Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Video Games, Eye Strains, and BRAAAAAAAAINS

You'll have to forgive me, I don't write about politically-based issues much, so I have no idea how coherently the point I'm going to make will come across. For that matter, I'm not entirely sure I have a solid point to make, but I would at least draw attention to an interesting parallel I noticed yesterday. (Oh yeah, Happy New Year and all that.)

I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered yesterday and happened to tune in to an interesting piece about Nintendo's 3DS, yet another new-fangled toy I will likely never own. (I'm actually not bitter about this, for the record.) The article (read and hear it here) talked about the potential health concerns that could come from the 3-D effects generated by the system, and in particular how it could cause vision problems for younger children.

The story itself is pretty straight-forward. 3-D causes the eyes to focus in a different way, prolonged use could cause eye strain, et cetera. I'm not terribly psyched about everything with an extra D, because I know my eyes get incredibly tired quickly. (I have a hard time being in a room with an air conditioner running a bit too high. How's that for sad?) What really caught my eye was how both the audible and written story ended. Loosely quoted: Game manufacturers, for lack of solid evidence for or against the possibility of eye strain in younger viewers, have decided to recommend that children play with the 3-D mode off. However, enforcing that recommendation falls to parents.

Sound a bit familiar? The parallel that I immediately thought of was the debate over violence and sexual content in video games. Game manufacturers mark the packaging with a recommended age bracket for games. However, enforcing that recommendation falls to parents. Or at least, that's my view. I know that there are people out there who feel that such dirty games shouldn't be in existence, but I would have to side with the folks that stifling these games is violating First Amendment rights. I'm not saying that I endorse violence and sexual content in video games, and I'm not saying that there aren't developers that go overboard with what they do, but the ability to create a game and share it shouldn't be eliminated.

If I understand it correctly, there's currently a case in (or on its way to) the Supreme Court regarding video game regulations, based on a California-based bill that would place restrictions on content in video games. I'm not sure such a bill is necessary, or even a good idea. According to the Video Game Voters Network (disclaimer, the content is obviously heavily slanted toward an anti-regulatory stance), the video game rating system set in place by the Entertainment Softward Rating Board (familiarly the ESRB) is already used by parents when making decision on what games to buy (80% of parents say they are aware of the system, 70% say they use it). For that matter, retailers say they have denied 80% of all M-rated game sales thanks to the ESRB rating system.

Ultimately though, I want to bring this discussion back around to the parallel between violent video games and eye-straining video games. There is perhaps more evidence (although again, nothing final yet) that a 3-D video game will cause damage to a six-year-old's eyes than a violent video game will cause them to live a violent life. Yet oddly enough, despite the tremendous similarities in the implied consequences, I don't see many people debating about 3-D games and the horrific impact it will have on our society. In a sick and twisted way, I want to see SCOTUS debate whether 3-D games should be allowed on the market.

I honestly don't know where else to take this discussion without simply repeating what I've already said above. (Like I said, there's a reason I don't write much about politics.) I just found the parallel between these two issues somewhat interesting, if not ironic, and I thought I'd share my thoughts with you, my humble blog's eight readers. Please, fire your thoughts back at me. Am I completely off in my reasoning or is there some credibility floating around in there? Was linking the eye strain to the violent video games too much of a stretch? What's your take on the violent video games debate? Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

jsthomas89 said...

There is a small correlation, but I think the main thing is that 3-D games will cause vision problems, but those really only affect the user. Violent behavior affects other people. And in a nation where healthcare suffers but billions of dollars in various states' funds are poured into the death's easy to see where America's allegiance lies. ;D