Let’s Talk About Gaming Addiction

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) has moved to include gaming disorder as part of the 11th revision of their International Classification of Diseases.  According to their website, gaming disorder is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”  It goes on to say that, to be classified as a disorder, the amount of gaming must be severe enough to impair a person’s functioning in daily life for a time period of at least twelve months.

My initial reaction to this, of course, was an instinctual dislike.  Video games are one of my primary hobbies, and have been since I was a kid.  So when I heard that gaming disorder was going to be an officially recognized thing, I immediately thought that it couldn’t be good.  And the interesting thing is that the pushback against the classification didn’t just come from people who play video games.  It also came from medical experts who believe that the WHO’s definition of gaming disorder is too vague and too broad.

However, at the same time, the classification does make sense.  There are people out there who definitely spend far too much time on video games, so much so that it starts to take precedence over everything else.  And we are long overdue for a conversation about mental health in this country.  Because while conservative politicians love to blame mental health issues for mass shooting events, they never seem to actually DO anything about it.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Gaming addiction is not a new issue, especially in places like South Korea where it has become such a problem that they even have gaming addiction rehabilitation clinics.  So it’s definitely something worth talking about.  But on the other hand, there’s the media, who have a long and storied history of being slanted against video games.  For instance, here’s this story from the BBC, which was originally titled “Computer game addiction: ‘I spend 20 plus hours a week gaming”.

Pffft…that’s weak.  Get real kids.  Twenty hours is nothing.  You hear me?  Nothing!

In all seriousness, if you actually watch the video, it at least explains that the kid who plays “20 plus hours” a week is part of a healthy crowd of friends.  But if all you see is the headline, your perception of that “20 plus hours” is going to be much different.

And if we’re really going to criticize video games in this way, I think it’s worth noting how we consume another medium: television.  According to this New York Times article from back in 2016, a Nielsen study found that, on average, American adults watch five hours of television a day.  So per week, that adds up to roughly thirty-five hours of television.  Yet we don’t see the WHO coming out with a classification on television watching disorder, or the BBC making a video about people addicted to television.  And the only major reason I can think of for this is that watching television is a normalized thing, whereas video games are still seen as a kind of weird new thing that people don’t understand.

This is to say nothing about the fact that binge-watching is not only a term, but a socially acceptable one.  When “Stranger Things” season 2 came out, over three hundred thousand people watched the entire season in one day.  But of course we’re not raising a stink about this.  We might scoff and say “get a life”, but our condemnation never goes much beyond that.

I should mention here that even the WHO recognizes that the number of those afflicted with this gaming disorder are a very small percentage of the people who play video games regularly.  And I’m willing to bet that, more often than not, the root cause of the addiction lies not with the games themselves, but with something in that person’s life that has forced them to retreat into their hobby.  Because video games are typically used as a way to cope with the stresses of life, something I can attest to personally.  While there are some games that are designed to entice players to keep playing regularly over months and even years, we need to understand that the extreme form of addiction the WHO is talking about is not the norm, especially in a country where the statistic of watching over thirty hours of television a week is accepted without so much as a second thought.

In the end, it’s possible to have an unhealthy addiction to pretty much anything.  And it’s time we accepted that instead of adhering to this stodgy old idea of “everything was better when I was growing up and anything new in these kid’s lives is clearly bad for them”.

Because the world is going to change, whether we like it or not.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a wonderful day.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

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Let’s Talk About Millennial Humor

Looks like those dang millennials are at it again!

So recently I stumbled across this opinion article from the Washington Post entitled “Why is millennial humor so weird?”  Let’s just start with the opening paragraph.

The article begins with a strange analysis of this particular meme:

 

 

The author writes that “the wiener is not a socialist icon; in fact, he is a breakdancing sausage from a Snapchat filter. His inclusion in a lineup of the U.S.S.R.’s patron saints doesn’t mean anything. Maybe nothing does.”

Then in the next paragraph she writes “in this weird world of the surreal and bizarre, horror mingles with humor, and young people have space to play with emotions that seem more and more to proceed from ordinary life — the creeping suspicion that the world just doesn’t make sense.”

So apparently us millennials are like the stereotypical goth kids, constantly rambling about how everything is dark and nothing has meaning.

To be fair, the author does acknowledge the reasons behind this perceived fascination with meaninglessness.  She briefly talks about how millennials, as they’re growing up, are constantly told that they should go to college, that they need to go to college.  And then when they do go to college and finish, they discover that they’ve basically been lied to.  They spent all this time getting a fancy degree, and often all that leaves them with is a mountain of debt and a part-time job at a company that couldn’t give less of a crap about them.

But at the same time, her tone occasionally feels a little too judgmental.  She references how “traditional sources of meaning, such as religion and family formation”, aren’t as relevant to millennials as they were to prior generations.  “The moral structure they produced has been vastly loosened,” she writes, “and replaced with a soft, untheorized tendency toward niceness — smarminess, really, as journalist Tom Scocca put it in 2013.”  Because if you aren’t worshipping God and making babies, then you clearly aren’t doing it right.

The article goes on to talk about how millennials put off things like buying houses and lists a whole bunch of surveys that are supposed to show how disenfranchised we are as a generation.  Now, putting aside the fact that the stuff about millennials not buying houses is simply not true, there’s one survey that popped out to me: one where fifty-seven percent of those that responded admitted to being lonely.

And where did this survey come from?  Match.com.

Oh, so you discovered that lonely people might decide to use a dating website?  GEE…NEVER WOULD HAVE FIGURED THAT ONE OUT!

 

 

What’s strangest to me about this whole rambling, presumptuous article is that it was written by a millennial.  Yep, you read that right…she states that fact multiple times in the article.  And yet, despite this display of supposed intellectualism (she even uses the phrase “de rigueur” at one point…because you can’t truly be pretentious unless you’re doing it in a different language), she appears to have only scratched the surface of how bizarre the internet can be.  A hotdog wearing green headphones?  Winnie the Pooh as a 9/11 truther in a fan-created comic?  Is that the best you’ve got?

The internet is a rabbit hole whose depths you have not even begun to fathom.

I think the biggest irony behind this whole examination of millennial humor and memes is that the article itself became a meme.  People were taking a snapshot of the article’s web page and replacing that first image with other surreal and bizarre memes.

It’s true what they say…there is no escape.

All joking and sarcasm aside, the article isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but it does strike me as pointless.  It attempts to pry meaning out of a generation’s brand of humor before concluding that the meaning might be that there IS no meaning and that it’s playing with the general feelings of distress that plague the millennial generation.  But it also backs off on that point, saying that “the weird — even the exceedingly weird — doesn’t have to be purely distressing” before providing examples of more light-hearted memes.  If anything, the fact that it was written by a millennial only makes its existence more confusing.  If this was written by a forty or fifty-year old, I could at least file it under the long establish “old people don’t understand young people” genre.  But as it stands, this article just feels too full of itself to serve any real purpose.

Maybe the hotdog standing with the icons of Communism and Socialism is funny simply because of how ridiculous it is.  It doesn’t have to be some meta-commentary on the feelings of hopelessness that are common with millennials.  It doesn’t have to be part of some grander scheme or greater context.  Maybe it’s there because someone thought it would be funny.

Pro tip: if you have to spend so much time dissecting a certain brand of humor, the chances are you lost the point before you even started.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a wonderful month.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s Talk About Personal Time

You’ve likely heard or used the phrase “personal time” at some point.  Whether it’s used to explain why you don’t want to go socialize or why you’re going on vacation from work, so on and so forth, “personal time” is a phrase I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  Ever since I posted my scheduling change announcement a couple of weeks back, I’ve been unwinding with the start of the new year, taking some time to just relax.  After last year, where I worked pretty much every weekday (working at a television station, you don’t get many holidays off, if at all), wrote a blog post every week and a short story every month…things started to get to me.  But I detailed all that in my announcement so you can read it there if you want.

Long story short, personal time has been on my mind these past couple of weeks.  It’s something I think is taken for granted far too often.

Here, in the United States, we have this widely held idea that you work until you retire and only then should you relax.  You’ll have your pension and your social security…you can truly enjoy the twilight of your years.

However, that’s not always the case.  Just recently, Senator Tina Smith (who replaced Al Franken after he stepped down) met with retired Teamsters to discuss a looming problem: they’d been asked to take a 60% cut on their pensions…pensions they say they’ve spent forty years paying into.  But because of a looming federal budget impasse, they may find themselves out of luck.  And I think this shows a key problem with the “all work and no play” mentality:

You might spend your entire life working and saving money, only to find out that the money is gone.

This is why I think it’s important to enjoy the time that you have.  I’ve never liked this whole idea of working a job you may not even like just so you can save money for the future.  Unfortunately, it’s a reality many in my generation face.  Which is why I think the idea of taking personal time off is more important than ever.  You could spend your entire working career slaving away for a business only to realize you won’t get what you were promised in the end.  You lose your pension and then what?  For some, the only option they have is to go right back to work.

Because that’s the thing with the world: it shifts and changes as time goes on.  This is something the older generations seem to misunderstand whenever they criticize “those dang kids” for complaining about their jobs.  In fact, they only seem to recognize that things are different when those differences start affecting them.

Now, this is not a blanket condemnation of old people, but it is a truth that is hard to deny.  Every generation thinks that the generation after theirs has no idea what they’re doing and is just a bunch of lazy, entitled kids.  And while that may be true in some cases, it is not in all.  Why bother drilling in this belief that “hard work is all you need” when we know that’s not the case?  Often a person who is perfectly qualified for a job and has trained for it through years of secondary education will be passed over for someone who is far less qualified simply because they happen to know someone at the company: be it a friend, former co-worker, or a family member/relative.  I’ve heard members of the older generations complaining about it too.

There’s even a word for it: nepotism.

But even beyond that, constantly working all the time eventually takes its toll on you.  I know it did for me.  By the end of the year, I was sick of writing a short story every single month, but I did it anyways.  Because that was the promise I made to myself.  And while I fulfilled that promise, I’m still left questioning whether it was worth it or not.

In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that around 16.2 million adults in the United States suffered at least one major depressive episode.  That’s nearly seven percent of the total population.  And while that may not sound like a lot, keep in mind that this is specifically major episodes.  There could be millions more that suffered from more minor cases.

I’m not trying to call what I felt at the end of last year “depression”.  I honestly don’t know if I can even qualify it as that.  But the fact remains that the constant nose-to-the-ground work ethic isn’t really doing people any favors in this current economic landscape.  People work longer for wages that are lagging behind inflation rates, forcing those people to work multiple jobs, sometimes in conjunction with going to college.  If you don’t take some time for yourself, it can get to you fairly quickly.

I frequently find myself on Youtube watching videos about video games and other subjects as a way to unwind, and I noticed that in the past year, some of the larger Youtubers expressed a similar thought: that they were working too hard and not taking enough time for themselves.  Something not a lot of people really understand about Youtube is that it’s algorithm based, meaning that how much money you make off of it is based on things like how many videos you upload in a span of time and how much average traffic your videos get.  For a lot of the larger Youtubers, this means having to consistently upload on a schedule they set for themselves.  For those video gaming channels that upload two videos a day?  Yeah I can see how that would wear a person down.  And taking time off means possibly doing irreparable damage to your channel’s status in the Youtube Trend-o-Sphere (copyright, trademark, patent pending).

For people who depend on Youtube for their living, things can get dicey.  But even so, people have to take time off.  Because the moment you start losing your passion for your work, people will take notice.  And then you’ll lose your audience regardless.

So please, remember that taking time to yourself is not a bad thing.  It allows you to recharge and refocus, to figure out where you want to be and what you want to do.  Sometimes, you need a break.  Sometimes, you need a moment to relax.

Sometimes, you just need to breathe.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of February for another post, and have a wonderful January!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s Talk About Net Neutrality

It’s under attack…again.

On December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) here in the United States will vote on repealing the net neutrality rules set by the Obama administration.  As of right now, most experts think the vote will go through.  From what I understand, there will be five people voting on it.  It looks like two of them will be voting “no”, whereas the other three (including FCC chairman Ajit Pai) will vote “yes”.

Now why is this important?  Well let’s start by defining what net neutrality actually is.  Google defines it as “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites”.  What this means is that, under the current law, you pay one price to gain access to all the internet has to offer.

Currently, the internet is classified as a Title II public utility.  It has been that way since the FCC in 2015 voted 3-2 to enact these new rules.  Now the tables have turned and it’s looking extremely likely that the current FCC will vote to roll those rules back, classifying internet as a Title I, which was the case before the 2015 rule change.

But what does this actually mean if the vote goes through?  Well…no one is really certain.  Supporters of rolling internet back to Title I typically frame their argument as pushing back against what they see as restrictive government regulation over Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  But supporters of net neutrality are worried about what ISPs might do without the restrictions.  One of the scenarios that could come to fruition would be introducing tiered service packages, which would essentially mean that if you want to access something like Netflix, you might have to pay more money.

This is a graphic that has been circulating for a long time, showing what this scenario might look like:

 

 

Yeah…it’s not pretty.  And there is at least one real world case of this in the form of Portugal, where internet plans look a lot like cable plans do here in the United States.  Now it isn’t one hundred percent certain that it’ll happen, but if a huge company like Comcast is given the opportunity to make more money, do you really think they won’t jump at the chance?

This is where net neutrality opponents (like Pai himself) will say that if an ISP does something that people don’t like, then the market will decide their fate.  This means that people will switch to another service provider who doesn’t do those things, and the service provider who does will go out of business.  Now that’s all well and good as an argument…

…except that it’s total bullshit.

Here’s the thing: this argument only makes sense in a market where there are many different companies competing for the same space.  But that’s not so with internet service providers.  Many places only give you one or two choices for internet providers.  Where I live, for example, I have the choice between CenturyLink and Charter, which is essentially the choice between DSL and Cable.  Which is basically the choice between crap and not-crap.  I had CenturyLink for internet back when I lived with a roommate, and we had random disconnects all the time before they managed to fix it.  We called them more times than I care to remember, and it took them literally almost a year before they figured out “oh hey, if we switch the port they’re on, it fixes the problem”.  So switching to Charter was a no-brainer.  But if Charter starts throttling my internet speed or forcing me to pay extra for Netflix, I don’t really have any other place to go.  I just have to deal with it.  And that’s the case for many people, some of whom have less choice than I do.

A lot of net neutrality opponents love to phrase their agenda as “restoring internet freedom”.  But with the current market, the only thing repealing the Title II classification stands to do is allow internet providers to gouge their customers.  And while Pai has argued that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will protect consumers from unfair practices, an Ars Technica article points out that a pending court case is poised to strip the FTC of its authority on the matter.  Without any protection, consumers will find themselves at the mercy of internet companies.  And that is not a situation that is likely to turn out well.

Also, does anyone else find it just a little too convenient that Ajit Pai previously worked for Verizon?  I’m sure there’s nothing going on there at all…

Now, there are ways you can voice your opinion on the matter.  There are sites like Battle for the Net which will help you contact Congress and inform them of your opposition to the vote.  You can call the FCC itself at 1-888-225-5322 and inform them of your opposition as well.  And it’s not like you’ll be alone.  When the FCC did an open comment period on the issue of net neutrality, a study estimated that a whopping 98.5 percent of non-spam comments were in support of net neutrality and against the FCC’s intention to roll back the Title II classification.  And not only that, but another Ars Technica article found that 50,000 customer complaints against internet providers were excluded from the FCC’s net neutrality repeal docket.  It’s as if the FCC is willfully ignoring these comments in favor of pushing their agenda.

Will our voices actually sway the vote?  I can’t really say.  But if you’re one of those people who feels the need to do something, there are options out there.  Tell them your opinion.  Scream it at them if you have to.  At the very least, they’ll know we won’t be silenced so easily.

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back next Wednesday for a new post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s Talk About Sexual Harassment

Update: Since this post, four more women have come forward to accuse Al Franken of sexually inappropriate conduct.  On December 7th, 2017, Franken announced that he would be stepping down as a senator.

During the past week, you’ve probably seen this image at least once:

 

 

The image was taken during a 2006 U.S.O tour, which then-comedian Al Franken participated in.  The woman in the picture is Leeann Tweeden, who is now the anchor of a morning radio broadcast in Los Angeles.  According to her story, while they were rehearsing a skit which called for a kissing scene, Franken pushed her head against his and basically forced the kiss upon her.  She pushed him away and immediately told him never to do it again.  Later, she says that Franken treated her poorly the rest of the tour and then had this picture taken while she was sleeping.

Franken himself has issued an apology, saying that while he does not remember the skit the same way Leeann does, we should all listen to women’s stories.  He also expressed regret for the photo, saying that looking back on it now he sees it for what it is and is disgusted with himself.  You can read his full statement here.

This, of course, comes after the whirlwind of sexual harassment and assault claims that have been sweeping the nation ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal first broke out and the “#metoo” movement began trending on the internet.  Now, Franken has been accused by a second person of grabbing her butt during a photo at the state fair in 2010, when he was a first-term senator.  But for my part, I’m going to be focusing mostly on the first incident, as it is the one that has generated the most discussion.

First off, the obvious: no woman should have to feel uncomfortable in their body or uncomfortable telling their story.  Shaming a woman for either of these things is downright despicable.

But with that being said, I’ve noticed something in the past week.  It seems that people are far too willing to lump Senator Franken in with the likes of Roy Moore and Harvey Weinstein.  This strikes me as unfair, because the accusations of what each man did are so different.  Weinstein’s run the gamut from inappropriate touching to actual rape.  And one of Roy Moore’s accusers said that when she was sixteen he offered her a ride home from work, then drove her behind the restaurant where she was a waitress and started groping her.  He even tried to force her head into his crotch.

A lot more serious than kissing someone or touching their breasts or butt, wouldn’t you say?

My point with all this is that I’m worried that it has become too easy to condemn people following an accusation of sexual misconduct.  There was a time when women were blamed for being raped because of the clothes that they wore and the way they acted, which I think most of us can agree is utter bullshit.  But following the “#metoo” movement, it seems like people are all too willing to crucify someone when they’re accused of sexual misdeeds of any kind.

And as for the Franken case, I think it’s important to remember that back then, he was a comedian.  A lot of what comedians do is push the boundaries of what we as a culture consider acceptable.  Another good example of this can be seen in the allegations against actor George Takei, who most will remember as Sulu from the original “Star Trek” show.  Takei denied the allegations, but then people dug up comments he made on Howard Stern’s show where he joked about touching men.  And while it’s easy to look at something like this and immediately cry “he’s a sick pervert”, it’s important to note that Howard Stern is literally known as a “shock jock”, a term describing a radio broadcaster who intentionally uses humor that some people will find offensive.  In that sense, Takei’s comments shouldn’t be taken as indicative of his real personality, but as those of someone playing his part in a joke.

I feel like the Franken allegation is similar.  It’s far too easy to look at it like “he’s a total hypocrite…how dare he pretend to be a champion of women’s rights”.  Now, does it necessarily make what he did okay?  No…of course not.  Taking that picture was a tasteless and stupid thing to do, especially after Leeann made her feelings on the matter clear.  But context is important.  And in that sense, what Franken did was far less damning than what people like Roy Moore have been accused of.  I don’t think he deserves to have his career destroyed over this.  Tweeden herself even accepted Franken’s apology, saying that “people make mistakes”.  She also added that she didn’t necessarily think he needed to resign.  So while it appears she’s moved on from the incident, others are still using it to try and nail Franken to the wall, so to speak.

The best example I can find of this is President Trump himself, who felt compelled to let everyone know his thoughts.  In a tweet, he said “The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words”.  And yet, he has said very little about the accusations against Roy Moore (although yesterday he finally broke his silence on it) or even the accusations against himself.  In fact, most of what he and the White House has said on the matter is comes down to “all the women are lying”.  And I’ve seen some people on Facebook sharing memes condemning Franken when they’ve so readily brushed off any of the allegations against Trump.

It goes both ways too.  I’m sure people who have readily condemned the actions of Republicans have remained strangely mum on accusations against their side of the aisle.  What it comes down to is that we need to take politics out of the equation.  It’s not about Republicans vs. Democrats, Liberals vs. Conservatives.  The real issue here is that people with power and authority have a tendency to abuse it.  And until we deal with the cultural ramifications of that, the situation isn’t going to get better.

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back next Wednesday for a new post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s talk about Vegas

 

…I don’t really know what to say.  But it has to be discussed.  Talking about anything else this week just seemed…wrong.

What happened this past week was horrific, terrifying, and disgusting…all in equal measure.  A shooter opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, taking aim at people attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  Thousands of people just sitting out in the open.  And the shooting didn’t let up for almost five minutes.

As of this writing, at least fifty-nine people are dead and over five hundred others are injured.  And injured can mean just about anything.

I’m not going to write the shooter’s name.  I’m not going to show you his face.  If it were up to me, history would scour his name from the record books and he would be buried in an unmarked grave.  He is not a person who deserves to be remembered.

You’ll hear about him anyways of course.  The news will make sure of that.

Speaking of the news, I find it strange how tepidly they’ve treated the suspect so far.  Think about it: the man had nearly two dozen guns in that hotel room alone.  He had more at his residence and thousands of rounds of ammunition.  And yet, it seems they refuse to call the man a terrorist.  Now, granted, he has no known affiliation with extremist fanatic groups, religious or otherwise.  And his motives are still uncertain and may inevitably be impossible to ascertain.  But his actions do qualify as terrorism under Nevada’s own definition of it.

It makes me think of around two years ago in Oregon when that armed group of guys took over a nature preserve in protest against the federal government.  Instead of calling them domestic terrorists, they were called a “militia” and portrayed as hardly anything more than concerned citizens.

They stormed a nature preserve with guns and forcibly took it over in an attempt to force the federal government to do what they wanted.  Nothing unusual or scary there.  Nope.  Not at all.  Not even being sarcastic.  No sir.

Oh, by the way, all of them were acquitted last year.  I can’t help but think that if they were part of any other ethnic group the response would have been vastly different.  Because racism still exists in this country, whether we acknowledge it or not…a fact we’ve had to face more and more in recent years.

But let’s get back on track.  The gun control debate is rearing its head once again.  Following the shooting, people like Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Representative Gabrielle Giffords renewed their calls for tougher gun laws, drawing criticism from the conservative side for politicizing the event.  And yet, I can’t help but notice the lack of a response on their end.  The White House has been brushing off questions from reporters about gun control, saying that the focus should be on the victims and their families.  This I actually do agree with.  I don’t like to get political about stuff just days after a horrible event like this because I think the families need time to grieve and come to terms with the fact that someone they love is never coming home.  And yet, the vast difference in response from conservatives, and especially the president himself, when it comes to the Vegas shooting versus other recent terrorist attacks sticks out to me.

Here is what President Trump tweeted following the Vegas mass shooting:

 

 

I can’t be the only one who thinks this seems so bizarrely tame.  Where’s all the anger?  Where’s the outrage?  Hell, where’s the name calling?  For contrast, take a look at this tweet following the Pulse Nightclub shooting last year, which until Vegas held the dubious honor of being the worst mass shooting in U.S. history:

 

 

No, you are not seeing things.  He was basically congratulating himself for being “right” about Islamic terrorists.  And on the same day as the shooting happened no less.  People were still in the midst of grieving and he was patting himself on the back.  Of course, this was back before he was elected so maybe he’s changed right?

Well…

 

 

…not so much.  This was just last month following a subway bombing in London.  So I have to wonder, where’s all the talk about being “proactive” and “vigilant” in the wake of what happened?

At the very least, he did call it “an act of pure evil” I guess.  Although even that seems tame compared to some of the stuff he’s said in the past.  But again, where’s the outrage?  Where’s the anger and the vitriol?  Are we really so jaded as a culture that we’ve just accepted the inevitability of white men committing mass murder?

As I said, I don’t enjoy getting political this soon after such a horrific event.  But the debate has already started, whether I like it or not.  And despite conservatives lashing out at liberals for bringing up gun control “too soon”, they would readily bring up the Muslim travel ban if the shooter had been a Muslim.  Because both sides will criticize each other for politicizing a tragedy but then immediately do so when it suits their agenda.

Aren’t politics fun?

I do think there is a discussion worth having over gun control.  But I don’t think anything will change, especially with a Republican-led Congress.  And I don’t think many people even want to have the discussion at all.  In fact, gun sales tend to skyrocket following mass shootings, because of people fearing tougher laws on gun sales.  This never happens of course.  Despite all the conservative hyperbole over President Obama taking their guns, 2016 was a record year for gun sales.

And I don’t even know for sure that stricter laws would have done any good.  According to some reports, it appears that the Vegas shooter bought at least one semi-automatic gun and modified it himself to become an automatic one.  Which raises the question of how do you possibly regulate things like that?  Automatic weapons are already nigh impossible to get in most places in the United Sates.  But there’s a whole world of legal and semi-legal modifications out there that muddies the waters and makes things even more confusing than they already are.

In any case, we don’t have all the details yet, so it’s hard to know for sure how he got these guns or what he did with them.  For now, we need to grieve.  We need to appreciate those we love.  We need to be thankful for all that we have and stand with the people who have lost and suffered in this horrible event.  More information will be revealed in the coming days.  Some things may change.  Some things may not.

But for now, we as a country need to heal.

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back next Wednesday for another post.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s Talk About Video Games

…again.

Let’s face it, I talk about games a lot on this blog.  They’re a big part of my life…being one of the main ways I relax when I’m not busy dealing with my responsibilities (adulting is hard man).  And I’ve come to their defense a number of times, particularly when it comes to the attitude that they’re either pointless wastes of time with no value or, in more extreme cases, that they lead to violent behavior.

When I was younger, I heard this kind of talk a lot.  Violent games cause violence.  For so many people who had never laid their hands on a controller, that just seemed to be the logical conclusion.  Because there is a large amount of history and research behind the idea that people who consistently witness violent imagery become more desensitized to violence.  But while violence was constantly glorified in movies and sensationalized in the news, it seemed that video games were the ones that found themselves in the crosshairs.

Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t a worthwhile discussion we can have.  The interactive nature of a video game is something that sets it apart from watching a movie or news broadcast.  But despite all the stories about killers who played violent games in the days leading up to their crime, there’s never been a conclusive link between the games and the violence that the person perpetrated.

One of the first times I can remember games being blamed for something was in the case of the Beltway Snipers.  During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that the younger of the two snipers (Lee Malvo) was “trained” on the video game “Halo”.  This of course led to a whole long crusade against the game franchise, led by then-lawyer Jack Thompson, a notorious critic of video games at the time (he has since been disbarred from practicing law…hmm I wonder why).  But despite the outcry, nothing ever really became of it.  And the “Halo” franchise still continues to this day.

Stories like this were common when I was growing up.  There were so many tales about the supposed dangers of playing “Grand Theft Auto” that I eventually lost track.  Like I said, the problem with all of this is that a conclusive link between games and violence has never been proven.  Even this Slate article from 2007, which seems to lean against video games, admits that these studies have their flaws and that “maybe aggressive people are simply more apt to play violent games in the first place”.  For every study that supposedly links games and increased aggression there is another study that finds helpful benefits from playing them.  That’s not just my bias talking either.  If you look for it, you’ll find that the literature surrounding the effects of video games is scattered at best.

 

And there are games out there that have no violence in them whatsoever. It’s a very broad medium, one that gets unfairly whittled down to a few controversial games in the public eye.

 

 

Another thing that bothered me was just how hypocritical the attitude toward video games really was.  In 2011 people in Canada rioted after their hockey team lost in the Stanley Cup final.  And no one really thought much of it.  Think I’m joking?  Just check out the headline for this CNN photo gallery of the riot:

“Canucks riot: Canadian hockey fans go Canucks in Vancouver.”

Ha ha isn’t it so funny guys?  Look at those silly Canadians.  Aren’t they just so crazy?

 

Nothing to see here…just some Canadians setting things on fire.

 

 

At least 140 people were injured in that riot…all over a sports game.  But do we want to talk about the implications of that?  Hell no.  Because violent behavior over sports is just an accepted thing in mainstream culture.  Even here in my home state, the animosity between Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers fans is nothing short of legendary.  And hockey fans in Canada have rioted even when their team wins!

It’s crazy, really, how skewed public opinion has been toward video games.  It seems to come mostly from the older generations who just don’t understand them.  It’s a natural generational thing…even my generation looks at babies with iPads and gets skeptical, despite the fact that the science isn’t conclusive on that either.  Someone I know from my high school days told me recently that he used to be one of those people until he had a kid and got him an iPad.  After he saw how it helped his child learn to speak and read, it changed his mind completely.

And that’s the key thing here: understanding.  We should be making attempts to understand why this latest trend is a trend.  We should be making attempts to understand why people like playing video games and why parents feel inclined to give their children iPads.  But instead, the conversation surrounding these things are frequently dominated by fear-mongering nonsense and hyperbole.  Is it worth having a conversation about?  Of course it is.  But immediately comparing video games or iPads to hardcore drug addiction is not the way to go.  All it does is muddy the waters and make having an actual dialogue impossible.

Because after all, understanding can go a long way in this world.

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back next Wednesday for a new post, and as always, have a wonderful week!

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