Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Life is not a computer game: discuss

If this title sounds like an exam question, it with good reason. It's the nature of the question posed by Vicki Davis for her students in the wake of the events at Dawson College. Vicki has been tackling this and related issues in her usual call-it-like-it-is-and-suggest-solutions manner lately.

Nor is this an isolated incident. In the 18 September issue of Time magazine, this story appears. A kid with promise, a kid with a future, a kid with his whole life ahead of him, now likely to spend the next several years of it behind bars for armed robbery and attempted rape - the line between the real world and his online life having blurred.

A recent episode of CSI Miami explored this as its story line (note: recent in the UK - possibly long past in the USA) - a bunch of universtiy students decided to take an online game one step further and move it into the real world. I know that CSI is just a story, but at least it will have brought this issue onto the radar of John and Jane Citizen.

I know the argument rages back and forth about whether violence on screen impacts people's behaviour and there are many who insist that this is not the case. However, if what we are exposed to doesn't impact how we behave, why are advertising budgets so large?

Simulation games employ an alternative morality - it's important that our children understand that that morality does not transfer into the real world, even if (as in Second Life) the virtual money does. As parents, I think we need to make an increased effort to teach our children healthy online habits, while also engaging them off-line, and teaching them how to engage with people "with skin on".

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