Monday, July 18, 2005

Grand Theft Auto saved my life. True story.

Tomorrow Governor Blagojevich will sign the No Video Games For Kids bill into law in Aurora. Smart politics to woo wealthy white suburban moms. But I'm not a fan of the bill. Because Grand Theft Auto is the best drivers education course in the world.

I played Liberty City quite a bit. When you drive a car, the best way to stop is to hit the brakes and pull the emergency brake (you can do both of those things in the video game).

So one day I'm driving back from Springfield (before I found the only civilized way to travel on Amtrak) in a winter storm. I'm driving up an entrance ramp too quickly and I start to spin out, skidding sideways up the ramp and in danger of rolling off the ramp. The foot brakes are useless, as I'm fishtailing wildly.

*Instinctively* I reach for the emergency brake and pull it, cutting my fishtail radius in half instantly and I come to calm stop, perpendicular to the ramp.

Hours of playing Grand Theft Auto had *trained* me to pull the emergency brake when I lose control of the car.


Now, maybe Grand Theft Auto didn't save my life that day. But it did save me from a potentially serious accident.

We all know that the worst car accidents are committed by under-18 drivers. And this bill makes it far more difficult for the children most in need of emergency driving training that Grand Theft Auto can provide to get that life-saving training. Governor, do you *really* want to kill our children drivers?

On a more serious note, I hope that we can keep an eye on ensuring that Governor Blagojevich and the Democratic Party remains the cool party (that is, attractive to young idealists), and not fall victim to alienating young people with a school-marm culture, as Danny Goldberg warns against in his book How The Left Lost Teen Spirit. My review of the book is here.


Nathan Kaufman said...

Do you have a link to the No Video Games for Kids law? What all does it include? Would it make Tecmo Bowl illegal? Mario Brothers?

Scroll down at the site above to see the podcast "From E3, the video game conference: The Voice of Mario"

It is possible that people who are good at video games may earn a good living. It may be necessary for some jobs.

Amy Allen said...

Liberty City-is than an allusiont to Miami's Liberty City ghetto, where there were riots in the early '80s?

MDS said...

I don't know the specifics of this law, but I do know it's disgusting the kind of violence that our nation's kids play with every day. Adults should have free access to these kinds of games, but children should not. If parents aren't doing the job in shielding their kids from this stuff, the government must.

Anonymous said...

There are other ways to handle a skid. Number one is when you know you have to exit the highway put on your blinkers and slow down before you even hit the ramp thus preventing it in the first place. There are other ways to train yourself to handle icy driving than a violent video game. Didn't your parents ever take you to an empty parking lot in the Winter to learn how to steer into a skid and pump the brakes?

Lazerlou said...

I'm of the opinion that video games save more lives by providing a non-violent outlet for agression and competative instinct in a society where such instincts are on the rise. I think kids have more reason to lose it these days - there is more potential for severe social alienation due to ever increasing saturation of market ideals through th emedia. Girls learn to hate their bodies even earlier these days thanks to disney corp. Boys start feeling inadequate and unmanly even earlier. Without competative and violent video games, I think we'd see a lot more real violence. The marketplace permeates everything, it controls our value structure and creats a lot of anxiety in teenagers - we should be regulating marketers, not video games.

Lazerlou said...

And Dan, yes, you steer into the skid, you don't slam your breaks, even if anti-lock.

MDS said...

"video games save more lives by providing a non-violent outlet for agression"

Studies have consistently shown that the opposite is true. To quote just one source:

"Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior. Average effect sizes for experimental studies (which help establish causality) and correlational studies (which allow examination of serious violent behavior) appear comparable"

Lazerlou said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lazerlou said...

As a hard scientist, you are not going to win me over with empirical social science studies. They are inherently flawed. My own experience is that playing competative video games was a useful and therapeutic outlet, it was good for me to be agressive in a virtual world, as it was in sport. That some sociologist or psychologist found that more violent teens were attracted to more violent games does nothing to convince me of any causal connection between the two. Kids are more capable of extreme violence these days for far more complex reasons than the influence of video games. If anything the violent games are a syptom of the same underlying social problems that severe forms of class society and concomitant widespread social alienation lead to. I weight the empirical evidence of my own personal experience far more than I would any social science study in deciding what is and isn't true. Video games good. Fire bad.

MDS said...

You're a hard scientist and you think your own analyses of your own experiences are better-informed than the research I cited? I've never met or even heard of a legitimate scientist who thinks a sample size of one, himself, is enough data to formulate an opinion. What kind of hard science do you practice?

Lazerlou said...

I am a physicist by training actually. And as this is a social science dealing with human behavior, not the analytical arena for the scientific method so much as philosophy. Making observations about oneself is the ONLY data one may take as trustworthy, and even that is a bounded trust insofar as we can decieve ourselves. Yes, I was also a philosophy major and I promise you that philosophers and physicist both look down upon the quasi scientific method employed in social sciences, employing ex post mathematics to describe overly simplistic and unverifyable hypotheses generated from flawed empirial data gathering. This isn't measuring electrons in field, which is hard enough to do and which inolve inherent uncertainty far less that taking measurements of human behavior, let alone saying something scientifically sound about causation Yes, I will trust only my own experience when it comes to matters of the mind. YOU should too. I don't doubt that violent kids play more violent video games, but I promise you that there is no way to prove that video games cause violent behavior and that paper you cited (which cites just two studies) certainly proves nothing. Social scientist take measurements in ways that lead to their desired result. Don't believe the hype.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Nathan, the bill is HB 4023 and you can read it from Amy, I think Liberty City is set in Portland, Oregon. Just my own speculation. The next game, Vice City, is set in Miami. And the most recent, San Andreas, is set in the *entire* state of California. They are really technical marvels. And I'm with Lou and not the social scientists -- I think they are great stress releasers.