This week Nicole, Linda, and Simone are joined by our resident Minecraft dad, Curtis Vredenburg. We veer off into a discussion of strollers before we jump into news and a serious review of violence in video games. We also tease Simone a bunch—this might be our favorite GWTM sport!
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News & Views
- There are new amiibo (amiibos?) coming out. We all like the toys-to-life things. All the figurines are great, but we’d love to see more innovation in functionality—more interaction between toy and player.
- Sims 4 has a new expansion pack coming out called Get Together. (Simone did a very entertaining review of The Sims 4 for Pixelkin.) The expansion pack features a whole new world, called Windenburg, where Sims go to a lot of nightclubs, apparently. Nicole doesn’t get wild with her Sims, except for the time her Sims 3 fairy married a vampire.
- There’s going to be a new Halo tabletop game that looks just amazing. And it’s going to be Halo-canon compliant. It will even add to the massive and interesting Halo canon.
- Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is going to have a Mass Effect-style mech character. And a bunch of other wacky new characters too.
- Toca Store is a game that gives you free in-game money, unlike some mobile games these days.
Violence in Video Games
Curtis, the dad of two boys who are 9 and 11, asks if there’s a consensus in the research about whether video games cause violent behavior. Nicole says there is not a consensus; there’s a lot of arguing on both sides. Not only that, but most of the studies of the effects of violence in video games are flawed. There’s a good article in Mother Jones that talks about the meta studies (the studies that study the studies). The upshot is that most of the studies seem to confirm the investigators’ biases.
Here are some other points to consider about video game violence:
- Parents sometimes observe their kids being louder or acting frustrated after playing a video game. We talk about Crossy Road, a very frustrating (but addictive) mobile game. The point is that it’s hard to separate the effects of violence in games from the effects of frustration in video games.
- The Supreme Court has weighed in on video games as protected speech—just like movies and books.
- There’s a difference between having aggressive feelings and following through with violent behavior. It’s easy to conflate the feelings with the behavior, but think about the difference between having aggressive feelings (in a traffic jam, say) and actually committing a violent act.
- Gamers often insist they dissipate aggressive or frustrating feelings by playing video games. We call it “blowing off steam.” Whether that works or not is unclear, but it is clear that real-world violence rates have been shrinking as video game playing has increased.
- Nonetheless, politicians are still trying to introduce bills that regulate violence in video games. We think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to new media, and it’s something that has been happening forever—it happened in the 1940s with comic books.
- Violence in video games is not a simple issue. You can consider how realistic violence is, whether it’s satire, and lots of other stuff when you’re evaluating whether to allow a particular game in your house. Our article “Where Are You on the Video Game Violence Spectrum?” talks about some of the nuances.
We all agree that it’s important to talk to kids about violence in games. Figure out what your family’s values are around this issue and talk, talk, talk about it.
We also agree that we wish there was more creativity in game design and fewer violent-laden game mechanics. Thatgamecompany (formerly led by a woman, Kellee Santiago) does a lot of clever, nonviolent games (like Flower, Flow, and Journey). The rise of the indie game sector has helped game mechanics to diverge from the shooter model, but that model is still pretty prevalent.
Here are some sources of more info on media (movies, TV, and games): Besides Pixelkin, parents can check into Common Sense Media (pretty conservative), IMDB’s parental info, and the ESRB Ratings website.
What We Played
Simone played a board game! It’s Betrayal at House on the Hill, which is based on “every haunted-house movie you’ve ever seen.”
Linda’s been playing the usual: Crossy Road, Alphabear, and a little Assassin’s Creed: Unity. She’s also been spending sometime at The International, the DOTA 2 esport tourney that’s going on this week. The International is by far the richest esport tournament; the prize pool is now up to more than $18 million. Here’s an entertaining recap of one day of the tournament:
This podcast was recorded in the studios of the Jack Straw Cultural Center in Seattle. The music is by Pat Goodwin at Novelty Shop Creative. Nicole Tanner, Linda Breneman, Simone de Rochefort, and Curtis Vredenburg participated in this podcast. Thanks for listening and if you liked this episode, please rate us on iTunes and find us on BlogTalkRadio!