What do I think of Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson’s book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I heard about this book while going through The Gaming Mind on Audible. Making a mental note, I went to my library website and ordered it. I’m thankful that I did. This has been an amazing read on the alleged link between video games and violence in children.
This is not a book written from a Christian perspective, at least explicitly. The authors do not state their worldview. However, the authors have interacted with the material they critique and have also included snippets of interviews they have done with children and their parents.
To which, a lot of that information should be encouraging to parents. Older children, for instance, happen to think there are some games that their younger brothers and sisters shouldn’t be playing and they won’t play when those people are around. Surprisingly, something they were often concerned about was swearing. After all, there are a lot of things in a game hard to copy, but swearing isn’t. All you have to do is speak.
Also, something that needs to be said is that many times, children actually do imbibe their parents’ worldviews more than parents realize and learn what to play and not play. Of course, this isn’t across the board, but children are watching and are learning. Quick pro tip here on how parents can better understand what’s going on in the games of their children. Play the games with them and/or talk to them about them. (Yeah. Actual interaction with your children works. Who would have thought?)
The authors also don’t just look at the fact that children play violent games, but often ask why they do. Many times, children say that this actually helps them deal with their anger. In an odd way, that could be saying that rather than cause aggressive behavior in children, video games actually help to alleviate it. Frankly, if there was a strong connection between violent video games and violent children, we would see a lot more violent children.
Also interesting is that if anything, NOT playing video games, especially for boys, could be more of a problematic sign. Remember the Virginia Tech shooter? Something odd his classmates said after about him was, “He never wanted to play video games with us.” Video games are often a tool of social integration and bonding. Kids today get together to talk about games like Pokemon. I started getting more friends in Elementary School and beyond because I had a reputation as being quite good at video games.
The authors also point out that the hysteria over video games has happened over most every new form of media that has come out. Violence and sex in these has never been new. Go back to ancient history? It’s there. Medieval times? Still there. Renaissance and Enlightenment? Yep. What would be an anomaly is a time where such stories did NOT exist.
What about sex in video game? Yep. This is covered. (Odd way of describing it.) Most of us know about Lara Croft and the hope of so many teenage guys to find a nude code to use for her. Now, many games can be even more explicit. Again, this is something that parents need to talk with their children about, but it is not a shock that females are made to be attractive in video games. The Final Fantasy series in X, XII, XIII, and relevant spin-offs from those games all had a protagonist with a very similar look based on what was attractive in Japan at the time.
So when is there a problem? It’s not in the gaming itself. It’s everything around that. If your child is becoming more withdrawn, has a dramatic change in moods, has no or very few friends, and is dropping grades, don’t blame it on the games. The games are often a way of dealing with whatever the real problem is. Find that.
For parents also, the last chapter is all about practical advice for you and it does enforce what I recommend. Play the games with your children, or at least talk about them. Show an interest in them. If the world of the Legend of Zelda means something to your child, find out why. You could get to understand your child better and your child will think they matter when you show interest in what interests them.
If you enjoy gaming and want to deal with criticism, read this book. If you are a parent and you are concerned about your children and video games, read this book. The same applies if you are a teacher or someone in ministry, especially youth ministry.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)