Here’s a fun little experiment you can do at home. Pick up a video game. It can be any kind of video game, all the way back to an Atari 2600 cartridge to a PlayStation 4 disc. Now, use it in the way it was intended by the manufacturer.
How many people did you manage to hurt? How many people did you kill?
Okay, now try using it in any way you can conceivably think of, even in ways never intended by the manufacturer. How many people can you manage to injure or kill before you get taken down by the police or your fellow citizens?
According to President Trump, the greatest threat to our country, and particularly our young people, comes from video games “shaping young people’s thoughts”, according to a report from the Washington Post. The report added that “[h]e also proposed that ‘we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it.’”
Well, yeah. Because goodness knows that we’ve established time and again that playing violent video games leads directly to an increase in violent behavior. Oh wait, no we haven’t. But just in case, we should violate the First Amendment rights of video game makers to be on the safe side, because that’s the best and most direct way to resolve the problem.
Apparently Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Council, suggested that violent video games “needed to be given the same kind of thought as tobacco and liquor.” Of course, because video games have been known to cause cancer and drunk driving. That’s some quality thinking there, Brent.
And that’s not the worst of the kind of conclusion-first, evidence-not-at-all thinking on display at this particular meeting. Rep. Vicki Hartzler was quoted as saying “[e]ven though I know there are studies that have said there is no causal link, as a mom and a former high school teacher, it just intuitively seems that prolonged viewing of violent nature would desensitize a young person.” I’m just curious, exactly what did you teach? Because I can’t imagine any teacher I ever had literally stating “I know there are studies that have said there is no causal link” and then trumping those factual studies with their own “intuition”. Then again, they never had the benefit of being legislators, which apparently gives you… supernatural powers?
Speaking of legislators, Sen. Marco Rubio felt the need to chime in with his usual wisdom, “acknowledg[ing] there is no evidence linking violent video games to the tragedy in Parkland. But he said he wanted to ensure ‘parents are aware of the resources available to them to monitor and control the entertainment their children are exposed to.’” Wow, that’s a brave stance. I wasn’t aware that the ESRB rating system for video games and the MPAA rating system for motion pictures were state secrets. Thanks for getting those declassified and making them available to parents everywhere, Sen. Rubio. With leadership like that you should consider running for President.
If these politicians and other “crisis actors” (yeah, I said it) really believe there’s a causal link between video games and real world violence, they need to step up and put their money where their mouth is. Start funding some quality, rigorous studies into the phenomenon, or better yet lift the ban on the CDC investigating the potential link. Address the very real concerns raised with the studies they continuously lean on (you know, the ones that don’t show a causal link?) and find something more than a spurious correlation.
The hysteria over video games recalls the hysteria over Dungeons & Dragons from the early 1980s, the outrage over explicit music that managed to stretch all the way from the mid-80s to the late 90s, banned books that seem to be a perennial controversy, or any time bad or undesirable behavior is blamed on media or culture rather than placed squarely where it belongs: on the people who perpetrate it. That’s not to say that the media doesn’t influence behavior to some extent, but to ban media in an attempt to control a handful of bad actors is very much akin to cutting off the noses of an entire community to spite one face.
Here’s a fun little something to do the next time you’re bored. I seem to recall at least one version of this coming from a fantasy novel (and extra happy points to the person who reminds me which one it was), but I’ve also run into people who have played some variation of it who never read any fantasy novels, so obviously the idea has spread, assuming it didn’t originate elsewhere.
The first version I like to call “Bring Me Three Nouns”. Here’s the setup: pretend you’re in a war camp of some kind, and you’re interrogating a prisoner. He’s a tough one and he refuses to talk, but for some reason (political, moral, legal, whatever) you can’t just beat the information out of him. Suddenly you have an inspiration. In the hearing of the prisoner, you say to a subordinate “Bring me… He’ll talk.” Replace the ellipsis with three nouns, any three nouns of your choice. That’s all you get to say. What three items would you choose? Something silly, like “a bunch of grapes, a turkey baster, and a pair of headphones”? Something ominous, like “a chainsaw, a smock, and a gravy ladle”? Or just something bizarre, like “a two dollar bill, a pair of tights, and a statue of Carmen Miranda”?
A more restrictive (and in some ways more creative) version of the game is “Object, Animal, Food”. The setup is the same, only in this case you specifically have to name an inanimate object, an animal (living or dead, your choice) and some kind of food (but feel free to stretch the boundaries of any of these categories as far as the other participants will allow). The results can turn out to be as disgusting as “Bring me a box cutter, a weasel, and some raw hamburger. He’ll talk”, or as disturbingly funny as “Bring me a yoyo, an otter, and a lollipop. He’ll talk.” Half the fun is imagining what exactly you would do with this bizarre and motley collection of items (which is, of course, the imaginary purpose of the whole exercise; it’s psychological warfare).
There’s also a deeper level to the game, if you want to explore that far. This game can be a kind of Rorschach test, in that what you suggest can say a lot about you. What do you love? What do you hate? What do you fear? There’s a certain amount of projection that goes into something like this. There’s also a question of boundaries – what’s over the line, what’s too far and too gross to even suggest, if only by implication in an imaginary setting?
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with treating it as a free version of “Cards Against Humanity” and letting yourself and your friends run wild without reading anything into it. After all, it is just a game. Have fun!
Oh, and be sure to share your favorite responses in the comments below. I look forward to hearing them.
Recently for my birthday (yes, I’m bringing that up again, but I swear it’s in the service of a good cause) some very good friends got me a new board game: King of Tokyo. I had never heard of it before, but just looking at the box got me excited. It had giant monsters destroying a city, and with a name like “King of Tokyo”, there was only one way this thing could be headed. A little while later I headed home, cracked it open, and started pouring over the contents.
I have not stopped playing this game since.
King of Tokyo has won several prestigious awards, including the 2012 Golden Geek awards for Best Party Game, Best Family Board Game, and Best Children’s Game (although a note to parents with little Geeklings at home: pretty much the entire game is a choking hazard). It seems as if someone sat down and scientifically figured out all the things geeks loved and put it all into one game. Monsters? Dice? Of course, and plenty of them. Tokens? Got them too. Points to keep track of? Not one kind, but two, including the ever popular life points, both tracked on individualized and thematically accurate cards. And speaking of cards, there’s a whole deck of them to enjoy! There are even stand-up cut outs that serve as miniatures of your monsters. Monsters? Of course there are monsters. That’s the whole point of the game. And there’s even a board, although it plays a small (but crucial) role in the overall game.
The best part of the game is how fast it is to pick up and play. Everyone I’ve played it with has learned it in less than five minutes, and most of them have beaten other people who have played multiple times within their first two or three games. It plays fast and there are multiple avenues to victory, either by collecting points or (my personal favorite) be the last monster standing.
The game play itself is fast paced and fun as well. Despite (or perhaps because of) all the little pieces and details to keep track of, gameplay is breezy and lighthearted. It’s kind of like a cross between Yahtzee and King of the Hill, with the cards offering a dizzying array of options to expand strategies and take your game in all kinds of different directions. Being the geek that I am I immediately started thinking about different ways to tweak out the rules to create different scenarios, which is part of the fun to a guy like me. There are a few rules that are a little unclear on how they interact with each other, particularly when certain cards get involved, although on the whole the game designers did an excellent job anticipating rules lawyers like my friends and I and provided a handy reference sheet for specific issues that came up during play (and even some that I look forward to having come up in the near future).
All in all, I highly recommend this fantastic game to anyone who enjoys board games, monsters, rolling dice, or just having fun with friends. The more people you get to play the more fun it is (the rules are even slightly different for five or six people). I haven’t gotten the expansion yet, but I plan to soon.
And a quick shout out to the Js: Best birthday gift ever.
H/T to Barnaby Felton. He posted this on Facebook a while back and it got me thinking. If life were a game, what achievements would it have? Even better, what achievements SHOULD it have? And which ones would I have unlocked by now? Which ones would I be looking forward to?
Below is my list of achievements, first the ones I’ve already earned and then the ones I’m still working on (or never intend to get, but just love the idea of). They’re not always things I’m necessarily proud of, mind you, but sometimes survival is an achievement all its own. I encourage you to submit your own in the comments, but please do your best to follow form. Give it a title and a description, and where possible be creative.
Level 20 – Turn 20 years old
Level 30 – Turn 30 years old
Man’s Best Friend – Own (or be owned by) a dog
Cat’s Cradle – Own (or be owned by) a cat
Full of Pride – Own (or be owned by) more than one cat at once
Yakety Yak – Do chores for your parents
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again – See the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the theater at least twice
Up the Creek – Go camping
Drinks Are On Me – Turn the legal drinking age in your country or state
Fade to Black – Drink so much that you pass out
You Can’t Handle the Truth! – Get caught in a blatant lie
And the Oscar Goes To… – Make a scene in public
Wage Slave – get a job
Tithing to Uncle Sam – Pay income taxes
Hate the Playa – Badmouth an ex
Hate the Game – Swear off dating for at least six months
I Put a Ring On It – Get married
Hey Mo(hawk)! – Have a mohawk
In the Midnight Hour, She Cried Mo(hawk), Mo(hawk), Mo(hawk) – Have more than one color of
mohawk at some point in your life
Bob Dobbs – Be accused of being a slacker
Part of the System – Vote in a government election
I Demand a Recount! – Have your candidate lose in a government election
Y’ain’t From Round Here, Are Ya? – Move at least 500 miles for work or school
Under The Bridge – Deliberately troll someone online
Achievements I’m Still Working On
Level 40 – Turn 40 years old
Level 50 – Turn 50 years old
Level 60 – Turn 60 years old
Level 70 – Turn 70 years old
Level 80 – Turn 80 years old
Level 90 – Turn 90 years old
Level 100 – Turn 100 years old
Older Than the Hills – Turn 101 years old
Leader of the Pack – Own (or be owned by) more than one dog at once
I Got Music, I Got Rhythm – Learn to play a musical instrument
Rob the Cradle – Date someone at least ten years younger than you are
Rob the Grave – Date someone at least ten years older than you are
Romero – Be personally responsible for a worldwide zombie apocalypse
Resource Hog – Have a child
Breeding an Army – Have more than two children
Jailbait – Spend the night in jail (including the drunk tank)
Macgyver – Improvise a mechanical devise to get yourself out of a jam, preferably one involving
Gilligan – Join the Navy or Coast Guard
The Skipper – Have command of a boat (civilian or armed forces)
The Millionaire and His Wife – Marry into money
The Movie Star – Get a lead role in a motion picture
The Professor and Marry Ann – Create an item out of common objects that completely defies the laws
of science using only the help of your lab assistant, a simple farm girl from Kansas
Script Kiddie – Hack a computer system
Haxx0r – Hack a computer system using your own code
Neo – Hack a government computer system using your own code
White Hat, Black Hat, They All Look Good On Me – Work computer security before or after hacking a
I’m With the (Rubber) Band – Go bungee jumping
Lunatic – Jump out of a perfectly serviceable airplane in mid-flight (parachute optional)