Parent Alert!

Dr. David Walsh weighs in on dangerous video game “Mods”.

You have to wonder what makes some people think that school shootings are funny and entertaining. That’s the theme on a new “mod” based on the popular computer game Half Life 2. Before I go any further, let me explain some gaming lingo so you’ll know what I’m writing about.

Half Life 2 is a very popular computer game that was released in 2004 based on the success of its predecessor Half Life. The game has sold more than 6.5 million copies with some critics naming it the “game of the decade” because of the quality of its animation, graphics, audio, and sophisticated use of artificial intelligence. Parents need to know, however, that it was rated M for mature meaning that the industry itself says that it’s not appropriate for kids to play. Major retailers won’t even sell it to anyone under seventeen without explicit parental approval. That’s because the game is a violent “first person shooter” where the player assumes the role of Gordon Freeman who is locked in a brutal kill-or-be killed battle to save civilization.

I always encourage parents to say no to kids who ask for a game that the industry itself says isn’t for kids. Sure, Half Life 2 is an award winning game. But it’s for adults, not kids. The reason is simple: kids brains are not the same as adult brains. While children and teens’ brains are being wired, the experiences they have—even virtual ones—have an impact on their attitudes and values. It’s not that a teen who plays an M rated game is going to pick up a gun and turn to a life of crime, but research is clear that violent first person shooters make kids more aggressive at the very time that they have to figure out how to manage the aggressive feelings their brains are pumping out.

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with school shootings. One of the features that distinguishes computer video games from games that are played on consoles like Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, is that computer video games can be “modified” or changed. Skilled “modders” can add or change characters, sound tracks, weapons, and other features. In fact, they can even alter the entire story line. Since the mod is built on the underlying game engine they do not exist as stand alone products. The player must have the original release in order for the mod to run. Mods can extend both the game’s life and popularity. They’ve also become big business. Game developers encourage mods for a very simple reason: they increase sales. They don’t even mind if a mod becomes more popular than the original game itself since you can’t play a mod without buying the original.

That brings us to a twisted mod about school shootings. Mods are accessed on the Internet, and Mod DB is perhaps the single biggest source with two million visitors a month and ten thousands registered mods. A recently featured mod is built on Half Life 2 entitled School Shooter North American Tour 2012. Here’s a verbatim description, “He decides to become the best school shooter ever. You decide to arm yourself with the exact same weapons as a previous school shooter….The possibilities are endless, you are free to do whatever you want. As long as it involves shooting people.”

I can’t imagine anyone thinking that a game glorifying school shootings is okay for anyone, let alone kids!

This is a good example of why parents need to pay attention to what kids are doing on the computer. Here are four tips for making sure that your kids have the opportunity to enjoy good computer and video games while keeping twisted entertainment like School Shooters North American Tour 2012 out of bounds.

• Keep computers in a public area of the house.

• Set and enforce ground rules for game playing—when, how long, and what kind of games are permitted.

• Follow the industry ratings for games and find out which mods your kids want to download.

• Don’t preach, but let them know why certain games and/or mods are not okay. They might complain but your values are getting through.

YES, you would not give your child drugs and ask “should I protect him from drugs?, so protect your children from the negative influences out there—and they come in all forms—there are good and bad books, good and bad movies, good and bad cartoons, good and bad games. That’s what parenting is—teaching our children to choose the good over the bad. If we give them a healthy diet at home— physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually—they will learn to choose the best. There’s LOTS of good choices out there! Don’t waste their time, minds, and souls with a negative, violent diet!

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only esbr says its 17. pegi says its 16 and bbfc says its 15 (and im 15 therefore im aloud to play it) so there.

great post !

OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD!!! Listen, Half Life 2 Is Not Very Inappropriate!! Yes You Are Shooting Zombies And Also Huge Bugs BIG DEAL !(Sarcasm) One It Is Green Blood That Comes Out Of The Bugs When You Shoot Them But You Probably Wont Even Notice It Anyway! The Language I Cannot Argue To You About And Also No One Play The Mod They Were Talking About YOU ARE SHOOTING CHILDREN!!!

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This argument is inconsistent weak and you are very uninformed half life has nothing to do with school you fight monsters and a corrupt task force known as the combine this game is amazing and you are way too over protective

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Yeah, No.

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This article is writhing with ignorance and stupidity. People like you sicken me. Terrible articles like this ruin minds of unknowing parents much more than you think video games influence children. Please, please, please, stop poisoning the minds of parents with this utter hogwash.

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The author of this post really has no clue what they’re talking about. ANYBODY can mod, and it literally can just be 1-3 lines of code in a game that is changed, it’s not something like hacking, something bad. Modding is made to enhance the experience of the game. They’re fun, and make a twist on things. Now, I’m not saying in ANY way that school shooting mods are okay, those things are sick, and so are the people who make them. But in no way can a mod or any game for that matter rewire how a child’s brain works. I don’t exactly support kids playing FPS games, but it does not turn them into violence centered minions of the video game industry (joke). Mods are not dangerous, in fact they are less harmful that video games themselves, for that matter. First person shooters do not make kids more aggressive (if they do, I’d love to hear the source of that information you have), but they can desensitize them to violence specific to that nature. But remember, real-life violence is very different from simulated violence in a game. Any kid would be traumatized by real-life violence, even if they are used to the violence depicted in the games. Once again, I think that NO kid, nor any adult should EVER play a school shooter game. I’m just trying to make a point that mods are not facets of evil from the minds of modders, and that unless your child is quite young, they won’t play violent games or their mods, and then think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be a great idea to go shoot up some of those evil people I was just killing in this game.” I’m pretty sure any kids 6-7+ are smart enough to realize the difference between what you should do in a GAME and what you should (or shouldn’t, in this case) do in real life. And if there are kids that age or younger playing those games, then there has been a bad choice made by the parents.

Games such as dayz and Rust should be under careful consideration.

Any comment that begins with a statement that claims that movies don’t affect how one thinks can be disregarded without wasting any further time reading it. What goes into our minds is exactly what shapes our thought processes and opinions and forms our paradigm. This is basic fact. Regardless of one’s views on Half-Life, if the premise for the argument is based upon ignorance, the argument is invalid. It has been proven many times over that what goes into our minds influences thoughts and opinions; that all forms of media have the greatest effect on mental development – greater than parental influence even. Yes, that includes movies (and video games, and television, and “news”). And for the poster that lumped books into the same category as movies: although it wasn’t your intent, you are correct. What we read goes into our minds and plays a part in shaping them. There is a reason why philosophers of all ages, even going back to the ancient Chinese…and even further back, biblical scripture…universally give warnings to guard one’s mind. What goes into the mind is what shapes the person.

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There are many people who think that video games can effect kids minds. There is evidence both ways. But the message I want to get across is that if you don’t let your kid play a game it should not be because you think the game will rewire their brain. It should be because you don’t think the game is appropriate. But don’t make you’re decision based only on the rating. Look at the games actual content before you decide. Also see if the game has a gore filter, the xbox has one and so do many game on the PC and ps3 and 4.and if you decide a game is not appropriate tell them when they can play it.

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Video games do not effect kids minds anymore than movies do. Honestly what is the difference between pushing a button to do something or just watching it happen. Sure there are games like Grand Theft Auto that are over the top violent, but for every one of those there are many more games like half life. Games that are violent, but not in any sort of gratuitous way. Sure if you download the mod you can make it more violent, but that is a choice. And furthermore most mods are just harmless and fun, and a huge part of what makes gaming on a PC so fun. Maybe you should have done some level of research about the modding community before running out with a PARENT ALERT! Also a little boy not liking girls is normal. I didn’t like girls until I was in 5th grade, so cut him some slack and stop overreacting to things like that. Because that could hurt him more than his normal behavior. Finally video games can become a problem, but only if the person in question gets addicted.

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This is a horrible example of people overreacting to video games. Because of one distasteful mod you have said that the game HL2 is horrible. Instead of focussing on one bad aspect of the game why not focus on the good. For any parents who said that their kids couldn’t play HL2 because of this article here are the real pro’s and con’s of HL2. Pro’s: innovative gameplay and puzzles. Not to expensive. Great story and AI. Great graphics. Con’s: the game is violent, but it is not any worse than any other M rated shooter out there. Finally if you would let your kid watch an R rated action movie this should be fine.

P.S video games aren’t some voodoo creation that will change kids minds, they are no worse than movies and only become a problem when kids get obsessed with them.

To me, I used to play a bunch of video game before and it made me almost retire form my University. I am a good student and become a poor student right after addicting too much video game. I totally ignore the education as well as knowledge. it is not only affecting your child grade but also the degree of attention in the class. So…. I think don’t want anyone to be like me. I almost retire from my University. Even though i can graduate in 4 years , I myself find the difficulty time to find a job and university right after i graduate for bachelor degree. I regret what i have done with myself and cannot retrieve the past. The clock cannot return.

my point is not only child but also teenagers, some adults can affect from addicting too much time with video game and thereby leading to deteriorate their education, work, married life and so on . Similarly, child might directly or indirectly get violent act from video game . I suggest we should persuade our children to do more activities outside home such as sports, travels, movies, and so forth. It is the cleaver plan to tell them that there are a lot of funny thing to do. If your children still bugging on you, You should limit the time to play. Don’t let them stick too much with video game. Finally, i personally admire this article which provide a good picture of violent video game that can affect our children.

Anyhow, Thank you for your contribution.

Tom
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video games are just like books, when we were kids our parents got upset with us for always reading books, but really video aren’t games any different, movies are basically the same thing. people work days and night making games because its their passion, their story, their life. just like books people sit to write them, just like movies people work to act in them video games do all these things they are people expressing themselves.

and also saying that video games are the causes for shootings is crazy. video games help us release anger not enjoy violence. its the people that don’t know anything and think video games are a sin that make other people who don’t know anything believe you and that is what angers people. so please stop saying video games are a sin.

also im not saying all games should be playable by all ages. i mean i dont think i five year old should be playing gta (grand theft auto if you dont know)but saying a kid shouldent play a shooter beacause there are guns is just crazy. but i would comppletely understand somebody restricting ths to a super young kid or someone that actualy shows sighns of doing something dangerous like that. but dont ban games altogether

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I am thankful that I discovered this blog , exactly the right information that I was looking for! .

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thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

This article makes so much sense in the light of the many acts of violence and shootings that we see happening in the school campuses these days!! I wonder how parents can allow their children to talk them into buying computer games that the manufactures themselves endorse are for adults. I really fail to understand this!! If stringent steps are not taken to stop the mature games to reach the hands of youngsters, we may have cause to regret our actions before long!! I am trying to teach my children about the native American history, has anyone read the chickasaw people‘s book “unconquered and unconquerable”?

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your article is so true. thank you.

enough said

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This is exactly what I was looking for, thanks

b2b appointment setting

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It’s a game, made for entertainment. Don’t talk to us about “mods,” you haven’t got a clue what they are and the amount of hard work the developers put in to create it. Why would you boycott a game released independently and free of cost, nobody is going to play it anymore after a couple months. The game isn’t “glorifying” school shootings, its mocking it, Sherlock. Do you even know why they made the game in the first place? If you would actually consider their perspective as college students or high school students (which they are), you just might realize the whole development is for fun (also practice: creating 3d animations, models, and all the other necessities to help them succeed in the real game making industry). You just happen to not get the joke; parents that depend on restricting their children never do (and that must mean you). If you don’t understand the perspective of the creators, then you have no right to criticize them. I can understand your disappointment, but its unjust to say something so harsh when you can’t even understand the whole picture. Parents who cannot teach children to control themselves don’t deserve to be parents.

This mod is a joke designed to get a reaction and suck fools into a useless argument, nothing more. It will probably never be released.

to the superhero poster.

Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be honest. Reading your post made my blood boil.

Kids are kids. Some people should not be parents. They are too over reactive, too over protective and just listen to what the media tells them.

‘unfortunately he also loves to BE them.’

Unfortunately? Are you serious?

Hey, have you ever heard a little boy say, “girls have cooties”? I honestly couldn’t believe your comment when I read it. Also you say, “kids these days seem to take these things more seriously then they used to” (nice grammar by the way), well first of all I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you’re talking about games then it makes sense since the game industry has grown incredibly fast in the past 30 years, (it was pretty much non-existant). I also think that you, like most parents, view your childhood with an incredible bias. To answer your question your kid is a NORMAL SIX YEAR OLD BOY. Seriously, over-parenting a kid can do just as much harm as severely neglecting them. FYI people usually don’t keep the same interests over their entire lives. PLEASE for the sake of your kid find a healthy balance.

P.S. I may be wrong but you seem to be implying that your .brothers’ loving superheroes somehow had a negative impact. You seem incapable of comprehending media and how it affects a person or how the producers of said media want you to be affected.

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As if we needed an Ethics lecture on how kids aren’t mature. What I love is your author’s adamant viewpoint on how all kids can’t be mature enough to play violent video games. Very little research in Criminology link video game violence to actual violence. Ultimately, kids vary in maturity – but the same dynamic can be placed on adults too. Corrections facilities have 30-40 year old men suffering from substance abuse and have the maturity of a 13 year old. Again, age is not a determinant of maturity – it’s subjective to the beholder.

I’ve become concerned about cyberbullying that can happen on gaming sites. Do you have any advice on this topic?

I’ve seen some statistics, which may interest you or your readers at:
http://onlinesocialsavvy.com/?p=40

Thanks in advance.

Um there are tons of female super heroes…. The girls are stupid thing probably comes with his age.

My son is six and he LOVES superheroes, unfortunately he also loves to BE them. I also hear him constantly saying how girls are “stupid” and cant be superheroes and he hates girls etc etc. I grew up with two brothers who also loved superheroes and I know a lot of little kids like them but Im wondering if his games and cartoons are the negative factor in his view of girls and his somewhat violent attitide. My brothers are fully grown and pretty well adjusted, but kids these days seem to take these things more seriously then they used to . Should I completely cut him off from superheroe games and cartoons? Am I being over reactive . will it pass? I dont know what to do .

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