying for readers, like peril and narrative tension. Whereas, for some readers/viewers, violence is an easy thrill.

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      • March 30, 2008 at 8:28 pm
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        Thanks for the heads up. I’ll avoid that book. I read some of the reviews–words such as “gory” and “violent” are used. Some readers felt it should be an adult book.

        I’ve heard the exact same sentiment (concerning fictional violence) about film–that screenwriters and directors often use violence as a substitute for good storytelling.

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  • April 3, 2008 at 6:44 am
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    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 …

    H.

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    • April 3, 2008 at 5:40 pm
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      Hey! Hi! How are you?

      My son would definitely agree with you…and I’ve started to come around to his line of thinking a little bit. There are a lot of games out there that I don’t like…and I still don’t think it’s good to spend HOURS at a time in front of a video game. But video games are not responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world.

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      • April 3, 2008 at 9:07 pm
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        Hi to you too!

        I am doing OK … still a writer in a frustarted cube jockey’s body … but oh well ….

        Video technology is interesting … I especially find it fascinating in how it is used in military and law enforcement training … I do wonder what the future will be like and hope we (as a society) keep teaching (and practicing) empathy ….

        H.

        Reply

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