Archive for July, 2005

28-Jul-2005

July 28, 2005

Many of you might have heard about the big hullabaloo regarding sex scenes in a popular video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas . Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the game is already rated M for Mature, meaning no one under 17 is supposed to play it. Sen. Hilary Clinton seems to have made it her mission in life to show that, dadgummit, she’s got as much morals as those Republicans. In response, I read this interesting article in the LA Times. Since articles get archived there pretty quickly, I thought I’d reproduce it here in full:

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Hillary vs. the Xbox: Game over
  • Senator, would your probe of video games also take a look at the substantial benefits they can provide?
  • Dear Sen. Clinton:
    I’m writing to commend you for calling for a $90-million study on the effects of video games on children, and in particular the courageous stand you have taken in recent weeks against the notorious “Grand Theft Auto” series.

    I’d like to draw your attention to another game whose nonstop violence and hostility has captured the attention of millions of kids a game that instills aggressive thoughts in the minds of its players, some of whom have gone on to commit real-world acts of violence and sexual assault after playing.

    I’m talking, of course, about high school football.

    I know a congressional investigation into football won’t play so well with those crucial swing voters, but it makes about as much sense as an investigation into the pressing issue that is Xbox and PlayStation 2.

    Your current concern is over explicit sex in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Yet there’s not much to investigate, is there? It should get rated appropriately, and that’s that. But there’s more to your proposed study: You want to examine how video games shape children’s values and cognitive development.

    Kids have always played games. A hundred years ago they were playing stickball and kick the can; now they’re playing “World of Warcraft,” “Halo 2” and “Madden 2005.” And parents have to drag their kids away from the games to get them to do their algebra homework, but parents have been dragging kids away from whatever the kids were into since the dawn of civilization.

    So any sensible investigation into video games must ask the “compared to what” question. If the alternative to playing “Halo 2” is reading “The Portrait of a Lady,” then of course “The Portrait of a Lady” is better for you. But it’s not as though kids have been reading Henry James for 100 years and then suddenly dropped him for Pokemon.

    Another key question: Of all the games that kids play, which ones require the most mental exertion? Parents can play this at home: Try a few rounds of Monopoly or Go Fish with your kids, and see who wins. I suspect most families will find that it’s a relatively even match. Then sit down and try to play “Halo 2” with the kids. You’ll be lucky if you survive 10 minutes.

    The great secret of today’s video games that has been lost in the moral panic over “Grand Theft Auto” is how difficult the games have become. That difficulty is not merely a question of hand-eye coordination; most of today’s games force kids to learn complex rule systems, master challenging new interfaces, follow dozens of shifting variables in real time and prioritize between multiple objectives.

    In short, precisely the sorts of skills that they’re going to need in the digital workplace of tomorrow.

    Consider this one fascinating trend among teenagers: They’re spending less time watching professional sports and more time simulating those sports on Xbox or PlayStation. Now, which activity challenges the mind more sitting around rooting for the Packers, or managing an entire football franchise through a season of “Madden 2005”: calling plays, setting lineups, trading players and negotiating contracts? Which challenges the mind more zoning out to the lives of fictional characters on a televised soap opera, or actively managing the lives of dozens of virtual characters in a game such as “The Sims”?

    On to the issue of aggression, and what causes it in kids, especially teenage boys. Congress should be interested in the facts: The last 10 years have seen the release of many popular violent games, including “Quake” and “Grand Theft Auto”; that period has also seen the most dramatic drop in violent crime in recent memory. According to Duke University’s Child Well-Being Index, today’s kids are less violent than kids have been at any time since the study began in 1975. Perhaps, Sen. Clinton, your investigation should explore the theory that violent games function as a safety valve, letting children explore their natural aggression without acting it out in the real world.

    Many juvenile crimes such as the carjacking that is so central to “Grand Theft Auto” are conventionally described as “thrill-seeking” crimes. Isn’t it possible that kids no longer need real-world environments to get those thrills, now that the games simulate them so vividly? The national carjacking rate has dropped substantially since “Grand Theft Auto” came out. Isn’t it conceivable that the would-be carjackers are now getting their thrills on the screen instead of the street?

    Crime statistics are not the only sign that today’s gaming generation is doing much better than the generation raised during the last cultural panic over rock ‘n’ roll. Math SAT scores have never been higher; verbal scores have been climbing steadily for the last five years; nearly every indicator in the Department of Education study known as the Nation’s Report Card is higher now than when the study was implemented in 1971.

    By almost every measure, the kids are all right.

    Of course, I admit that there’s one charge against video games that is a slam dunk. Kids don’t get physical exercise when they play a video game, and indeed the rise in obesity among younger people is a serious issue. But, of course, you don’t get exercise from doing homework either.

    27-Jul-2005

    July 27, 2005

    Had a ;nice, relaxing ;weekend. Geeked out at Borders on Friday, and bought some more electronic entertainment from EB Games. ;Had a huge Indian lunch buffet on Saturday. Went swimming Sunday morning, and saw Christopher Titus do standup Sunday evening. Last night, Laju invited me to dinner and drinks with a couple of other friends. Turns out, her friends knew (quite well) someone I know at work, so that was interesting as well. So, all in all, I’ve had a somewhat active week.

    I’ve also started watching this really good anime series called Fullmetal Alchemist . Yes, I know it’s a “cartoon”, but it’s a really well-done story. ;It explores a lot of mature and sensitive issues, like God, science, faith, love, loyalty, and death. ;I especially like the relationship between the two brothers. I’m only 19 episodes in (out of 51), but it’s already really good, and I’ve heard it gets even better. Can’t wait to see how it ends. Probably the most interesting thing is that I’m watching the entire series in the original Japanese, with English subtitles. Fortunately, the subtitles are pretty good (from what I can make out).

    21-Jul-2005

    July 21, 2005

    Most of the people who read this blog aren’t big cricket fans (with one notable exception ), but if ever there was a time to start, it is now. England and Australia have started what promises to be one of the most exciting Ashes series in recent memory, and what a doozy of a first day. England blasts out Australia for 190, then Australia comes right back and rips out the heart of the English batting, leaving them at 25/5. All 5 wickets went to the greatest pace bowler playing today, Glenn McGrath. And the English batsmen currently playing are the wicketkeeper Geraint Jones (no mug with the bat himself), and the golden boy Kevin Pietersen, making his debut. What a game!! I’d order the damn thing if I actually had time to watch it.

    21-Jul-2005

    July 21, 2005

    This is really cool. Make sure you zoom all the way in.

    Saw Bunty Aur Babli yesterday. Great movie. All 3 main actors were excellent. And even though I’m not the biggest Aishwarya Rai fan in the world (I think she’s ;an overrated ;porcelain doll myself), I must admit that she looked HOT! But I’d still choose Rani myself.

    19-Jul-2005

    July 19, 2005

    Rain rain go away, come again another day…

    And my personal favourite, the Rain Party:

    18-Jul-2005

    July 18, 2005

    Ugh, this last weekend sucked. Moving sucked. Carrying boxes up the stairs sucked (good exercise, but murder on the back). Having boxes littered all over the floor sucks (note change in tense). Whatever, I’ll deal.

    Weekend wasn’t all bad, though. Friday night, I went to see a comedy show with Rakh-star (my new nickname for her… ), her roommate, and roommate’s husband. The headliner, Jake Johanssen , was funny, but not as funny as I expected. Maybe I was too tired. But the feature act (guy before the headliner), Tony Dijamco , was funnier than I expected. For $10, it was good value. We also stopped by the nearby Borders and had Harry Potter cake and Cauldron Kool-Aid. ;But the most exciting part of the evening was when I saw a sign for the Pita Pit in downtown San Jose. This was my favourite fast food place back in college. Veggie pita, with all the veggies and all the sauces except ranch and mayo. Yummy…

    Parents sent me some photos of the floods back in Baroda. All I can say is… GODDAMN!! That’s a lot of water, folks. I’ll post the photos up soon, but here’s a taste:

    I think that kinda speaks for itself, don’t you?

    12-Jul-2005

    July 12, 2005

    Another day, another dollar. Vegetated this past weekend, which was nice. Gave my car in today ;for $600 worth of repair (in addition to the $200 on Saturday), which isn’t so nice. Oh well.

    That reminds me. A few posts ago, I had mentioned some exciting news at work. Well, it’s been confirmed, but it turns out not to have been terribly exciting after all. Last week, my manager pulled me into an office and told me, in a soft tone, that I was getting a 5% raise. This was separate from the usual 2% raise that the majority of the company gets in October. But he told me that several people were getting similar raises, which implies that it isn’t necessarily merit-based, at least not completely. More likely, this is an income ;adjustment to make sure that I am still being paid at (or close to) market value. In other words, they’re making sure that they’re paying me approximately the same that I’d get from another company for doing similar kinds of work. Lots of other people are getting raises too, ranging from 1%-7%. So while I don’t feel special anymore, I am certainly appreciating the extra moolah. $_$.

    I’ve become a bit of a Friendster junkie this past week, after essentially ignoring it for months. I guess that’s what happens when I meet lots of new people in one place at one time. I keep logging in every few hours to see how many times my profile has been viewed. Quite sad, actually. *sigh*

    9-Jul-2005

    July 9, 2005

    Hehehe… I just thought this link was amusing, if not long overdue.

    9-Jul-2005

    July 9, 2005

    Yeah, so we got clobbered last night in softball. It’s this one team that always seems to have our number. Funny thing is, we beat teams that beat them. But when they play us, they always demolish us. Anyway, I decided to skip next season. See what it’s like to have Thursday evenings back. However, I might be starting a martial arts class on campus, so that’ll keep me occupied. The class is for Silat , and it seems rather interesting. The first month is free (with $40/mo after that), so I might as well give it a try. It doesn’t have too much to do with katas and form and such. It’s about speed and the sudden attack (or counterattack). Sounds good to me.

    8-Jul-2005

    July 8, 2005

    Softball playoffs tonight, for all the marbles. If we win our semis, then we go straight into the finals, which will be played immediately after. Wish me luck. The way this past week has been, I can bet the game is definitely going to be interesting.