Maybe our relationship with video games isn’t so simple

Every time a seemingly random act of violence occurs, our brains rely on social and cultural clues to bring some sense of reason to what is potentially unreasonable. Our brains, however, have another natural response to contradicting stimuli or irrational behavior; and that’s called “cognitive dissonance.”

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 3.44.48 PMCognitive dissonance occurs when one is aware that something is observably true (such as the unhealthy and psychologically violent online behavior associated with video game addicts) but refuse to connect the dots to other observations (such as one of these mentally unstable fatherless autistic boys going out and hurting people) due to a perceived political stance (such as the fear of being ideologically aligned with people you don’t like).

Because a lot of out-of-it politicians and boomer parents have been making connections between violent media obsessions and actual violence for decades, many people have determined that it can’t possibly be true. But, as it turns out, it is.

First, we should outline the reasons people experience cognitive dissonance when addressing this topic. People are obsessed with simple causation.
“Does marijuana use cause heroin use? No? Well, then the two can’t possibly be related.”
“If you watch Professional Wrestling, do you have a 100% chance of putting your friend through a card table? No? Well, then there must be no connection.”

When we consider studies and data in terms of black and white causation and correlation, we have a habit of ignoring the underlying data that is often not addressed by the study in question.

And that’s where we are with video game addiction…and the dark web culture that dwells in it.

America has the highest level of video game sales. So saying that other countries play video games and don’t have many mass shootings is irrelevant. Other countries have higher rates of suicide than the United States. Does that mean that suicide isn’t an issue, or that alienation mixed with video game addiction don’t increase suicidal thoughts?

Well, as it turns out, all of the studies that you see your friends referencing on social media regarding video games being a contributing factor to aggressive behavior are demonstrably and horrifyingly incomplete.

Researchers have essentially determined that normal video game use (violent or non-violent) lights up very important parts of the brain. It can help normal young people and middle aged folks engage in team work, play, feel small senses of accomplishment, and increase social activity. That’s what all of the studies you’ll hear about will explain.

Unfortunately, you’re not hearing the studies that relate to video game overuse and addiction on the unhealthy brain. Those studies are tougher to conduct. It’s not exactly like you’re going to have volunteers raising their hands saying “I’m an introverted sociopath, research me!” Nor would you necessarily want to test long-term video game use on the chronically suicidal.

Video games, because they engage the user on a participatory level, connect psychological experiences in complex ways. And the science has shown this for decades. You could have a violent reaction toward feelings of failure, a psychological connection to your online persona, or even make unhealthy real-world substitutions for digital fantasies.

If video games didn’t have psychological impact that was well-researched and considered, we wouldn’t have things like micropayments and delayed gratification in mobile games. Scientists know how gaming impacts human minds. And they know how it impacts diseased minds. Most importantly, they know that most minds aren’t diseased, so as long as we don’t talk about it, no behavioral change needs to be discussed.

The problem with wanting to have real conversations about sociopolitical or cultural data and how it impacts the human condition is that most people you observe discussing “science” are people who are woefully out of date and arrogant when it comes to actual research…

…and we tend to have an issue admitting that behavior we often engage in may actually be destructive for certain people. They will accuse you of wanting to censor their hobby, or buying into some artificial social construct that one can not engage in A without resulting in B.

The fact remains that all addictive behavior is similar with similar treatments and similar psychological profiles. However, not all addictions have dark corners of the web to which they can retreat, hole-up, and cultivate that behavior discussing kill counts and violent fantasies.

fullsizeoutput_260Of course video games aren’t solely to blame for violent behavior. Neither are movies, music or any other form of art. But to ignore the psychological impact that an unhealthy relationship with any aspect of media can have in certain individuals, and the proliferation of manipulated data to dissuade others from honestly discussing the matter, absolutely ensures that the problem will fester and grow irreparably.



Mass Effect 2 – Now what do I do with my life?!

Recently I purchased Mass Effect 2. One of the most anticipated sequels to come out this year.

I was really excited about this release and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The first game featured great story telling with multiple morality choices and endings, and a variety of diverse characters. The game gave you a great sci-fi story with many possibilities including customization of your character, and put you in control of the narrative based on your actions and consequences. Basically Bioware gave you your own character, supporting cast, and you pretty much created your own story within the confines of the game’s universe. I love games like this because not only does it make the replay value great, but it completely immerses you into the game.

In this game, You re-assume the role of Commander Sam Sheppard (or whatever name you choose to give him). You previously saved the galaxy from threat of total annihilation and now a new threat has emerged (the threat of your inability to get laid for sometime). Your ship gets attacked and your character basically sacrifices his life to save the helmsman (I could probably think of an easier word to use but this is the only time in my life where I will use helmsman in a sentence.) of his disintegrating ship. Your character is found in the rubble, his remains are recovered, and he is brought back to life 2 years after the incident by a mysterious group called Cerberus. It’s hard to really give a synopsis on the story because the game gives you the really cool option of importing your saves from the 1st game into this one (which is what I chose). Your character’s decisions in the first game will shape a great amount of the story in this one.

The game is on 2 discs. I might be wrong about this but this might be the first xbox 360 title I’ve seen that had two game discs. Person with a social life translation : It’s fucking huge.

"Emilio wants you to gather the greatest hockey youngsters in the galaxy."

The game features a variety of talented voice actors including Martin Sheen. I really wanna spend talking about Martin Sheen because his character is quite possibly the most memorable. He plays the Illusive Man, head of Cerberus and all around shadowy figure/ guy that makes you do shit. He sits in a leather chair in a suit, with a window of the galaxy facing behind him, while he chain smokes. The man smokes so much, John Wayne would’ve been chewing Nicorette gum after playing this game and that man’s lungs were blacker than the lining of my soul (wow that was emo, anyone have a pile of razor blades I can dive into?).  He plays a great character who you can’t tell if he’s an ally or foe. Again, this is mostly based on how you react to him. Unfortunately you can’t choose this as an outcome for his character:

There's many characters to recruit to your squad, like Mr. Kitty cat vagina face!

There’s also a wide range of characters you can recruit to your squad with different personalities from passive, angry, psychotic, and bat shit crazy. The people I use most in my squad are Zaeed (a bad ass cockney speaking, scarred, dude who lives for kicking ass.), Thane (an assassin trying to make atonement for pass sins. He’s basically Leon the Professional mated with the appearance of a gremlin.), Jack (who’s a shaved head, tattoo sporting chick who was experimented on by Cerebus as a child and gets her kick out of blowing things up. She reminds me of that crazy girl from Empire Records who tried to kill herself with a lady bic.) and Miranda (mostly because I want my character to bang her. If I’m not getting laid right now, my digital self might as well be! It’s been a dry season. Fuck off.) There’s others to the bunch but I don’t want to ruin their stories for you, but each one plays a critical part in your mission. Depending who you choose for a mission is also important and has different results. Characters will put their own personal opinions during the mission which will give you hints on morality choices, or just offer wise cracks and whine about things. Characters aboard the ship will sometimes argue and or fight leaving you to play middle man like an intergalactic episode of Jerry Springer but without the fat smelly woman with 2 teeth who takes her clothes off then gets kick in the face by her 15 year old step daughter. A lot of time is spent in the game developing loyalty, building relationships (yep your character can have relations with a girl, boy, alien, or Tiger Woods. Let’s face it, he may as well flee to outer space.)

I don't know what it is either. You can have sex with it though! 😀

So I finally got my hands on Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 2 robbed me of my soul. I invested a pathetic amount of hours of my life into this game. I sat and played this game, attempted to walk away and then found myself right back into it. The game came out Jan. 26th… I beat it four in the morning on the 29th. I know what you’re thinking. Joe, there’s this thing called a life, try it sometime. I will tell you the fault is not mine. This game played ME. I lost complete track of time and space. If my lungs weren’t involuntary, I would’ve forgotten how important it was to breathe and I would have suffocated. If the house was on fire, the roasting of my testicles would not have stopped me. I forgot how wonderful it was to have white corneas instead of crimson red ones. Needless to say, this game is addictive. You will put a lot of hours into it. The only reason I beat this game so fast was that I just couldn’t put it down. Even though I have beaten it, I will more than likely play it again making my character do the exact opposite of what I did last time. Maybe playing through with only choosing renegade options.

You see there’s the Paragon and Renegade options in dialog. Paragon is being compromising to make the mission go smoother, win people over to your side. Renegade is basically playing Jack Bauer, hell with morals and what everyone else thinks, I’m getting the job done. There’s quick time moments you can trigger during the conversation by hitting the shoulder button corresponding to the symbol of renegade or paragon when they appear on screen. You can either play nice to the reporter who bad mouthed you from the 1st game… or punch her in the face. It’s entirely up to you Sean Penn!

The game play isn’t too bad either. Not exactly the best shooter out there but the team play with your squad goes pretty smoothly and they actually fight pretty well and not just stand there leaving you to do everything. There’s also different classes you can choose which will greatly determine how you get through missions. The gameplay is a 3rd person shooter with a cover system much like Gears of War. It’s critical and you basically won’t last long without it. There’s sometimes though when I just wanna run and gun, unfortunately you really can’t without getting yourself killed in 10 seconds.

Overall the game is excellent. The story line and cut scenes are extremely engaging and you really put yourself into the story. The level of customization of the overall experience is ridiculous and makes you want to play the game over and over again. You will want to start the game over again I can guarantee it, there’s way just too many options to just beat the game once and be done with it. Every experience in the story will be different from the last. The game play is pretty average it borrows from the same cover system of Gears of War but at the same time it never feels so long and tedious that you want to walk away from it. The enemies and the bosses are not insanely hard to defeat, unlike Dragon Age which I had to go back and play other missions to level my character up enough to just have a chance in a fight. I also enjoyed the character’s interactions with each other characters and want to do missions over and choose different combinations just to see how they’ll react. In short Mass Effect 2 is really worth owning, offers a complete involving gaming experience, and has great replay value.


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