Videogame addiction.

Published On April 9, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

Addiction is a word that is used in many different ways.  Psychology Today defines it as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, even health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.”  The question that I have recently been trying to ask myself is whether or not this can accurately define or explain Videogames.

In this day and age, there is a lot of people playing video games. The majority of videogame players are normal individuals. Most of them are not worthy of the news and certainly not addicted. But then there are interesting cases of people (such as a friend of mine who plays video games for at least 5 hours every day) who defy the bounds of normality.  Every once in a while, a tragedy happens and causes experts, scientists, and  the media to use videogames as a scapegoat for this incident. The question is, is addiction what really cause these rare incidents?

I suppose that if you find anything enjoyable, then it can accurately be considered  moderately and potentially addictive. For example, if you enjoy playing a sport, you might spend an excessive amount of your time playing this sport but is this the same thing that is talked about when  we refer to videogames as ‘addictive’? If this is the case then videogames are probably no more alarming than any other recreational activity, but somehow I doubt this is the case. What do you think?


Ask the players?

Published On March 24, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

What if you stopped asking adults about videogame violence and asked children themselves? The reality is that most of what we know about the effects of video game violence comes from studies conducted by adults who have probably never really played videogames themselves; at least not with the same sort of consistency or devotion. If there is one thing that I can testify to about violent videogames, it’s the fact that the more you play them the more you become desensitized by the brutality involved. While this might sound alarming at first, it is perhaps also crucial to realize that this does not necessarily translate into ‘real life’.

I suppose the first thing to acknowledge is that children might not be the best source of scientific data about videogame violence. This is primarily because they are not well equipped to do the technical research involved, but I wonder if they cannot accurately answer some questions regarding what they do with the violence presented to them in VVG (violent video games). The second thing to acknowledge is that people who like something are naturally inclined to defend it, for good reasons and bad ones. It is not unreasonable to assume that children who play VVGs might defend the violence in these games without just cause.

After talking to some of the people that I know who indulge heavily in VVGs, I found a common, yet surprising, trend among most of them. Most of my peers, who play games such as Mortal Kombat, accepted the violence as a negative thing in videogames. They also acknowledged that they probably shouldn’t delight in playing some overly violent games, but they all failed to see the connection between the violence presented in videogames and ‘real life’ violence. To most of my friends, videogames are simply entertainment; they are not ‘real’ and therefore cannot cause real life violence.


Ethical Persuasion.

Published On March 18, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

Starting with a premise that ethics have to do with morals, let us ask how we can be persuasive without being intellectually-oppressive.

All human communication involves rhetoric, ethics, and intention to some extent. Communicators who would have their words affect the public should thus have a far greater understanding of these.

Rhetoric and ethics have a long history of rivalry in which Ethics has gained prestige at rhetoric’s expense. It is rather debatable whether one can engage in rhetoric and maintain a proper standard of morals. The art of rhetoric, as defined by creek, is “unavoidably an attempt to persuade”. This raises a very daunting question, if we are to engage in persuasion does this mean we give up our ethical convictions? To answer this question, we hereby seek to understand who the ideal persuader, i.e. an ‘Ethical Persuader’, looks like. It is also worth emphasizing the fact that Ethical Rhetoric assumes that there is no dichotomy between words and the underlying moral impact they have on the speaker as well as the hearer. Ethics therefore, play a significant part in the full analysis of any given speech.

There are three types of rhetorical appeals, or persuasive strategies, used in arguments to support claims and respond to opposing arguments. These appeals are: pathos (emotional appeal, appeals to an audience’s needs, values, and emotional sensibilities), logos (the appeal to reason that relies on logic. Often depends on the use of inductive or deductive reasoning.), and ethos (ethical appeal based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the orator). While a good argument will generally use a combination of all three appeals to make its case, I believe that the ethos has the closest relationship to ethics/morals. It deals with the character of the rhetorician and therefore provides an account of his ethics/morals.

There are many ways to establish good ethos and credibility as a rhetorician, and when there is a dishonest establishment of this ethos, it can be regarded as unethical. The ethical persuader is one who has and presents an honest and good ethos. These are some of the surface criteria for good ethos: use of credible, reliable sources to build ones argument and proper citation of those sources (this is primarily meant to avoid plagiarism and give credit to the deserving person), addressing the opposition’s argument accurately and willingly, establishment of common ground with the audience, acknowledging values and beliefs shared by those on both sides of the argument, if appropriate, disclosing what personal experiences one has with the topic at hand, organization, good articulation, and last but not least a desire to attain some good in your rhetoric.

The rhetorician demonstrates credibility through his or her words, tone and emotion as well as interaction with the audience. They demonstrate their ethical appeal through intelligence (knowledge of their topic) as well as their convictions, morals and priorities. An ethical persuader has to connect with the audience with sincerity and without a hidden agenda. As Aristotle summarized ethos, virtue and goodwill are the crucial foundations to ethical persuasion.

A major concern in ethical persuasion is a person’s ability resist temptation in certain instances into helping themselves by negatively impacting others, or just as unethically, to use persuasion to increase personal gain without charity for the audience.  I believe this quote by Brooke Hughes sums it up well: “Ethical persuasion is a human being’s internal ability to treat others with respect, understanding, caring, and fairness in order to understand themselves and others.”




Virtue and Ethics

Published On March 18, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

Every activity has a final cause, the good at which it aims. Since there cannot be an infinite retreat to merely extraneous goods, there must be a highest good at which all human activity ultimately aims. This goal of human life, Aristotle calls happiness. Aristotle proposed that one needed virtue to properly pursue the telos (highest good). Virtue is a state of action that aims toward the correct telos, which, as already mentioned, is happiness. This happiness does not fit the ordinary notions of pleasure, wealth, or honor, because even individuals who acquire the material goods or achieve intellectual knowledge are not necessarily happy.

Virtue is a state of being that naturally seeks its mean relative to us. According to Aristotle, the virtuous habit of action is always an intermediate state between the vices of excess and deficiency. (1104a, lines10-25) Too much and too little are always wrong; the right kind of action always lies in the mean. For example, generosity (if considered a virtue) is a mean between the excess of wastefulness and deficiency of stinginess.

Aristotle believes that moral actions are within our power to perform or avoid. Hence, we can reasonably be held responsible for them and their consequences. Just as with health of the body, virtue of the soul is a habit that can be acquired as the result of our own choices. Although the virtues are habits of acting or dispositions to act in certain ways, Aristotle maintained that these habits are acquired by engaging in proper conduct on specific occasions and that doing so requires thinking about what one does in a specific way. Neither demonstrative knowledge employed in science nor aesthetic judgments applied in crafts are relevant to virtue. But there is a distinctive mode of thinking that does provide adequately for virtue, according to Aristotle: practical intelligence or prudence. Acting rightly involves coordinating our desires with correct thoughts about the correct goals or ends. This is the function of deliberative reasoning: to consider each of the many actions that are within one’s power to perform, considering the extent to which each of them would contribute to the achievement of the appropriate goal or end, making a deliberate choice to act in the way that best fits that end, and then voluntarily engaging in the action itself.

Although virtue is different from intelligence (intelligence being a part of virtue), the acquisition of virtue relies heavily upon the exercise of intelligence. But doing the right thing is not always so simple, even though few people deliberately choose to develop vicious habits. Aristotle disagrees with Socrates’s belief that knowing what is right always results in doing it. The great enemy of virtuous conduct, according to Aristotle, is the failure to behave well even on those occasions when one’s deliberation has resulted in clear knowledge of what is right.

Aristotle rounds off his discussion of ethical living with a more detailed description of the achievement of true happiness. Pleasure is not the Good in itself, he claims, since it is incomplete. This is due to the fact that it satisfies animal desires (like sex). But worthwhile activities are often associated with their own distinctive pleasures. Hence, we are rightly guided in life by our natural preference for engaging in pleasant activities rather than in unpleasant ones. Genuine happiness lies in action that leads to virtue, since this alone provides true value and not just amusement. Thus, Aristotle held that contemplation is the highest form of virtuous activity because it is continuous, pleasant, self-sufficient, and complete.




Is there extreme violence in some videogames?

Published On March 1, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

Earlier on we discussed the potential benefits of videogames and how some videogames might actually be making the players ‘smarter’. In this blog, instead of giving any statistics about whether certain videogames are good or bad, here are a few descriptions of some videogames, or parts of the game, that I found particularly appalling. I will give a rough synopsis (as I have read about them) of each one and the reasons why they are controversial; then hopefully you will understand why it makes sense to be, at the very least, a little concerned by what some children are playing. Even the titles seem to be attention worthy…

1)      Bully (PlayStation 2)

Criticized for glorifying and trivializing school bullying.

The game’s ending depends on how you, the player, pilot your 15-year old character, Jimmy, through his first year at the unfriendly Bullworth Academy prep school. If you choose to defend the geeks, they’ll have your back if you run afoul of the jocks. If you team up with the bullies, you might find yourself at a disadvantage with the preps.

2)      Ethnic Cleansing (Resistance Record)

Criticized for extreme racism.

In the game, the protagonist (the player can choose either a skinhead or a Klansman) runs through a ghetto killing black people and Latinos, before descending into a subway system to kill Jews. Finally he reaches the “Jewish Control Center”, where Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel, is directing plans for world domination. The player must kill Sharon to win the game.

3)      Six Days in Fallujah (Konami)

Opposed by both the public and critics alike for “Glamorizing” and “Glossing over” the real-life massacre at Fallujah. This caused the former publisher, Konami, to oppose the game and stop publishing it.

Six Days in Fallujah is a third-person shooter video game described by the developer, Atomic Games, as a survival horror game. It is the first game to focus directly on Operation Iraqi Freedom, mainly the Second Battle of Fallujah or Operation Phantom Fury. The game follows a squad of U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion 1st Marines over the span of six days.

4)      Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve Corporation)

The game was banned in some countries for its excessive violence and gore. The game’s New Orleans setting so soon after Hurricane Katrina was considered cruel. Left 4 Dead 2 was accused of being racist after incorporating black infected into the game, Valve quickly stated this was only for population diversification purposes.

5)      Grand Theft Auto (Rockstar Games)

Criticized for sexuality and extreme violence. GTA IV was referred to as a “terrorist simulator” due to Liberty City being an exact replica of an American city.

The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, driving, and occasional role-playing, stealth and racing elements and has gained controversy for its adult nature and violent themes. The series focuses around many different protagonists who attempt to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld, although their motives for doing so vary in each game. The antagonists are commonly characters who have betrayed the protagonist or their organization, or who have the most impact impeding their progress.

The List goes on, but let me ask this for now; how can these games be beneficial?


First Lives and Second Lives.

Published On February 29, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

The ‘Surrogates’..

In the film, it has been 14 years since Lionel Canter developed the first generation of a technology that allowed robots to be controlled distantly completely via thought. We are briefly shown the stages of the development and integration of the technology over ensuing years, leading to present day which is some time in the near future in the film.

Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer, an FBI agent brought in to investigate the destruction of two surrogates. When it’s discovered that the human operators of these surrogates died from as a result of the “death” of their robots, the movie ultimately posed (consciously or unconsciously) the question; can we actually live spate from our bodies?

An noticeable theme in the movie is a look at the consequences of the online virtual avatar addiction.

In the movie, the ‘Surrogate’ technology has become so advanced and its use so prevalent that now almost everyone has their own personal mechanical replica. The reason for going through this hustle is that these duplicates which, naturally, are idealized versions of the real person, or perhaps a complete idol, go out into the world and interact with other people via their surrogates. In the film, due to the extensive use of surrogates, crime has dropped and people are able to lead more theoretically satisfying lives. People have become able to take risks and enjoy life virtually through their surrogate.

As only one example of the possibilities when virtuality becomes reality, the movie explores interesting development of social norms which result in a husband standing hesitantly outside his wife’s room because he has not lived physically for such a long time. A truly inexplicable removal of the self from society, and Greer (the husband) is as stuck at his wife’s door as an online gamer contemplating the suggestion of a real life meeting.

Is this what the world will become, at least for some people, when ‘Second lives’ get more life than first lives? I do not know, but I know that if this is to happen, it is still deep in the future.


The Matrix, Empirical Vs. Virtual reality

Published On February 24, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

You’ve been living in a dream world Neo. This is the world, as it exists today: Welcome to the desert of the real.

In the near future, a young computer hacker by the name of Neo is contacted by secretive oppression fighters who explain that his reality, as he understands and knows it, is only a replica. In actuality, he lives in a complex artificial simulation called the Matrix. Generated by a malicious Artificial Intelligence, the Matrix hides the truth of the ‘real world’ from people, allowing them to live oppressed in their sleep, while machines grow and harvest them to use as an constant source of energy. The leader of these enlightened oppression fighters is Morpheus who believes that Neo is “The One” who will lead humankind to liberty and defeat the machines.

In “The Matrix”, the artificial intelligence has planned the ultimate conspiracy; reality itself is nothing but a communally fantasized virtual projection set in the past. The plot reveals that when AI went bad, humans dispossess the AI of its power source, i.e., the sun. The AI then resorts to the idea of using humans themselves as its power source. In order to get full compliance, the AI created a virtual reality: a perfect replica of life even remembering using suffering as part of its design, put the humans in a vegetative state and plugged them in. In the real world it is in reality the late twenty-first century. Humans lie serenely unmindful of their actual condition in infinite rows of artificial beds, digesting the liquid remains and functioning as batteries.

“The Matrix”, like a number of modern science-fiction films (for example, Blade runner, The Terminator) deals with themes of technological conspiracy, Artificial intelligence, and the suspension of human reality in favor of a technology that has become autonomous. The Matrix however, not only paints a picture of machines fighting against humans, but also implies that machines have come to have their own agency.  They not only seek to survive but also want to prosper at the expense of Humanity. In both “The Terminator” and “The Matrix” humans have lost to artificial intelligence, which, soon after having been developed, becomes uncontrollable and takes governance of itself. The suggestion seems to be that two different intelligent types of beings cannot conceivably share this world and it is predictably humans who end up as the weaker beings yet manage to fight back in glory. The Matrix, unlike The Terminator, also suggests a series of new questions; what is reality? Is reality determined by empirical proofs? Can virtual reality be as real or as believable as empirical reality?

These are essentially the same questions that are raised by those who so vehemently argue against virtual realities like Second Life. Some of the underlying convictions are that it doesn’t matter whether effects like needs, pleasures, passions, etc. can be achieved virtually, humanity is not free when it is not living empirically.


Yes, of course gaming has advantages.

Published On February 22, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

“All these things that that have long been assumed to be rotting our brains, there might be this hidden benefit,” said social critic Steven Johnson, author of the controversial new book, “Everything Bad Is Good for You.”

According to a study conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, something like 248 million games were bought by Americans in 2004 alone. This is enough for two games  in every household. But even with this statistic, Johnson argues that video games — violent or not are making children smarter.

So here are the arguments, I will leave it up to you to discern whether these arguments are valid…

  • In games players often have to manage multiple objectives at the same time. One not only has to manage different resources, but also has to make decisions every second of the game.
  • Video games typically require the player to complete a number of specific tasks to win. (Get the guns, run through a jungle, kill the vampires, listen to the mission and answer a riddle, do some trade and develop your skills, etc.
  • Some kids who play some video games display what scientists have named “fluid intelligence,” or problem solving. (They learn rules of the game think tactically and naturally, like any problem solving equations, this makes you smarter.)
  • Studies show that some videogames make people more insightful; training brainpowers to analyze things more rapidly. (In a study by University of Rochester, participants were asked to count the number of squares which were flashed on a screen for a 20th of a second. Gamers picked the right number 13% more often than non-gamers)

So what is the argument or debate about? Videogames are obviously good for children, right? Well, not so fast… what about the negative effects? Have you considered those? Or are they learning something from videogames that they could not learn from something else?

Read on, and please comment…


Agency and Technology.

Published On February 17, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

‘The Terminator’, a cyborg assassin controlled by rebellious computers, is sent back in time to 1984 to kill an apparently innocent lady by the name of Sarah Connor. The reason for this vicious mission is to eliminate her unborn son who will lead the humans (in the future) to defeat the machines. If the Terminator kills Sarah Connor, all hope is lost for humans. But there is hope, in an effort to counteract the terminator’s mission, the humans send a soldier from the post-apocalyptic war, who is supposed to protect Sarah. The future of the human race depends on whether the terminator can be stopped.

The Terminator with its many effects is not actually as farfetched as one might assume at first glance. Especially now, about 2 decades after its release, when you consider the underlying message, it seems scientifically plausible and maybe even believable.  Unlike movies like Star Wars or Star Trek, which take place in different galaxies, the terminator takes place in the United States. It pays careful attention to the past, the present as well as the future. Time travel, cybernetics, and even modern computer networking (Skynet signifying one enormous computer network) are among the many revolutions that it highlights as part of the future.  Since the movie was made before the advent of such technologies as the ones we enjoy today (like quantum computers, nanotechnology, bioengineering, nuclear fusion, etc.), it is rather interesting that they had so that much right. It also makes one wonder whether it is only a matter of time before all the predictions made come to pass.  But are the scenarios presented really possible? Can computers really turn against humans? Is technology capable of refusing human control?

It is important to realize that in the futuristic idea presented in this movie, machines do not have their own agency; they do not act in accordance to their will or deliberate with emotions. The premise is that somehow machines have seized to obey human commands in an effort to defend itself. It is like though it is trying to fight off a virus that tries to destroy it. The humans created it but now they cannot control it. Is this implausible? It seems rather plausible, given the current technology trends, that humans can create something that can have actions that fight humanity. This, I believe, is what is argued by many technological determinists. Not that technology can have a mind of its own, but that if it is not controlled, it can become stronger than human agency.


Despite what we know about videogames…

Published On February 15, 2012    Categories: Uncategorized    Comments: 0

Despite numerous studies, the bad effect of violent videogames on kids is hard to prove. Sometimes the reason for this elusive behavior of  videogames can be attributed to the fact that effects are bound to vary from one individual to another but another reason maybe because we are not asking the right questions.  Maybe trying to determine whether a game can be good or bad for all children may not be asking the right question:

It would appear to be the case that the very same content can be useful to a child at a certain point in their life and development and may be damaging to another child in a different situation. That means that the response of the child, in this case, would be more important than the study itself.  Children’s brains develop, they learn and they change as they grow up. Children cannot be grouped in one massive category because they are simply not the SAME. While we can try to categorize children by age and gender there are infinite individual differences that will impact a child’s experience when gaming. One of the most important factors that need to be considered is the context of the gaming.

It is indisputable that Videogames encourage experimentation within a set of rules or perhaps boundaries (which is sometimes not the same as rules). But these boundaries might not be clearly defined for the child which causes confusion and probable errors if the experiments are done without guidance.  A big part of playing any game is deciphering what its specific boundaries are. Additionally, unlike most other media, the experience of video gaming is mostly determined by the decisions of the player. In the case of something like Grand Theft Auto, many of the game’s options seem far from promising which leaves little room for any good choices. The question then becomes, if indeed we are shaped by our experience, what is to become of us when we are constantly put in situations where we make bad choices willingly?

There can be no question that many people do play mostly for the chance to engage in replicated criminal activity, free of any real-world consequences. And while no definitive studies exist to prove any kind of long-term effect on kids who play these games, several trustworthy trials have shown that playing some violent videogames, like many other violent activities can actually have a strong correlation with aggressive behavior. But we all know that correlation is not necessarily causation, so where do we go from here? Are we to ignore the evidence provided or are we to act on inconclusive evidence?

Stick around for further exploration of this topic.


Eastern University THC Media Center
2008 Winner of the NCHC Small College Honors Web Site Competition

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