17 August 2010

 17th August

(And not the song by Pink)

The topic of games being a “bad influence” hasn't interested me much, mainly because I always knew it was never true and mainly because a lot of the articles came from the Daily Mail, which perhaps isn't the most...reliable of sources to say the least. Video games that contain violence, guns or explosions are not tainting children's minds. As some of you may know, I've done some articles for a few magazines before. Last month I did a piece for one of my school projects to get my final grade. The article wasn't about games but the site was planned to make a brief entrance as being called “my video game website”. The original I sent forward had no mention of any hobby, however the editor replied asking me what it was since he wanted to include it. I told him it was a website, and he replied again really interested in this, was it a personal website? Or was it a fashion website? Or a story website? A week after I told him that it was about the video game; Tomb Raider, I received the first copy of the finished article in the layout it was going to be published in. Not only has the author changed from me writing the article to it being an “edited entry” (also means I didn't get paid and I can't put it on my CV due to his other changes he made) but the video game site that the editor wanted to mention didn't even make an appearance. When I asked him why it wasn't included, (out of curiosity) he stated that he did want the readers to have a negative opinion of the author and the magazine since games have a “bad influence” on people.

Tomb Raider does indeed have an influence, but it is anything but bad. I played my first Tomb Raider game at the age of four after “acquiring” it from my sister. The range of locations was awesome. One level I was in a jungle, wading through mud and then on another I was leaping around disused train stations in London. And I can say that those adventures really inspired me to write at at early age, It wasn't good fan fiction mind, the word “said” and “nice” was repeated far too often. This later led me to search for Tomb Raider fan fiction online. Skip along a roughly decade and to when my site was first being planned and created. I met some absolutely amazing people through the Eidos forums and Katie's Tomb Raider Forums and later through my site.

With that said, I've decided to take on the media by proving them wrong by using a few games including Tomb Raider. For this I am taking the Daily Mail Newspaper(any more and it would be an incredibly long piece) The Daily Mail doesn't actually contain all that much interesting news, and they seem to be out on a mission to make the gaming industry look bad.

First up is one of the articles that caught my eye was the article titled; “Under-7s 'should be banned from playing computer games or risk damaging their brains'” the article says that playing fast paced action games restricts the child's ability to learn. As I mentioned earlier, I began playing games at the age of four, mainly because it was Tomb Raider and in a shiny box. Other people in my class was playing with old tricycles the school had in a small leaking shed, a lot of the children there were focused on pressing matters like “Was the sand pit going to be open today” or “Will the rain stop so I can play outside.” Actually I had those pressing matters too (leave me alone, I was four!) but I was also thinking about how I could get past the level I was on and what would happen if Lara stepped out of the computer. I played Tomb Raider as soon as I got in and that was one of my main sources of inspiration. Recently I found an old Lara Croft journal I made when I was younger a few days back and inside was pages and pages of things I wrote when I was at school about Lara Croft and her amazing adventures through London. That's not to say that I am a genius, my grades reflect that but I blame that on a bad few years in primary school not on games. If we skip along a few years to the release of the first Tomb Raider movie I remember climbing the rocks in my garden, pretending that a shed was an ancient tomb and carrying twigs like dual pistols my hair was plaited and it was the first time that I actually felt comfortable wearing shorts. Even when it began to rain I remained outside pretending that the rain were bullets from mercenaries above me on the roof of the ruins. In my mind I barely managed to get to the shed and I had to eat a chewy sweet (MedPack) to restore my health bar. I dug into the soil nearby and found a plastic toy case with three small golden plastic Star Wars busts inside which were the relics I was looking for...God knows what my neighbours thought! The reason for this imaginative quest was because I was mid way through watching the first Tomb Raider movie and Lara Croft was so awesome to me, (that's a story I thought I would never be retelling). The truth is that the series has never stopped giving me inspiration as you can tell from reading these sorts of articles. So the idea that games are bad for the brain is completely a typical Daily Mail idea. Video games don't damage your brain, they (like Tomb Raider) inspires people.

Another headdesk article by the Daily Mail called “'Sickening' - Anne Diamond's chilling verdict on age-rated violent video games” First of an important point to make is that gamers can tell the difference between video games and real life. Video games is about things that you can't actually do in real life, Lara is a member of the British aristocracy with a firearm in England which is against the law and being a famous member of the aristocracy you'd think someone would know that she is a little trigger happy. In video games you can jump from building to building on top of a orange levitation orb (Psychonauts) and fly into deep space to take on a battle against the antagonist while fighting off zombies (HALO) and until there's a zombie apocalypse and we're in space shooting them in the air while we're flying on orange orbs, I think the problem with splitting fantasy from reality isn't going to be so much of an issue. Although I'm not going to say that all video games are innocent and fun, I've seen some trailers/cutscenes for some games and I've remained absolutely still after the video had finished thinking “It doesn't look fun, it's just nasty” for example that was my reaction to the “50 Cent Blood on the Sand” but there's an audience for it and I have no problem with game companies making violent games or games with a +18 rating since not only children play video games, which is the detail that the media seems to be missing. Although I think that the ESRB can be a little extreme when it comes to age ratings for video games. Tomb Raider Legend was a +16, and I really couldn't explain why.

The final article is called; “Video games DO make us feel violent says two thirds of teenagers”. Are they sure it's the video games that's making them “violent” or the platforms which break or need upgrading which makes them violent, my gaming computer is total proof of that. The strangely large percentage they mention does make you think about who they asked, and when they ask them. If it's while gaming when you're playing like Halo, you're going to be determined to win, so you are going to be more ruthless. Plus putting blame on video games whenever a teenager feels violent or does an irrational action is ridiculous, they follow impulse, we've all been there. I'd admit that Lara Croft isn't exactly the poster girl for no violence. In every single photo or magazine article you can bet that at least one part will mentions guns, explosives, or the enemies, but does Tomb Raider make us feel violent? I wouldn't think so. Mainly because it's always been focused on the adventure and puzzle solving side. Even with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light which is meant to be focused towards action and fighting it still has the puzzle solving and teamwork. Also games are recreational, people play games to relax after a long day, if they are making some gamers violent or angry perhaps that wasn't the game for them. I did some research for the topic too and despite the video game industry being blamed for making teenagers violent major studies by The Harvard Medical School Centre for Metal Health, The Journal of Adolescent Health and The British Medical Journal have found no prove that there's a link between video games and violent activity, another important detail that writers ignores before printing.

What the media also seems to overlook is that video games are also great for inspiration. They spent their time writing about the negative effects of video games; “video games promotes violence”, “video games lead to dysfunctional families”, “games caused obesity”, “video games cause addiction” “games caused this school shooting” etc. But how many times have you gone on to a news site and read a happy story about video games? I'm guessing those moments are far and few between. The last one I saw was a few months ago when I came across a video about a charity event called Desert Bus for Hope to raise money for a video game charity called Child's Play. There are plenty of good arguments why video games are good, some video games can teach gamers, for example I was really interested in the Arthurian Myth after playing Tomb Raider Legend so I researched the stories. The media doesn't necessarily focus on the communities that video games create. What I found really cool about the Tomb Raider series is that is has an awesome community with a lot of dedicated people behind the games, and there's a good relationship between both.

As a final note, I found this out recently, and I think it's a really cool story. It also shows that video games can inspire people. One of my favourite authors is Terry Pratchett who created the awesome Discworld series, he has mentioned in a few interviews that he's a big fan of the Tomb Raider series. Accompanying the novel series was a video game called Discworld Noir which stars a character called Lorenzo Cronk (a stealth archaeologist) it is also possible that she was a prototype for a character in the novel series. There are several Discworld fansites and wikis which compares Miss Alice Band (another one of the Discworld characters) to Lara Croft. Just more proof the the industry and the Tomb Raider series has a bigger positive impact then people think.


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