Trump Blames Video Games For Social Violence. (Studies prove he couldn’t be more wrong.)

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/violent-video-games-kevin-mccarthy-trump-blame-video-game-makers-backlash-after-el-paso-shooting-2019-08-06/

With all of the talk about video games coming back up again I wanted to write this diatribe. The ideas expressed here are backed by facts. With all of the violence in the world today and the history of video game violence and the blame laid on video games you might think that the advisors of our President would have “peeped” him to the fact that the studies performed by reputable organizations have shown and proven that (violent) video games do not make people violent. These studies have gone on for decades. (Video gaming has been around since the 1960’s).

CULTURE

I mention culture first before violence (see below) because there is a defining nature to the culture of video games. One’s background, meaning how they were raised, the factors that influence someone’s life, teacher and parent trainings, friends, family, Church, God, relationships with others socially, and a myriad of other factors all go into the “design” of any one human being. So in saying that…I never gave culture much thought outside of, in my head, thinking that there are gamers and there are non-gamers. Simply put: you do or you do not. I never gave much thought to how video games actually affect our society in all of the different ways that they do because there are so many different gaming genres. I mean video games are a definite mode of expression just as a religion or something along the lines of the Southern culture.

Video gaming displays a specific set of transmitted behavioral patterns. Of those types there is a breakdown of the different games one plays. I fit those into categories, as Frans Mayra alluded to in a paper she wrote (feel free to Google any of my references), LARP, Cosplay, MMORPG, and etc…(punks, mods, and skinheads), obviously not as
that, but you get the idea.

I appreciated the statement “culture should be seen as intersubjective domain of experience that takes shape in social relations”, because it sums up the different genres of the culture of games that have developed. Think about it, you have your Larpers, for example. This may not appeal to everyone, but there are specifics to it. In and of itself, it is a particular category, it is subjective to only certain “rules”, they have their own communities, and it goes deeper. Where it gets deeper is as Mayra states, each specific gaming culture has its own knowledge base. How the games are played, information gathering and sharing, and etc.

A classmate of mine at The University of Michigan mentioned how he grew up and how the gaming that he does is directly related to his specific background. He grew up in a sports oriented home and the games he plays are all sports related. That is a great definition of culture. It shows the “customs, norms, and ideas” that another student sited to me. This was obviously something he had learned and adopted from his environment growing up.

VIOLENCE

In the book “The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies”, I didn’t become engrossed into the chapter on culture alluded to above, but I appreciated more the views of Peter Krapp (no his views are not crap) on violence. His views paralleled mine so there IS a slight bias here. A research paper that I wrote for the University of Michigan about video games had me do quite a bit of research on the violence factor, and the studies I came across gave the same conclusion as the findings mentioned in Krapp’s essay. People speak about the “side effects” of gaming but typically in reference to something bad. I quote “Just as the history of the subjective shot in cinema cannot be reduced to making all audience members voyeurs, gaming cannot be reduced to a mere training mechanism.” It is not viable to think that gaming is the single most influential tool responsible for tragedies such as Columbine or any other lunatic’s rants and raves.

My brothers and I used to play the game of Risk growing up. This is a game of conquering the world. Dare I say that none of us grew up to become Adolf Hitler or to even show those tendencies. Many of our games, as noted in Krapp’s essay, are violent. I still hold that “violent games are a means to get aggression out of one’s system.” is a true and valid statement. When I was growing up, the last of five boys, I retained a lot of aggression that I needed to get out because, as the youngest, I was picked on a lot by my older brothers. To my decree I won a lot of Dodgeball games at school, but that wasn’t enough, I had a lot of energy to spare so I joined a Karate class. The fighting we did in the class helped me learn to hone my aggression and it taught me what was right and wrong about fighting. I do have to admit that, along those lines, the fighting done in class did desensitize me on a smaller level to fighting in general, but by no means do I go around picking fights or getting into them for absolutely no reason.

Violent video games and games in general are not the cause of mental instability. For a great read about what games can do for people, please feel free to read “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal. It is a really good book. See her Ted talk too that prefaces the subjects within the book. https://www.ted.com/speakers/jane_mcgonigal

As a last note, I have to admit, I also agree with the indication that a violent video game will increase aggression in someone (as some studies have also proven). I feel this in myself when I play certain games with increased violence (Call of Duty); however, I don’t go downstairs, kick the dog, slap my wife, and slam my kid into a corner. For me, I feel energized after a good firefight. My blood is pumping and, if successful in the game, I am typically in a really good mood. I’ll close this post with another line from Video Game Studies, “Just Dance-4…has not led to spontaneous dance-offs in the streets of America.”; although, I think that would be pretty cool to see.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum – Farmington Hills, MI

In a previous post I mentioned my wife and I foster a little girl.  She has siblings so we try to get together with them every so often outside of the normal visits that are required by law. This weekend we went to Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills.  Now our daughter is only 2 years old so many of the items in this museum were too large for her to play on; however, they did have some children’s rides and a couple of games that she could experience.

Here are a few pictures of the place just before people started to arrive. As you can see there is an amazing amount of things just to look at. Ultimately this place resembles an old style arcade; although the prices are nothing of the such.

The games were actually pretty expensive for what was in there. They have a really good array of pinball machines though. Pinball, for one ball, was $1.00. If you wanted to play a standard game it was $2.00 for three balls. The games are in really good condition though. This specific Pinball machine “Abra-ca-Dabra” is from 1975. I had to take a picture of it because of how well it has been maintained. Granted it isn’t as fun as the newer ones, it was still really nice to play it.

There are a bunch of signs hanging from the walls and ceiling but one caught my eye. They also have a “plane train”, which is a bunch of planes suspended from the ceiling on a track. When it works the planes “fly” through the building. It wasn’t working when we were there, but it was quite amazing to see all of the different types of planes that were hanging up there.

This appears that it might be a good place to throw a birthday party for “tweens” but I really didn’t see a kitchen so you might have to bring in your own food. They sold drinks and popcorn, but I didn’t see much else or how it could be cooked. They also run the games on the ticket scheme. You play and you win tickets. Which they have a bunch of prizes for…mostly candy and the standard trinkets and trash. On another note: I was fortunate enough to be able to park right next to the main entrance as they also don’t have a changing table in their incredibly small restroom. I had to take the baby out to the car and change her in the back seat.

As for the games, there are plenty of pretty good games here. They have some good classics, as well as some of the newer, games. They had two “roller coaster” type games that children can sit in and watch a short movie on the screen and be shaken by the moving seat. My daughter liked that because there were things happening and that she could experience. For a place to take your kids for some good gaming fun I give this place a 7 out of 10. It isn’t a bad place and I would suggest going, if for nothing else, just to take a look at everything that is in the building.

Golf – The Live Video Game

So the main focus of this blog has been on gaming for people over the age of 50.  I know you are probably already wondering about the title and saying to yourself that a golf range isn’t a video game; but I beg to differ.  My wife took me to TopGolf in Auburn Hills for my most recent birthday (Sunday) and I was amazed to find the entire experience wasn’t much different than playing a video game.  

Concierge and Main Lobby Check-In Desk

Once we walked into the main lobby we noticed the concierge on the left and the check in desk on the right.  Yes, just like a hotel…very cool. This reminded me of the check in process in some of the older Star Wars games like X-Wing. Just past the concierge there is a dining area. It wasn’t too large, but that is because they want people to go to their respective gaming areas to play.  We only had their nachos but were thoroughly impressed with them. Like nothing we ever had before. We didn’t get anything else to eat but we had a few drinks and another appetizer that TopGolf paid for when we sat down before playing. Overall the little bit of dining experience we shared there was quite impressive. (No this isn’t a blog about food).

Several Monitors Display the Action

There are two main screens that the players interact with.  One is a 40” television that is informational only whereas the other one, much smaller, requires input by the player before, or after, taking your turn.  There is also a map of the environment and an infrared “button” that must be activated (see the picture below) in order to begin each level. There are also 7 different “joysticks” (golf clubs) to choose from to play the game.  When playing each round of the game the “video game” technology automatically tracks and calculates the score.

Ball Dispenser & Game Map

When you are standing in the ready position you will cross your club over an “eye” located in the upper right hand corner of the console. This action will program and release a ball.  Yes, I said “program”. The ball has an RF-ID microchip inside of it, which once programmed, knows who is taking a turn. (For a split view of the TopGolf golf ball see the video below). The field of play has 10 areas to hit your ball into for points.  Each section knows where you hit your ball from and what the distance is once your ball falls through the specific area of the RF-ID reader at each scoring target.

What’s Inside A TopGolf Golf Ball? RF-ID Chip.

There are several different types of games, but we chose the practice mode which left it “open” for us to just hit and score.  They have a 20 ball “scramble” that you go head to head with the other players on that looked interesting too. Once your ball has registered the score it is immediately displayed on the interactive screen. This screen will also tell you exactly what target you hit the ball into and it will also tell you the exact position that it registered at within that target itself.  The targets have RF readers (see the picture above). The primary screen will revert to a totals view when it’s at rest. The video game portion keeps track of total balls used as well as the scores for everyone. The secondary, 40″ television, screen shows who the current player is and what their last ball score was. This screen faces toward the sitting area so everyone can keep track.

Men’s & Women’s Clubs

The seating area is laid out incredibly well.  There is a nice sectional couch and a little gathering table in the center of it all.  Two convenient exits on each side of the couch for easy access to play. As I mentioned, my wife took me there as a surprise so she wasn’t able to bring my clubs without giving it away.  Not a problem at all, as mentioned, this “game” comes with everything that you need to play. I am right handed so I don’t know, but I’m sure they probably have options for lefties too. They have some really great practice clubs.  My favorite was the hybrid 3 wood. I was spiking them in the white without issue and racking up the points (after I got used to my stance and swing again – the video below shows my third “practice” swing.

We will definitely be going back.  Oh yeah, before I forget to mention this…my wife hates golf…with a passion…and she is the one who suggested going back.  She had a really good time too. I suggest going, to anyone of any age, but for us over 50’s this is a great place. Take friends, family, and anyone who wants to have a nice time, good food, good drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and a fantastic gaming experience.

Cartridge or DVD/Blu-Ray?

Samples of Cartridge Games

Just like us (people in their 50’s), the older the better.  The phrase “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” is fitting for this discussion.  Cartridges are the equivalent of a nice hard plastic safe for gaming software. The entire program is contained in one area whereas DVD’s have the data laid out across an extremely fragile surface.  Granted we used to have to blow the dust out of the cart but that usually got it to work correctly. With DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs one little scratch and the game is ruined.

Damaged CD/DVD

Needless to say with age comes a conspiracy theory (or two).  I think this is done by design so that we go out and purchase more games.  I still have most of the cartridge games I grew up with. I did, unfortunately, sell my original Nintendo Entertainment System.  I only had 26 game cartridges with that system but I was broke, living on my own, and I needed money. That was the most valuable thing I owned that would be worth something to someone else and could be easily sold.

In all actuality my class at University is currently reviewing a chapter on convergence and how a company like Sony worked to release the game Spiderman 3 with the new PS3 all at the same time the movie was set to be released.  This was obviously done on purpose to introduce the new tech to the consumer (us) and at the same time promote the other mediums. They even went so far as to use the same font in all of their brand logos just to subconsciously marry them all together in the mind of the consumer.

In sticking to the old tech, during my 50+ years on this planet there have been more than a dozen cartridge game consoles.  Below is a list of the more popular ones that I remember and this list doesn’t even include the handheld ones.

  • Intellivision
  • Atari 2600, 5200, & 7800
  • Magnavox Odyssey
  • Neo Geo
  • ColecoVision
  • Nintendo ES & N64
  • Fairchild Channel F
  • TurboGrafx-16
  • Atari Jaguar
  • Vectrex
  • Bally Astrocade
  • SEGA Genesis
PS4 & XBOX One

Now with convergence and the push for new technologies there are only two gaming consoles that I am aware of and those are the Sony PlayStation and the Microsoft XBox.  I am not even sure what Nintendo is using anymore since they changed to the Switch, which is a handheld unit and not a console. If there is another, outside of these, it is so far off the beaten path that it doesn’t have a horse in the running.  Out of the long list of cartridge game consoles there are only two contenders now and both of them use discs to retain their software.

Although, as you probably already concluded, I am a fan of the cartridges but I don’t believe the gaming industry will ever revert to those again; although, if they were thinking of reducing their carbon footprint they could go to flash drive games.  They are RAM (Random Accessible Memory) based so they could be backed up. They could also be password protected, or married to the console it is played on first, so that someone couldn’t just make copies and they are much smaller so packaging would be less.  The only drawback would be the people who would lose them and have to buy the game again.

Technological differences between HDD, SSD, and Flash

The access in a cartridge or flash drive running through a USB 3.1 connection can be as fast as 10 Gbps, which would be much faster than any DVD (10 Mbps) or Blu-Ray (36 Mbps) disc.  This chart shows the difference in opening a certain program using a HDD, SSD, or a Flash Drive. The Flash Drive wins…hands down. Look at Solid State HDD shown here. Those statistics are obviously better and faster than even the best standard gaming eSATA HDD with 256MB of cache.  Perhaps I am just being nostalgic or it might be a better idea to go back to technology like this.

Please Stand Up Mr. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese’s in Novi, MI

Being that my wife and I are “older” parents and didn’t have children when we were younger we didn’t go to places like this very much.  Now that we are the “representatives” of a budding 2 year old baby girl we are getting out to bounce houses, trampoline villages, and other places like Chuck E. Cheese’s play place and restaurant.  In Detroit these places have always had a bad reputation for the fighting that people get into over tables, presents, and who gets to spend the most time with “the mouse”. I have heard some doozies in my time.  Fortunately we didn’t have any issues which is why I am choosing to write about the experience.

Prize Station in Chuck E. Cheese’s

My university has touched on the subject of interactivity but mostly the discussion is regarding the act of an individual interacting with the controls and the avatar they are playing and not so much a concern of interaction with another individual.  My point in a few of the items I have written for class are in regard to the experience one actually gets when they interact with other people while playing. More importantly, interacting with people in real life and not just online.  I know that most people in their 50’s have children who have children now, but that is my point. Taking your kids and your grand-kids to a place like this will help you engage with them in a different way. I know most people will say, “We can just play games at home and not spend the money.”, but I say it is good to get out and frequent your arcade with the kids.  No matter what their ages are. Besides, everyone loves to earn a prize, and that you can’t get at home. The games here spit out tickets and if you get enough tickets you can “purchase” prizes with them. They have quite a bit of children friendly toys. We made it a game when we went in, just to add to the fun. We had her pick out a toy that she wanted and we explained to her that to earn the toy we had to play games and have fun.  She loved it.

There aren’t a whole lot of games for a 2 year old, but there are a few that attract their attention.  There is one game that simulates a roller coaster, of sorts, that we must have sat in for about a half an hour.  The seats shake with the action on the screen and move you back and forth. I know it may seem a little “lame” for the older people, but it was an experience that our baby loved and we got to share that with her.  In the truest sense of the reason, isn’t this what games and gaming are all about? We played the games that gave out the tickets and we were able to earn her the toy she wanted. All in all, it was a good day.

A study performed about 8 or 9 years ago when iPhone and Android gaming was getting a big push asked people what they liked about phone game applications and the overwhelming response was that people were able to connect with their parents, old friends, siblings, and their children.  Whether they played these games constantly or intermittently the finalizing thought was that people liked being interactive with one another in a gaming environment. Although that study was done in regard to online items, being with friends or family in the actual world is, and can be, much more fun.

Flavored Crust Pizza

The pictures in this posting are from the Internet so don’t get the wrong idea.  It was a Saturday and they were packed inside but I chose to live in the moment instead of trying to document the event. They have quite a few games in the “mouse house” located in Novi.  They even have games that us older people will appreciate, like Skee-Ball. For the most part though, they have games that are good for interaction with someone else.  On a totally different note, they also changed their pizza and added some flavor to it. It was greasy (like Silvio’s Pizza from Redford Township for those who are familiar with it)…but it was good!

Now, I do have to mention that they have a mechanical Chuck E. Cheese in the back of the building.  We thought it would be nice to get a picture of her with the human sized machine. We thought wrong, the mouse scared the crap out of her…in more ways than one.  But, outside of the five minute crying session she did have a great time and she is still talking about playing games and wants to know when we will be going back. That’s the type of interaction I think gaming was meant for.

Get Out There and Play!

Dave & Buster’s – Livonia MI

So my wife and I patronized Dave & Buster’s for my first time ever this past Saturday.  I have to be honest, I am not sure I liked it as much as when we went to Lucky Strike in Novi.  Here’s the thing…Dave and Buster’s has every popular game known to mankind that is available right now.  They even cater to the nostalgic and the novice players in a pretty fantastic way but the only reason that I would not rate my experience as a 9 or 10 is because I prefer playing in an environment that isn’t so busy.  I’m just not a “crowd” person…per se, but that is the ONLY reason.

For the most part I found that the environment is incredibly family friendly…at least at the time we went.  We stopped in to the one on 7 Mile Road at about 15:30 hrs. About $120.00 later, which included the tip, we left.  Now, that total involves drinks, food, and games so don’t think this place is expensive. We just went a little overboard is all.  The cuisine is “bar” food. The drinks are where they get you but I thought that the bar looked pretty nice. Pricing for the game cards is standard, I guess.  I didn’t do the math on any of the games. The card records points and each game requests X amount of points for each play. This was the same theme that was at Lucky Strike.

I wasn’t too surprised, even with all of the reading that I have been doing lately on gaming, that the crowd consisted mostly of people between the ages of 4 and 60.  Obviously there were a plethora of children there. With them were their parents who were mostly in their 30’s. There were only a handful of people my age (around 50).  I didn’t speak with any of them but I did corner a few of the children who were playing some of the more violent games and one father whose daughters were playing my new favorite game Halo.  I introduced myself and indicated to them what I was studying at school.

Ron was there with his two daughters Elisa (8) and Monique (7) who were busy playing Halo.  The game itself was incredible. There are two large screens and positions for four total players.  The players are working in tandem and can play on either screen. There were two other children who were older than these two girls sitting on the right side.  Elisa was sitting in the second seat from the left and she was “killing it”. I asked Ron how long she had been playing this game and he said since she was about 4 or 5 she started gaming in general but he keeps it alive at his home where they play Halo and other FPS games.  I inquired about the violence in the game and if he thought that was too much for a child and he indicated that he has explained that it is a game to his children and not something that happens in reality.

I didn’t catch the names of the two boys I interviewed.  They were teenagers from what I could tell, but too young to drive was my guess.  I also asked them about their feelings regarding the violence in certain video games.  They were both playing Alien and as you may already be able to establish, based on the movie, this is just a game of killing (see the video below).  Needless to say, coming from two teenage boys, you can imagine their satisfaction with the game and the violence. They wouldn’t have it any other way.  Of course, I tend to agree with them as those types of games attract my attention too.

Although this blog is wrapping itself around the idea of people who are over the age of 50 and still gaming I will still say that this place is a good place to go to experience some pretty good games.  I would take the family there at least once a month. As I mentioned, they have games for pretty much every type of gamer. They even have the largest Pac-Man and Space Invaders games I have ever seen not to mention the larger than human size Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots game. Unfortunately it was out of order so we didn’t have a chance to play it.  Overall, I give this place an 8 out of 10 for the environment and excellent choice of games they have. I find it better than the old arcades I used to go to but that is mostly because I wasn’t able to drink in those. Not that drinking makes it more fun…just more adult.