Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Video-Game Legislation Would Be Ineffective *REVISITED*

Unlike previous entries in the Revisited entries, this post will be an update to a previous post, not a retraction of previous statements

Hey readers,

As my friends know all too well, I am a heavy video-game enthusiast. Those like me might be aware that the Supreme Court will be hearing the California proposed measure criminalizing the sale of violent video games to minors in the near future. Two bills will be but under consideration. The first, and less controversial bill, will have retailers nationwide fined $1,000 for selling M-rated games to minors. The second is considerably more controversial to the gaming community. IGN’s Thomsen writes, “The second bill would require all games deemed as "harmful material" to carry a two-inch black sticker with "18" printed on it in white letters. These games would have to be kept in separate areas in a store where minors would not have access, similar to the way pornography is cordoned off in a video rental store.” While the first bill’s good faith cannot be denied, the second bill holds considerable ramifications that can have industry-wide impacts.supreme-confrontation-games-violence-and-the-law-20100428050212275

Why “Video Games are Art” is Important

For the last several years, a sometimes futile debate regarding the status of video games as a medium for self-expression has raged on. Several sources like GamesRadar have dismissed this argument as trivial. However, in preventing the censorship of gaming, this argument is critical. While the artistic integrity of games like Metal Gear Solid and Okami is well known, the importance of gaming as an artistic medium is critical for the protection of gaming under the First Amendment.

If the Supreme Court finds that video games are indeed a medium for artistic expression, then the government cannot pass laws restricting the sale of games to minors. Unfortunately, there is consensus among the non-gaming community that video games are merely products from which pleasure is derived from consumers. If this view of gaming is upheld, then the state is allowed to oversee sales in the same way as tobacco and alcohol are restricted.  

Video Games Cause Violence? True or False

gta-iv-jack-thompson Pundits like Jack Thompson have ignited flamewars in the last few years for accusing video-game violence for causing real world violence. While research does definitively prove that violent video games arouse visceral emotions and stimulate certain parts of the brain, more research has found an inverse relationship between violent youth crime and the increased availability of video games. A 2008 Department of Justice report found that juvenile arrests have dropped in the past decade. (See also, Grand Theft Childhood, highly recommended reading)

OBJECTION! Ignorant Pundits and Repeated Scare Strategies

Nonetheless, the “video-game violence causes real-world violence” remains a popular bandwagon for pundits to jump on. For example, Jack Thompson, made bold assertions that Seung Hui-Cho’s massacre was caused by playing Counter-Strike in high-school, despite evidence that the massacre was caused by psychiatric/social problems and that legions of violent video-game players have not exhibited the same behavior. A lack of familiarity with the complex and nuanced world of this medium can be attributed to such accusations.

256px-Mass_Effect_poster Pundits have an infuriating tendency to oversimplify and misunderstand things (See, GamesRadar). Without a clear understanding of the nuances of gaming, the media makes ignorant and blatantly false claims about gaming. Adhering to archaic views of gaming, or wholly making things up (i.e. Mass Effect sex controversy), asinine and incredible views are put forward, which in turn, influence the views of the populace without familiarity with gaming. By focusing on minute details of single games, they fail to understand the big picture, and thereby lose credibility with those familiar to gaming. For example, certain groups oppositional to violent video-games support the banning of games like Grand Theft Auto and Halo because they want to protect children from accessing such content. One pundit stated that Mass Effect was a “children’s game” that allowed kids to “to engage in graphic sex”. This is untrue on two counts, Mass Effect is not intended for, and not marketed to children, it also exaggerates sex scenes radically using strong language marketable to viewers.

Recommended Links and Sources

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Sites 57


It has been an eternity since we last did a Sunday Sites posting. I’m back from a short trip to Vegas and the Grand Canyon Parks (it wasn’t anything like Rainbow Six) so there wasn’t a regular posting this week.

Without further ado, check out these sites on an ongoing criminal case involving a suicide. 15-year old Phoebe Prince, committed suicide in January after months of torment and bullying. Here is an article on a psychological study on the motives of bullying. (Details on the case can be found here) Studies Reveal Why Kids get Bullied and Rejected My own take on the bullying problem, a post from a few months back. Prince on Wikipedia, an entire series of articles can be found at the bottom template. An informative read.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Questioning the Answers

Today marks the second birthday of My Back Pages: Question the Answers.


Yup, that’s right. My Back Pages: Question the Answers turns two today. It has been a rough adventure of discovery and fun, and I hope that my readers that have followed me from the start concur.

I decided to save this day to address what I consider to be a very important topic for this site as well as my own personal philosophies, and that is subtitle of this site: Question the Answers.

Seeking Truth

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. ~ Aristotle

Put in the simplest terms possible, one should question the answers to whet out the truth. No idea should be accepted as is. It must be evaluated and questioned for veracity. Placing thoughts to such a test would strengthen their reliability. This species of doubt is part of the larger tree of logic, and living by it is critical to living philosophically. One should not adhere to an idea as is, but should establish a rationale for adhering to it. Only by doing so does he know that he knows the truth.

Deceived and Duped

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality." - Albert Einstein

Few would disagree that grilling thoughts to strengthen, eliminate or revise them is a bad thing. However, its importance must be established.

Questioning the answers is a skill that far too many people today lack. They are easily duped by lies and untrustworthy forces to do frivolous or unethical things. With mass media, television commentators and personalities can almost effortlessly control the opinions and thoughts of the unquestioning masses. Without evaluating these ideas for veracity, people are led to adhere to a sometimes untrustworthy perception of the truth.

Take for example, conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has been accused multiple times for holding imbalanced views on his show, and to a great extent he does. Media watchdog groups monitor his popular shows for inaccuracies and unsupported claims. Holding a strongly anti-liberal stance, he has been known to use personal attacks when criticizing environmentalism and feminism. Despite his controversial claims, Limbaugh has developed a large and devoted following. However, Republican intellectuals from his own conservative party criticize him sharply for creating a bad reputation of anti-intellectualism.  Republican Councilman Charles Brown said “Regardless of political labels, for any radio announcer to wish a riot on a city so his party could win, that's disgraceful and it's absurd.

Limbaugh’s devoted following is evidence that approaching the media with a curious and questioning mind is intellectually beneficial. Those duped into blindly advocating unverified claims and personal attacks must learn to entertain thoughts without necessarily accepting them. Neither outright accepting or blindly resisting ideas, but evaluating them, is the best intellectual course of action.

Facebook Groups and Why Gullibility is a Crisis

In recent months, Facebook has become a soapbox for scam-marketing, histrionic attention-mongering and attempts at garnering large amounts of fans or members. These attention-mongering Facebook pages present us with evidence of a gullibility crisis and further prove that the skill to intellectually approach claims is urgently needed.

Thus, fan-pages, a system created for independent businesses and artists to market services and connect to fans. Yet, a scourge of arbitrary fan-pages spreads like wildfire. Most of these fan-pages are poorly disguised scams to accrue the most fans possible. Using bait and switch mechanics, page-keepers can lure in tens of thousands of fans. For example, the page titled “OMG I LOL’D SO HARD AT THIS GIRL WHO TEXTED HER DAD INSTEAD OF HER BFF!!!” has, as of this writing, 1,731,841 fans. In order to see the image of the girl texting her dad, one must become a fan. The page itself contains several links on it that indicate it is a marketing sham. These links are titled “DOWNLOAD THE LATEST MOVIES FOR FREE”, "CUSTOMIZE YOUR FACEBOOK LAYOUT” and “NAUGHTY EMO TEENS”. The presence of these links are an obvious indicator that the page was created to market links using bait-and-switch tactics. The fact that 1,731,841 people fell for that ploy, amid obvious evidence that it was a marketing sham, is a shocking indication that the vast majority of killsbigpeople today accept things without prying to comprehend them. 

Even more shocking is the page titled “We Will Not Pay To Use Facebook. We Are Gone If This Happens ►► INVITE ALL!”. At an appalling 43,285 members, this group is testimony to the gullibility of people today. Like the previous example, the page shows obvious signs of being an attempt to accrue members by asking members to invite all their friends. Even more shocking is the fact that, despite overwhelming evidence that Facebook will never charge a fee, the group grows exponentially daily. Although it is a well-known fact that Facebook makes millions daily from advertisement revenue, that the company will likely lose the overwhelming majority of its users and that the paysite-model is exceedingly rare outside of pornography, members are constantly qutebeing brought in by hysterical and outrageous claims. Such claims, can be easily refuted by even the slightest questioning of their veracity.  Despite a Snopes article definitively proving these rumors false a week ago, the group’s wall is constantly updated with writings such as “Not paying! Why would I when I can talk to my friends in other ways” and “If you start charging to use facebook I also will leave”. 

It is self-evident from these two Facebook groups that a large number of people can be duped into performing actions through outrageous claims and deceitful marketing ploys. People are not questioning the ideas and thoughts that they come across, and unfortunately, they can be dragged into unwittingly believing untrue things (i.e. the Facebook charge).


Maintaining an Open Mind

A wise man changes his mind, a fool never” ~ Spanish Proverbw

At the same time, questioning everything one comes across leads to the inevitable danger of creating closed-mindedness. Indeed, the problem of closed-mindedness is one that I struggled with a few years ago. Thinking I was being unique and individualistic, I fought against cogent arguments and basic truths. In writing this post, I fear that some of my readers might misinterpret this as encouragement to resist the ideas and thoughts of others. By all means I am against this misinterpretation and will not let my readers fall down the same path I did years ago.

I stated earlier that one should question things to search for truth and meaning in the world around them. This search for truth and meaning entails developing the willingness to question any thought, including one’s own. At the same time, no thought should be rejected outright in the same way that no thought should be accepted outright. In being open to outside influence, we find truths more cogent and logical than our own. The positivity of being open to the influence of others should go without saying. By questioning ideas that influence us, we can make ourselves stronger and more cogent.

This Blog

For over a year now, this blog has went by the motto of “Question the Answers”. My goal in writing most blog posts was to analyze and question commonly held beliefs and dispel their verisimilitude and reveal objective truths. In doing so, I developed myself to become a more honest, kind and open person. I hope that I was able to share a bit of that development with my own readers.

Thank you.