July 21st 2007

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The fifth battle domain - cyberspace

EDITORIAL: Democracy triumphs in East Timor

NATIONAL SECURITY: Terrorist risk is fast approaching critical

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Security nightmare for Australian authorities

HOUSING: Home ownership: the unattainable dream?

NATIONAL CENSUS: Making sense of the Census

MEDICAL SCIENCE: Cloning - dead as the Dodo?

VICTORIA: Medical suicide campaign gets underway

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The gangs of Melbourne / Global yawning / Still looking for Dreyfus / Victimhood / A ship without a rudder

TAIWAN: Divisive politics alienate Taiwanese

OPINION: Left-wing bid to discredit our Anzac tradition

POPULAR CULTURE: Video games overtaking movies and music

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Why do we dress children like miniature adults?

Science and the academic left (letter)

The Net and I (letter)

Swedish film defended (letter)

Terrorist doctor-killers? (letter)

CINEMA: Triumphing against all the odds - Amazing Grace


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Video games overtaking movies and music

by Anh Nguyen

News Weekly, July 21, 2007
The video games industry is set to surpass both the motion picture and music industry in sales. However, disturbing evidence about the negative effects of violent video-games on children does not seem to have yet filtered down to many parents. Anh Nguyen reports.

Last year, $31.6 billion was spent on video games worldwide, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers. By contrast, American movie sales made $25.8 billion worldwide, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its international counterpart.

Industry experts predict that video-game spending will continue to soar over the next five years. It is estimated that, by the year 2011, $48.9 billion will be spent worldwide on games. This will make the games industry larger and more lucrative than both movies and music.

Last year, Australians spent $596 million on games software (some 12.5 million games), the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA) has reported.

Total gaming sales, including both software and hardware, came to over $925 million - compared to $1.5 billion spent on the movie industry in 2006. This year, game sales in Australia are expected to surpass $1 billion.

Advances in games technology now enable players to enjoy a level of immersion never experienced before. Games are capable of depicting near photo-realistic graphics and animation. Advances in artificial intelligence and game design make virtual people as real as life. This, coupled with ever-increasing detail in sound and environment modelling, allows players to escape into a near ultra-realistic fantasy world.

Violence is more and more evident in many games issued. The most popular genre is the first-person shooter (FPS), the main aim of which is to shoot and kill other characters. These can be computer-controlled characters or characters controlled by other players connected to the internet.

FPSs allow a player to interact with the game through a first-person perspective, that is, from the eyes of the character onscreen.

Armies use these types of games and simulations for training. Troops play these simulations, shooting enemy soldiers over and over, increasing their accuracy over time. The US army has dedicated over $45 million into developing such simulations. In fact, the US army has taken the next step and is now collaborating with software developers to create games with the purpose of advertising for, and finding, recruits.

Obviously, these games are accurate and real enough to improve the real-world performance of soldiers' proficiency with firearms.

Studies show that, unfortunately, such games, with their realistic graphics and effects, often lead to aggressive and imitative behaviour. In 2005, Jessica Nicoll and Kevin M. Kieffer presented to the American Psychological Association their review of the previous 20 years of literature demonstrating clear links between violent video-games and more aggressive behaviour in children who played them. In fact, children who played a violent game for just 10 minutes often felt more aggressive after playing the game.

Nicoll and Kieffer also found that these children would imitate some of the moves they had experienced in the game, such as a karate kick, punching or pointing a gun and firing.

Those 15- and 16-year-olds who regularly played violent games were consistently rated by their teachers as being more hostile to authority figures, aggressive towards peers and more likely to get into physical confrontation. Also, these children's academic performance markedly suffered.

Over 18 school shootings have taken place worldwide since 2002. A common denominator in each of the shootings has been the shooter's interest in, and regular playing of, violent video-games. A number of analysts argue that killers have been desensitised to violence, due to constant exposure to violent images. This, along with the repeated killing of virtual people, has also served to depersonalise the victims to their killers.

Banned games

In Australia, games are classified by the Office for Film and Literature Classification, the same body that classifies movies. Games do not have an R18+ rating as movies do. The highest rating a game can receive from the OFLC is MA15+. Any game falling into the R18+ category must be refused classification.

Australia has banned a number of games over the past five years, due to excessive violence. Included in this list are 50 Cent Bulletproof, Dreamweb, Grand Theft Auto III, Manhunt, Postal, Postal II, Reservoir Dogs and The Punisher. However, some of these have been slightly modified (often the most gory and horrific scenes and actions having been removed) and have been given the MA15+ rating.

Of concern, nevertheless, is that there is very little enforcement of the classification at the retail level. It is quite common to see young children, or their parents, buying games that have the MA15+ rating. The disturbing information and concerns about the negative effects of these games do not seem to have yet filtered down to many parents.

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