Posts Tagged ‘video games’

Duke Nukem Never

May 14, 2009

I remember watching a trailer for Duke Nukem Forever in 1998. This one in fact:

I was somewhat surprised, then, to see the game back in the news recently. I had long since assumed that development had ended. I mean, no one would continue to work on a game for twelve years, would they?

It seems that 3D Realms would, did and have now been forced to close because of it.

To put this in perspective, they have worked on the aptly named Duke Nukem Forever for the same amount of time it took Valve to finish Half-Life, produce two expansions, a sequel and two expansions for the sequel with a third well underway.

The Guardian’s games writer Steve Boxer had little sympathy for the game’s troubled development, saying: “They had more than 12 years…it’s just incompetence of the highest order.”

It makes you wonder just what exactly the team have been doing for all this time? Perhaps they just found themselves  in a downward financial spiral, locked in a death grapple with a monster of their own making?

Here is the latest trailer, which looks to be all we will ever see of the game now:

Are games addictive?

June 6, 2008


In 2005 a 28 year old man, identified only by his family name Lee, played the game StarCraft for almost a week, stopping only for brief naps or toilet breaks. As an obese man not in the prime of physical condition, Lee died from exhaustion several days into his epic gaming marathon.

We’re used to thinking about addiction in terms of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol – but does compulsive gaming also qualify?

It is certainly a psychological rather than physical addiction. Like compulsive gambling, this is an impulse control disorder. But some games (especially MMPORGs) actually encourage this kind of binge play. They reward gamers who spend longer in the game world. I have always stayed well clear of them, for the same reason that I’ve always stayed well clear of eating fast food for a whole month.

One of the selling points of these games – and one of the dangers – is that they allow you to do things that you cannot or are not allowed to do in real life. You can do anything from taking part in the D-day landings to committing grand theft auto.

But what I find scary is not that these detailed pieces of entertainment can become addictive, but the fact that our modern lives may have become so devoid of any real purpose, so filled with pointless repetition and drudgery, that we would rather be in a fictional world. Some studies even suggest that video games can satisfy some basic psychological needs to a greater extent than the reality of a gamer’s life – often players continue to play because of rewards, freedom, and a sense of connection with other players.

Whatever the case may be, it’s undeniable that a small percentage of gamers (typically 1-2%) become chronically addicted. In extreme cases, some quit their jobs in order to spend more time online; there have even been cases of robberies being committed to fund a gamer’s habit.

This is a real problem in Asia. The government of South Korea is in talks with developers to put patches on games that warn of the dangers of excessive play. China has become so worried about this problem that it has set up clinics to wean people away from their PCs and has distributed software to internet cafes that prevents people for playing for more than five hours without a break.

But as games become more visually sophisticated and interactive the dangers will only increase. Will it be that long before the technology arrives to make fully immersive interactive worlds better than even the best of real life?

Logic Failure: Linking games to violence

May 23, 2008


What are you doing with that pick-axe? No! Noooo!

What are you doing with that pick-axe? No! Noooo!

For many years now, video games have been the media punching-bag for anything from violent youth crime to school massacres to road rage. So, why does the media love to attack this particular entertainment industry?

● Older generations have never played any games. To them, games are an unknown influence. People fear the unknown, and thus ascribe to them the magic power to turn balanced, happy children into raging psychopaths. They do not try it for themselves and thereby realise that the risks are minimal. This lack of knowledge about the medium is also the reason that adult content finds its way into the hands of children who are legally too young to play it.

● The media ignores the idea that people prone to violence will be attracted to violent media. The killer chooses the media, the media does not choose the killer.

● People habitually like to blame horrible acts on identifiable external causes, from the Devil to witchcraft to movies and video games. Or goats. Hence, scapegoating.

● Part of the problem is the perception that games are automatically toys for young children and teens (an assumption which would never be made with books or films). They are not yet seen as a source of entertainment for what is, actually, their key market: 18 – 35 year olds.

● It’s an easy, clear target for anger and grief. Parents of victims would find it harder to focus an attack on “bad parenting” or “poor social integration in schools”, for example.

A recent US Secret Service study found that only 12% of those involved in school shootings were attracted to violent video games, while 24% read violent books and 27% were attracted to violent films. A far higher percentage showed violence in their own personal writing – essays, poems and diary entries.

In 2004, a 17 year-old murdered one of his friends. The victim’s parents immediately blamed the influence of the game Manhunt, as well as labeling the killer ‘inherently evil’ (which would presumably mean that he didn’t need to be influenced by anything).

Several news stories were run about the game being responsible. Stores removed it from shelves. It later because clear that the game was found in the victim’s house – not the killer’s – and that the motive for the murder was, in fact, simple robbery.

A parent’s distraught reaction is understandable. The media’s is not. Stop blaming games. Stop blaming goats. Blame parents, blame schools, blame the availability of guns, blame gang culture – because all of those things have an influence on children that far outweighs any brief entertainment. But most of all realize that people have, do and will continue to commit horrific acts.

 The sad truth is, we’re just not that far away from being monkeys.

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