Video games are in the news

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1 Issue Video games 1. What s the issue? Video games are in the news Grand Theft Auto 5 is a game full of violence and mayhem. You can drive and run through a fictional city, shooting people, running them over and beating them up. It is also very popular. In fact, it is one of the best-selling games ever made. GTA 5, and other violent games, are supposed to be played only by people over the age of 18. But if you're anything like I was when I was growing up, lots of you have probably played them anyway. The idea of children playing violent video games upsets many people. They worry that children will copy what they see, and that playing video games will make them violent in the real world. You may have talked about this with your own parents. What did they think? Do they approve of you playing violent games? Do you think they are right? Others worry that even if games do not make children violent, they may make them lazy. Spending too much time indoors is not healthy. So video games may be making children s health worse. 2. Why is this important or interesting? If the worriers are right, video games would be a serious problem. Perhaps the government might decide to ban them, to try to keep crime down and to keep people from becoming unfit. But are they right? Is it true that video games are bad for you? It sounds like it might be true. But just because something sounds true does not always mean that it is. After all, people used to think that the Sun went around the Earth. Today we know that it is actually the other way around! If we want to decide what to believe, we will have to look at the evidence ourselves.

2 3. Group discussion Concepts to think about To help you think about why this issue is important and interesting, here are some relevant concepts to think about: Evidence Evidence is information that proves whether something is true or not. The things you read in the papers can sometimes be wrong or untrue. So to decide whether you believe a news story, you could check if there is any evidence to prove that it s true. Sometimes the newspapers are very convincing, so it s easy to believe the things they tell you. That s why it s important to look for the evidence the facts before you decide whether to believe it. Responsibility Responsibility is all about what people are supposed to do. Responsibilities are the things that a person should do, for example a teacher s responsibility is to help children learn. People can have lots of different responsibilities. For example parents have a responsibility to help keep children safe, and a responsibility to help keep children healthy. Sometimes lots of people can have the same responsibility. For example it s not just parents that should help to keep children safe, police and teachers have that same responsibility. When you read the news, it is often important to think about whose responsibility it is to fix some of the problems that you read about. Questions to think about Thinking about these concepts, what questions could you ask about the issue? Here are a couple of questions our Economist journalist came up with: Some newspapers say that videogames are bad for you, but is that definitely true? Is there any evidence to prove it? Whose responsibility is it to make sure that children don t play games that are bad for them? Parents? Governments? The people who make the games? Children themselves? Can you think of any more questions?

3 4. Read more about it Do video games make some people violent, or not? In 1999 two teenagers called Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people at their school in America. They were fond of playing Doom, a video game from the 1990s that is even gorier than GTA 5. At the time, many people blamed Doom for the murders. After Harris and Klebold, the American school shooters, killed their classmates, many newspapers said that they enjoyed playing Doom. They argued that, because Doom is violent, it must have made Harris and Klebold violent too. That is possible. But there is another possibility too. After all, lots of people play video games, including Doom. But most of those people have never been violent to anyone. If a game is very popular, and very many people have played it, then a few of those people will inevitably turn out to be nasty and violent. That does not mean that the game made them violent. If that is a bit confusing, think about doctors. Lots of people are doctors many thousands in Britain alone. One of the worst murderers in British history was a doctor called Harold Shipman. He killed more than 200 people. But that does not mean that being a doctor makes you a murderer. It just means that out of thousands of doctors, one happened to be a murderer. Another idea might be to organise a test. We could have some people play video games for a while, while others do something else read a book, perhaps, or play football outside. Then we could watch how both groups of people behave. If the people who played video games are more violent, then perhaps that means the video games have made them that way. Scientists have done lots of tests like this, and you can read about them on the Internet if you are interested. The results go both ways. Some find that video games do make people violent. Some find that they do not. That is often how things work with complicated questions like this. But most of the tests find that video games have no effect, while only a few find that they make people more violent. There is one more way we could try to decide what to think about video games and violence. That is to look at lots of people at once. The police keep records about how much violent crime happens every year. In Britain, violent crime has fallen sharply in the past ten years, just as video games have become more and more popular.

4 That tells us that Britain has not become a more violent place, even though British people are playing a lot of video games. And there are similar trends in other countries, like America and Japan. This is a good piece of evidence. People worry that video games will make people more violent, yet people seem to have become less violent over the past ten years. But we must be careful not to overdo it. It might be that there would be even less violence if it were not for computer games. Are video games bad for your health, or not? What about health? Here we have some good evidence. The government has found that children s hearts beat more quickly today than they did in the 1970s. A slow heart beat usually means you are fit. So it seems likely that children today are less fit than they were forty years ago. And the amount of time that children spend in front of screens has risen at the same time. Most people agree that this is true. But what does it actually mean? One possibility is that children are choosing to spend more time indoors because they prefer playing video games and watching TV to playing outside. But there is another possibility too. Perhaps children are being forced to stay indoors more by their parents, and are watching TV and playing games because there is nothing else to do? After all, we know that people have generally become more worried over the past fifty years. In the old days quite young children were allowed to play football in the street without their parents watching. Your grandparents might remember being allowed to do this when they were little. But very few modern parents would let their children play in the same way.

5 What should we do? Most of the evidence suggests that video games do not make children violent. Some people are happy to let their own children play games that they are too young for. They think that worries about video games will go away as adults become more used to them. After all, the same thing happened with rock music and cinema films. But other people point out that we are not completely sure. For that reason, they say that it is better to be safe than sorry. Some want the government to ban children from games like Grand Theft Auto 5, even if they enjoy them. What do you think? If you were in the government, what would you do? What about health? Do you think children are spending too much time in front of screens and not enough time playing sport or running around? If you do, is that because video games and TV are more fun than being outside? Or is it because your parents do not let you go outside as much as you would like? 5. Some more advanced questions, if the children have time Some computer games (for example Infamous and Mass Effect) let you choose whether your character does good or bad things. Do you think that helps people to learn about good and bad, or does it not make any difference? Do you think it s a bad thing that so many computer game heroes are men? Would you like there to be more female heroes? Do you think you can learn things from computer games? Some people think it s possible to learn skills from games, for example in some games you have to solve difficult puzzles. Other people think games might be bad for children s education, because they might play games instead of doing their homework or reading a book. What do you think? Do you think children should be allowed to play 18 rated games? Is being allowed to play an 18 rated game different to being allowed to watch an 18 rated film? Some people think violent videogames are wrong because it shouldn t be fun to shoot someone, even in a game. Does it make a difference if you don t shoot humans but you shoot monsters or zombies instead? Lots of people think that films can be good for people, because some films can teach people about important things in life. As some computer games are a bit like films, with interesting stories and characters, do you think computer games could teach people important ideas too? Or do you disagree?

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