Games a "colossal waste of time"

Newspapers take on Byron report.

Author Giles Whittel reckons videogames are a "colossal waste of time".

He's a guest writer on The Times Online, where he vented his anger at the Byron report after it caused his editor to tell him to "give in" and learn about the games industry.

"I hate videogames, on or offline. I hate the way they suck real people into fake worlds and hold on to them for decades at a time," ranted Whittell. "I hate being made to feel hateful for saying so, and I hate being told to immerse myself in them before passing judgement, because it feels like being told to immerse myself in smack and teenage pregnancy before passing judgement on them.

"This is not because of anything wrong or bad about video games or heroin or teenage parents. It's not even because of game-induced homicide or web-grooming of little girls by perverts - serious problems, but statistically low-risk.

"It's because, compared with everything else on offer in a kid's life, video games and heroin and teenage pregnancy are a colossal waste of time," he added.

Whittel goes on to claim that he will never buy his children anything like "a Nintendo", and finds it strange that people assume him to be weird because he wants his kids to "overdose" on outdoor activities and do their homework.

But Whittell is not the only media voice spouting off. Jenny McCartney from The Telegraph believes the moral implications of videogames were overlooked, and that surely it is "wrong for anyone, child or adult, to spend long hours electronically rehearsing the prolonged agony and detailed humiliation of other human beings for their own amusement".

"No one is saying that all video games are damaging, even if they depict fighting. I am not under the illusion that we can, or should, attempt to confine older children to a play world made up entirely of group hugs and communal co-operation," explained McCartney.

"A significant vogue in video-games, however, is to put the player not in the role of a character who combats wrongdoing, but of the wrongdoers themselves: the mass murderer, the torturer, the street thug, drug dealer or pimp.

"The selection of protagonist is no doubt ironic, with these strutting miscreants representing the fantasies of nerdy little middle-class boys, but when one considers the prevalence of gangs, drug dealers and teenage violence on the streets the irony doesn't seem quite so amusing," she added.

McCartney finds it bemusing, much like Whittel, that it is socially acceptable to be against things like bottled water and plastic bags, but "embarrassingly de trop" to complain about violent videogames.

"Perhaps if more people, including teenagers, were prepared to voice moral objections to this toxic stuff, it would no longer be possible to lampoon them for caring," she concluded.

Dr. Tanya Byron called the "huge generational divide" the biggest challenge currently facing the videogame industry. Pop over to our Byron report roundup to see what else she had to say.

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