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November 22, 2008 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Immersion
posted by Brandon Blatcher (81 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd love to see this done with adults, preferably when they hit that sweet spot of being novices but just getting into it. I bet it'd be equally entertaining.
posted by piratebowling at 4:45 PM on November 22, 2008


The girl/boy with the long straight hair that looks completely unaffected is kind of scary...
posted by Brockles at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The girl/boy with the long straight hair that looks completely unaffected is kind of scary...

To be fair, based on the sound coming from the game, she was playing Gran Theft Auto IV during a driving sequence. She was probably just exploring a neighborhood aimlessly.
posted by piratebowling at 4:56 PM on November 22, 2008


"Entertaining"?? That's one of the most depressing things I ever saw.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:00 PM on November 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if most people move their mouths that much when they play video games.
posted by nosila at 5:01 PM on November 22, 2008


Watching that video I could only think of one thing: I wonder what a video of me, sitting motionless, affectless, raptly attentive in front of my laptop watching this would look like. Less interesting, I presume.

I can imagine a long line of iterations of said videos: the video of the game players, completely attentive and motionless save for the ripple effects that their hand movements cause through the rest of their bodies (long haired girl excepted); the video of mefites watching said videos, motionless save for the occasional pull on a beer or tap on the keyboard; the video of people watching the video of mefites watching the video of kids playing the game, motionless save for the errant intake of breath when some slight movement shows on screen, hoping for something to happen but ultimately disappointed; the video of people watching the video of people watching the video of mefites watching the video of kids playing the game, totally catatonic as entropy marches forward....
posted by googly at 5:01 PM on November 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wooo! Let's all film ourselves reading Metafilter!
posted by xorry at 5:02 PM on November 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm sure this would be fascinating if my computer would actually play it.
posted by Caduceus at 5:08 PM on November 22, 2008


I'm not sure why it's about kids -- I'm sure most adults would make faces just as interesting. Of course then it would seem a lot more like porn....
posted by rokusan at 5:12 PM on November 22, 2008


I don't get why this is depressing or alarming. They are concentrating. Look at any kids working on an art project or building with Legos or reading a book. They are just as unaware of their surroundings.

Dissing this is just anti-intellectualism. "If you aren't shouting and kicking a ball in the sun, you are a filthy communist!"
posted by DU at 5:12 PM on November 22, 2008


Wow, amazing intensity. Also, what is the link between the unconscious motion of the mouths? I found that second to the unblinking ardor of their eyes I was drawn watching their lips. What is the cognitive link to this concentration that reflects in the movements of their mouths. Also, the tear rolling down the cheek of the black girl was a powerful image that almost coaxed a tear to roll down mine in empathy. What game was she playing?

The most frightening thing to me (and I'm a gamer myself) is to see and realize the skinner box programming & conditioning that is happening here. How could you come up with a more effective machine in which the participants invest their full concentration and then time and time again are trained with exposure upon exposure ad infinitum? Thinking conspiracy-wise, how better could you train an army than to begin when they are early in development?

I heard a story about how French soldiers had to be taught how to throw grenades. American soldiers were excellent at throwing grenades, but this is because baseball had already primed them for this kind of action. I can imagine limp-wristed Frenchies getting blown to bits because they didn't have the arm to chuck 'nades. Are we training the next generation of super-soldiers in the same way that baseball helped US boys chuck iron pineapples? 'Cause you know that they will be darn good at what they do. The 12 year old squeaky-voiced kids already embarrass me when I try to play Halo.

For sure there was GTA and COD4. Anybody else better at trainspotting the games than I am?
posted by isopraxis at 5:15 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


...how better could you train an army than to begin when they are early in development?

An army...or a workforce.
posted by DU at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Interesting article DU.
I suppose you're right, in GTA you can drive a forklift too.
posted by isopraxis at 5:23 PM on November 22, 2008


The 12 year old squeaky-voiced kids already embarrass me when I try to play Halo.


Against my better judgement, I allowed my girlfriend's 15 year old son to talk me into joining him in Halo3 (live, or whatever the kids call it). I have played a reasonable amount of video games, but not for 3 years or so. He had the headphones on, and I didn't. Once his mates in the group (insert appropriate official term here) worked out I couldn't hear them, he started giggling as they were all telling him, to various degrees how much I sucked at it. They were constantly having to wait as he explained where I needed to go and coming back for me as I got caught in dead ends (and in some bloody stupid lake thing). Then I heard him answering questions* about me from them and realised that I was so helplessly out of my depth that I handed the controller over to his 10 year old brother and was immediately outclassed by even him.


*"He's my mom's boyfriend.....he's 36....... Yeah, I know. He does, but he's never played this before....What?.....Hahaha"

I felt so old...
posted by Brockles at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2008 [9 favorites]


Be sure to click the movies, "Huffing," and "Masturbation," as well, featuring these same kids. Strangely, only the audio seems to be different. Well, other than the line, "Come back here. Come back here and let me stab you," which seems to be used to tie the trilogy together thematically.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:29 PM on November 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


In answer to my own question above: . . . what is the link between the unconscious motion of the mouths? I found this answer from Robbie Cooper's Immersion Project blog:

The children who are most expressive in class, according to their teachers, are also the most expressive in front of the screens. Others - particularly the hardened gamers - remain utterly expressionless: ‘Nothing. Not a glimmer of emotion. If you couldn’t see the hands moving, you wouldn’t know anything was going on at all.
posted by isopraxis at 5:38 PM on November 22, 2008


Actually - Robby Cooper takes issue with the quote I cited. Apparently the Telegraph misquoted him as saying this. But nonetheless it is an interesting discussion of the lip movements.
posted by isopraxis at 5:42 PM on November 22, 2008


I heard a story about how French soldiers had to be taught how to throw grenades. American soldiers were excellent at throwing grenades,

Didn't they solve this by designing a round grenade that was kicked toward the enemy.
posted by secondhand at 5:53 PM on November 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


I think that's probably what most of us look like staring at the office computer. Only difference is, these kids are probably having more fun.
posted by scarello at 5:53 PM on November 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


The girl/boy with the long straight hair that looks completely unaffected is kind of scary...

Back in my college dorm days, the guy who dominated the building's Quake server played with an expression just like that. When playing he was a portrait of a zen-like deep calm and effortless, controlled hand movements. Kinda like the isopraxis's quotation. He was unbeatable.
posted by peeedro at 5:55 PM on November 22, 2008


I've seen pictures of me driving a real car and they look just about as intense.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:56 PM on November 22, 2008


Blink, Blink, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, BLINK!

That was interesting and creepy at the same time, thanks.
posted by sir_rubixalot at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think my face trying to play the final boss of Mountain of Faith in Lunatic mode is a blend of fear and homocidal rage. "Come back and let me stab you" wouldn't begin to convey what that game puts me through.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:00 PM on November 22, 2008


Remember pac-man, boy those were the days. *sips ensure*
posted by nola at 6:02 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The lighting used adds a lot to the "disturbingness" of the videos. If they'd used more natural lighting, the pictures would look a lot less unusual.
posted by delmoi at 6:08 PM on November 22, 2008


Yawn.
posted by cashman at 6:21 PM on November 22, 2008


That's exactly how I used to look while playing my favorite game, "Four Hits of Acid and the Glowing Cherry of a Lit Cigarette."
posted by The Straightener at 6:23 PM on November 22, 2008 [9 favorites]


I remember years ago seeing a video of an older woman playing Super Mario Bros on the NES- it may have been on "America's Funniest Home Videos" or something. It was filmed in a similar way, focused on the player rather than the screen. She was shouting stuff at the screen like, "Oh no, don't you go that way!" and "Oh yeah, here I come!" while swinging the controller around while she played. So yeah, people of all ages do this.

On a side note, I don't think Grand Theft Auto (or Halo, or Call of Duty) is really appropriate for kids this age. But that's just me.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:45 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to have this DOS Indy 500 game where you could choose and tune the car in a myriad of ways, circa 1996. The sound card gave you your only feedback via your grip(g-load) in tire sounds and your rpm via engine noise (and of course the crash sounds when you exceeded the limits imposed by the laws of physics). I suddenly realized I was spending 6+ hours a day investing my best efforts and energy for a return of "ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!, SQEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL!!!!, ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!"

I quit gaming then and there and haven't looked back.
posted by Rafaelloello at 6:49 PM on November 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think that's probably what most of us look like staring at the office computer. Only difference is, these kids are probably having more fun.

yeah, I mean, I get the conclusion they're rather transparently leading me towards, but I'm really not that horrified by the fact that people look like they're concentrating while doing something which requires concentration.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:55 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


RafaelloelloMe: "29I used to have this DOS Indy 500 game ..."

Found it.
posted by Rafaelloello at 7:00 PM on November 22, 2008


That was adorable. There's just something so comically earnest and insular about young teenage boys -- this captures it perfectly.
posted by footnote at 7:15 PM on November 22, 2008


Excerpts from Gus Van Sant films?
posted by davebush at 7:15 PM on November 22, 2008


When playing he was a portrait of a zen-like deep calm and effortless, controlled hand movements.

This is kind of key, yeah. A video game takes place in your hands and your head, and if you're really comfortable with the game and the interface that's pretty much the only place that careful play is happening. I'm sure I look the same way when I'm really nailing something.

I'm lot more expressive when I'm having to fight for success, though.

And as for the girl with the tear: I'm sure I'm not the only other person to cry a couple of absent-minded tears from unblinking concentration in a particularly kinetic stretch of a game.

But then there's the social side—put a headset on someone and sit them down to TF2 with a couple dozen other people and you've got all the shouting and snarling and gleeful shouting you could want. It's interesting to see some of that in this, with kids engaging either with the other kids watching, with the camera they (presumably) know is there, or the abstract trash-talk target that's the game itself.

The other thing that strikes me about the mouth movement thing: guitar face. You want involuntary facial expression of creative/performative stress, that seems like a gold mine, and I'd be interested in any compelling explanation of why either these two phenomena are or aren't produced from the same neurological source.
posted by cortex at 7:19 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm thirsty for a Normandy Calvados cocktail.
posted by fixedgear at 7:20 PM on November 22, 2008


Well, let me put this in perspective. I've lived in New York City, where you used to see kids outside all the time, particularly in the summer. You still do of course, but there are far far fewer of them. There was a particularly point this summer where I was taking a break from some experimental music thing in what I'd call a "poor but honest neighborhood" and I walked by the wide open door of a huge basketball gym, all spanking new and lit up - there were about half a dozen kids there in there and I thought, "WTF? Where are all the kids?" (20 years ago the place would have been packed with kids on a nice warm evening...) and then I suddenly realized: they were all sitting in front of a video player or a computer.

Now, I'm a nerd from way back, but my parents were right to say, "Come on, get your nose out of that book and get out of the house." (At least I never watched much TV.)

The other thing is that most of these games are very violent - and the kids are actually making the violence happen. These kids watch ultra-realistic violence on TV, they commit pretty realistic violence on video games, no wonder there's such an easy acceptance of starting war.

You know, I really liked "The Worst Day of My Life". There are all these kids hanging out, doing dumb things together. They all freak out and jump around. Kids being silly! Great!

But in that video, they don't look like kids. They're creepy. The girl who never changes her expression. The smiling kid. Do not want.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:21 PM on November 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yes, shouting and snarling and gleeful shouting.
posted by cortex at 7:22 PM on November 22, 2008


Beautiful agony.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:34 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Totally terrifying. Some of those faces look so cracked-out & psychotic...I'm sure my perception is colored by how alien this activity is to me, but there's something serial-killer about it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:36 PM on November 22, 2008


I don't think anybody's mentioned it: I love the title for this post.
posted by marxchivist at 7:36 PM on November 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Eh, I don't mean that in a weird way. I feel dirty now that the really young gamers show up further in the video. Apologies.

Allow me to cleanse your palate with a silly anecdote: I myself am a stander-upper. That's right, whenever things get rough on a console game -- which is always 'cause I don't own any consoles and I suck at everything that is not PC-based *and* super-strategic or adventure-ish -- I stand up. That's right, controller in hand -- we're not talking Wii here, rather XBox, Playstation 3 or whatever -- losing even further control of whatever mess I'm in already at that point.

My friends love me.

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:40 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think some of the reaction to the kids' expressions here is a bit overwrought. Most people have similar expressions when watching a particularly fast paced movie.

That said, I'd be interested in seeing a video comparison of kids this age playing video games and the kids of the 18-22 year age range who remotely pilot the Predator drones for the military.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 PM on November 22, 2008


Impassive girl? The scary blonde? Yeah. I married her. Every bit as deranged as you'd imagine a girl like that growing up to be, with more kinks than a 50' phone cord. She's =awesome=.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:45 PM on November 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


I would love to see a mash up with thought bubbles above the kids' heads.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 7:51 PM on November 22, 2008


lupus: The other thing is that most of these games are very violent - and the kids are actually making the violence happen. These kids watch ultra-realistic violence on TV, they commit pretty realistic violence on video games, no wonder there's such an easy acceptance of starting war.

I don't think this follows. Playing violent video games and watching violent movies ≠ acceptance of violence in real life.
posted by digitaldraco at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2008


At my school there is a floor of the library reserved just for grad students. They all look just like these kids, except there eyes are angled down and they're reading books.


(Yes, it is unbelievably great not to share space with undergrads)
posted by oddman at 7:57 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna be that guy who's all "this was done better 3 years ago" and point you towards Axel Stockburger's "Tokyo Arcade Warriors." I ran into it at an exhibition and loved it, though it's one of those video art-type things that doesn't hit the interwebs because (presumably) the artist wants to maintain some control over its distribution. I never did understand the economics of that sort of thing.

There's a pretty interesting discussion of this category of work here. I saw it here juxtaposed with one of Wegman's dog videos. You can see a listing of Stockburger's other pieces here.
posted by heresiarch at 8:02 PM on November 22, 2008


You know who else was vocally shocked and dismayed by the effects of a new technology?

No, not him.

William Langland, and probably innumerable other poets and clergy. The technology? The wall fireplace and draft chimney, which allowed people to abandon the public central hearth and seek warmth in their own private rooms.
posted by CKmtl at 8:03 PM on November 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


Our faces never looked like THAT playing Candyland.
posted by benzenedream at 8:06 PM on November 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I thought it was interesting that this video was set up and shot by a photographer. Pictures are just slices of a moment and completely different to the way we naturally experience the world. Take pictures of the most attractive person you know going about their day and you'll find plenty of not attractive shots of them. Hell, do that while you're talking to them and you'll see all the strange contortions a face can take, yet in real life you'll rarely notice that. We don't see moment to moment per se, but the collection of those moments, like a linear Picasso painting or movie strip.

Watching these kids is like looking a collection of photographs. You'll see things you don't usually notice, but to attempt to define these kids by those moments is foolish. It's just one aspect of their character.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 PM on November 22, 2008


As someone who's played games fairly competitively (clanning) for a long time, well, I'll just say that I think your concern is a little misplaced, lupus_yonderboy. Team-based games like TF2 are just as much or more about teamwork and fair play and the like as basketball, except that more people can compete and it offers an "out" for the people who aren't at the top of the local playground hierarchy. The loss is the physical exercise.

Frankly, I was a small and uncoordinated boy. Playing "real sports" was a torment for me in my teen years—I didn't "fill out" at all until my twenties—and the outlet of video games and the Internet, for all of the bizarre hand-wringing, probably kept me alive. I'm sure there aren't a ton of people who would admit it, but I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment. I got socialization and camaraderie which simply were not available to me otherwise.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:11 PM on November 22, 2008


@isopraxis: Also, the tear rolling down the cheek of the black girl was a powerful image that almost coaxed a tear to roll down mine in empathy. What game was she playing?

I get watery eyes any time I play anything more involved than a casual Flash game. It's really bad when I'm playing a FPS. I think it must be from not blinking or something, because it happens when I played through Portal and also when I played Metroid Prime. I mention those games because there aren't many humanoid enemies (or any in the case of Portal) in them.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:49 PM on November 22, 2008


Impassive blond girl? No, somebody else nailed it. That's "cruising around in GTA" face.

Happy crazy "come back and let me stab you!" kid was also not worrisome.

It was the little boy in blue 2/3's the way through. "I will stab you! He he." 20 years later? In an alleyway? No thanks.

(unfortunately, this is the NYT which means broad access -- can you imagine how some other audiences are going to (over)react to this?)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:54 PM on November 22, 2008


American soldiers were excellent at throwing grenades, but this is because baseball had already primed them for this kind of action.
Hand grenades are a lot heavier than a baseball, and require an entirely different motion. A full day of basic training was devoted to learning the technique. (At least that's the way it was twenty years ago).
posted by theroadahead at 9:00 PM on November 22, 2008


I like how one of the guys in the credits is Andrew Wiggins.
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:31 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know it's not the point, but I'd like to see kids playing games like katamari damacy or portal.

"... ... ... whu? hah! hahahah, dude, what? oh shit! hah!"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:41 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see kids playing games like katamari damacy or portal

With portal, I picture a lot of eyebrow raising and lowering. Did this do it? no. Ok, how about this time! darn it.

Katamari always seems to induce wild controller-flailing and body lean no matter how hard I try to resist.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:46 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


This idea was also explored in 1995 by Godfrey Reggio (of Koyaanisqatsi fame) in a short film titled Evidence.
posted by rmannion at 10:38 PM on November 22, 2008


I can imagine a long line of iterations of said videos: [...]

You just described the human version of the infinite cat project.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:00 PM on November 22, 2008


So I know this project is all about how kids react to violent video games, but jeez, most of these kids are waaaaay too young to be playing those games. And I'm not a stodgy old fogey who's behind the times, either - I'm 23.

I wonder if these are the games of choice for the kids on camera, or if they were encouraged to learn/focus on them by the photographer.
posted by bettafish at 12:56 AM on November 23, 2008


I've seen the same rapt expression in an English pinball player named Tommy.
posted by Tube at 1:51 AM on November 23, 2008


Kids playing M rated games is no different from kids watching R rated horror movies.

I wonder what the reaction would be if they had filmed kids watching horror movies and shown all the varied responses that would elicit? Judging by the responses in this post, that might be easier for people to grasp as playing games is an alien concept to lots of people (regardless of age).

To be clear, I don't think kids shouldn't be allowed to watch/play violent video games as long as it's done with parental consent and guidance which I'm sure was the case in this project. I grew up reading Stephen King, watching slasher movies and playing Castle Wolfenstein/Doom etc. and I think I turned out pretty normal. This is mainly thanks to my parents actually taking an interest in my activities and how they might affect me.

I do torture cats and strangle homeless people on occasion, but it's nothing weird: it's just a sex thing.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:55 AM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


> "most of these kids are waaaaay too young to be playing those games. And I'm not a stodgy old fogey who's behind the times, either - I'm 23"

No, I agree, I'm 24 and a massive gamer. I wish they were given less violent/more age appropriate games to play. Having said that, I really liked the video, laughed a lot and couldn't take my eyes off their mouths for some reason. Such restlessness. I wonder what I look like when I game. Especially in the middle of tricky situations.
posted by saturnine at 6:06 AM on November 23, 2008


Come back here!!!

Come back here so I can stab you!
posted by grobstein at 7:48 AM on November 23, 2008


Yeah, the 'come back here' kid seemed to be the most self aware and the one showing the most actual enjoyment of the game play. He also, unless I am way off, seemed to be the oldest one on the film. I'm not sure if that is significant.
posted by Brockles at 8:23 AM on November 23, 2008


Yeah, not sure. As a big gamer, though, I want to caution that showing actual enjoyment is not a necessary condition to experiencing actual enjoyment -- the social component of having fun is great, but it is not the only component of having fun. Nor is it particularly scary to fall into an unselfconscious state of concentration. In fact, research has suggested that self-consciousness is somewhat incompatible with concentration on a task.
posted by grobstein at 8:42 AM on November 23, 2008


Jeez, whatever. Tell you what Mr NY Times Photographer, how about we record you zoning out in front of the TV for twenty minutes, look how 'disturbing' and 'vacant' and 'brainwashed' and 'creepy' you look.

Or when you watch a film. Or when you read a book. Or when you get really into rooting out weeds in your garden.

What exactly is the subtext here? Oh NOES, our children - they can focus!
posted by Happy Dave at 9:21 AM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sure it's funny watching folks in concentration, but at least they're gaming. Go to justin.tv in the 'people and lifecasting' section. You get what xorry wrote, what does watching folks reading metafilter look like, well, there you can watch people watching their screens, chatting on line. And there are plenty of them, take your pick. Some have mic's and chat to the online comments...

OTOH, I can imagine what my face looked like last night, when I got creamed by someone outweighing me by 30 lbs, playing men's league hockey, as the goalie. The guy ran right through me, sending me flying. No penalty - see that indignant look on my face as I complain to the referee or how about at point of impact — Ooooof. Short while later, the puck is behind the net and a big guy from the opposite team has the puck, no teammates around, I skate around and stick check him, but follow through hammering him, knocking him over. We both fall. I get the penalty - see that look of disbelief on my face again¿ What about the look of glee on my face as I hammer the guy...too funny, because he wasn't expecting that.

Take something out of its context... shits an giggles.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:23 AM on November 23, 2008


By the way, children often play games (not necessarily multiplayer) together, commenting on the events, their stupid teacher etc.
posted by ersatz at 10:53 AM on November 23, 2008


I was going to comment on this yesterday, but I held off because I thought my initial response would be reactionary. Since then I've read the Immersion Blog and the Telegraph article, and I find that my impression hasn't changed.

The video seems highly misleading to me in a number of ways. We're given no information on how the subjects were selected, except that they were from secondary schools in America, London and Grimsby. Rather than be filmed at home or in whatever environment they normally choose for gaming, they were stuck in a dimly-lit room, put in front of a camera and handed a controller. A lot of kids that age will become far less expressive than their usual selves under those conditions, regardless of what activity they're asked to perform.

There are a lot of unanswered questions: Were there more children filmed than the dozen or so depicted in the video? If so, why were these particular subjects shown? Undoubtedly there was more footage taken than the 20-30 seconds per subject in the video; why were these particular moments chosen?

The Telegraph article states that the purpose of the project is to study young gamers' reaction to violent imagery, so the choice of games is perhaps understandable. But the NYT video isn't presented that way. All we get is the caption, "Photographer Robbie Cooper shows just how focused young video-game players can be." The video itself also gives no clue to non-gamers that the games were specifically selected for their violent content; you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a broad sampling of available titles, that all video games are this violent. This is being framed as a study of young people and video games, not young people and imaginary violence.

Consider: you're traveling around America and Britain, going to all the trouble of selecting subjects, getting parental release forms signed, etc., and then you've finally got all these subjects in front of your "Interrotron" camera playing video games so you can document their reactions. Wouldn't it occur to you to, y'know, take advantage of the opportunity to document them playing some non-violent games as well?

All you'd have to do is put in another disc and keep the camera rolling. Wouldn't images of non-violent competitive play in NBA 2K8 or Project Gotham help to further the learnings from this study? How about four kids playing Mario Party 8? (Why are none of the kids depicted playing games that require motion on the Wii, the best-selling console in history?)

Robbie Cooper claims to be a gamer and to be approaching the subject "with an open mind." He carefully avoids stating any conclusions in the Telegraph interview or on his blog. But the way this video was shot and cut seems to be leading the viewer to draw some very specific conclusions--not a difficult task since, for non-gamers, it's reinforcing popular preconceived notions.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 11:41 AM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the reaction would be if they had filmed kids watching horror movies and shown all the varied responses that would elicit? Judging by the responses in this post, that might be easier for people to grasp as playing games is an alien concept to lots of people (regardless of age).

"Alien concept"? Because, what, it's too hard to consider the idea that those of us expressing doubts might be at least casual, life-long gamers who might think the kids are too young to see R-rated flicks as well? I'm not saying they're going to run out and gun people down in the street because they're playing Grand Theft Auto; I'm saying that if I were a parent with children of the (apparent) age of the younger players, I'd wait a couple more years before letting my kids watch and play entertainment with such violent imagery. The parents of these kids seem to have thought differently, which is their choice, and that's fine.

Honestly it sounds like your (slimepuppy's) parents made the same choice as my parents did underneath it all, which is to say that even though yours let you see the violent stuff way earlier than mine did, both sets paid attention - I would say that's the most important part for how sane the kid turns out. The other aspect probably just boils down to personal philosphy.
posted by bettafish at 12:30 PM on November 23, 2008


Joseph Gurl said: I'm sure my perception is colored by how alien this activity is to me

Which is what I was responding to. As in there are obviously people who's ideas are coloured by the fact that they simply don't relate to or play videogames. As a reference point, I suggested horror movies because those are a bit more in the common ground for people. You're not in this camp, obviously, but people like Joseph Gurl are. Most people can make up their minds about whether their child should be allowed to watch a scary movie as it's something they have personal experience in.

So, I have no problems with you expressing doubts as a gamer to what your kids should be subjected to. Again, my parents took an interest and ensured that the content in comics, games, films and books was fine for my maturity level. To prevent kids from playing games (whatever the content) without any basis in experience or reality is, in my mind, inappropriate. I'm not saying you have to complete Gears of War on Insane before allowing your kid to play it, but at least look at big 'M for MATURE' and screenshots on the game packaging and understand the medium beyond the headlines in the papers. I would hope that the parents that let their kids participate in this... thing... were making an informed decision and doesn't label them automatically as bad (or good) parents.

(I also hear Virtua Fighter 5 as the very first game. It's a completely bloodless beat-em-up. There's also a Star Wars game too, for the two younger kids. Maybe The Force Unleashed? The others are GTA4, COD4 and I think Gears of War)
posted by slimepuppy at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2008


It's also worth noting that all the selected games are 'M' rated for a certain type of content and type of violence (actiony and moderately 'light'). Put a kid in front of Condemned 2, Dead Space or Silent Hill and see what kind of faces you get.

I'm still amazed that people were getting their panties in a bunch over GTA while Condemned 2 slipped past without notice when that game is profoundly out there in M-rated content. You play an alcoholic ex-FBI agent you has to drink every now and then to keep your hands from shaking, there are several truly gruesome Se7en type murder scenes to investigate and photograph in detail and you beat (psychotic) homeless people to death with toilet seats and anything else you can get your hands on. All in High Definition, first person and visceral sound design.

I guess it helps that GTA is high profile and actually sells copies.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:07 PM on November 23, 2008


The Straightener: That's exactly how I used to look while playing my favorite game, "Four Hits of Acid and the Glowing Cherry of a Lit Cigarette."

It was 1972 I think, a couple mates and I had taken some LSD and were wandering around in a small midwestern college town, when we found a game room--mostly pinball machines but there were a few proto arcade video games--and after a quick look around I picked a fighter-jet dogfight game and started playing. The loud explosion sound effects when I scored a hit was very satisfying and I took to the task of shooting down enemy aircraft with zeal. I couldn't miss, and with each perfect score I got another free game.

I never went back to find out if it was just a stupidly easy game, or if the LSD had enhanced my focus and concentration as much as I thought it had. I'm content even now to believe that I had slipped into some kind of zen-archery state of mind, becoming one with the joystick and trigger.

Likewise, I didn't read the accompanying article or blog, and I don't want to overthink what's going on in the video; it's mesmerizing.
posted by Restless Day at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not at all the gaming or the prospect of violent content that disturbs me, it's the unblinking look in these kids' eyes.

If someone stared at me like some of these kids are staring at the TV I'd be very, very uncomfortable--wait, that's exactly what this project makes them do! And I'm disturbed to be stared at that way? Of course I am.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:04 PM on November 23, 2008


They're not actually staring at you though. They're staring at a screen with a camera on its edge.

Ironically, it's not nearly immersive enough to make me forget that it's a video playing within the frame of a website within the frame of my web browser, displayed within the frame of my monitor.
posted by CKmtl at 6:27 PM on November 23, 2008


They're staring at a screen with a camera on its edge.

Actually they're staring at a silvered glass pane with a camera behind it. The video games are projected onto the glass. That way when they stare at the game they look at the camera.
posted by grobstein at 6:33 PM on November 23, 2008


They're not actually staring at you though. They're staring at a screen with a camera on its edge.

Sure, but the point is the same: the scene is set to make me uncomfortable, as if that unblinking stare and those anxiously gritted teeth, those pursed and writhing lips are facing [em]me[/em].

It's a silly, manipulative set-up, but yeah, it works on me: I'm disturbed by it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:35 PM on November 23, 2008


grobstein: Really? Neat. I figured an edge-mounted camera since a few of them seem to have their gaze fixed either slightly downwards, or slightly diagonally upwards. I guess that's an artifact of how they're sitting.
posted by CKmtl at 6:45 PM on November 23, 2008


by the way : the teary kid is a boy. i think he actually live here in my neighborhood.
posted by liza at 7:06 PM on November 23, 2008


Wow, a sensationalist exercise in confirmation bias poised to vilify something kids enjoy? The DEVIL you say!!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:59 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


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