Sunday, January 6, 2008

Teenage Zombies? Really?

In his most recent editorial, Wall Street Journal columnist, and Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore declares that his "new year's resolution is to get my two teenage sons back." Why? Because "They've been abducted--by the cult of Nintendo. I'm convinced that video games are Japan's stealth strategy to turn our kids' brains into silly putty as payback for dropping the big one on Hiroshima." Classy.

Fair enough, I'm sure this is a sentiment shared by many parents, but as his editorial continues, we learn that his kids "started spending virtually every unsupervised hour camped out in front of the computer screen engaged in multiplayer role games like World of Warcraft and Counterstrike," and that with time, "their muscles began to atrophy right before our very eyes; their skin tone paled from lack of sunlight." Later, we also learn that "A parent down the street confided to us that his 12-year-old son was so obsessed with video games that he wouldn't take even a three-minute break from gaming to go to the bathroom--with unfortunate results." Really?


It's entirely likely that this is a work of fantasy in order to clumsily tap into the fears of parents everywhere, but are we really supposed to believe that a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, presumably a well-educated and successful man, is so utterly out of touch with his own children, and that the kids in his neighborhood are fouling themselves and wasting away as a result of video games?

"I'm not one to blame every human frailty on some faddish psychiatric disorder," his column continues. "But I'm persuaded that computer games are the new crack cocaine. The testimonials from parents of online gamers are horrific: kids not taking showers, not eating or sleeping, falling behind in school. Some parents are forced to send their kids to therapeutic boarding schools, which charge up to $5,000 a month, to combat the gaming addiction."

Yes. It's all because of gaming. And not at all to do with disengaged, lousy parenting, I'm sure. Good grief. If this were a lesser paper, I'd write it off as the usual inept, scaremongering bullshit that we always see around this time of year. But in the Journal? C'mon. It's stories and opinions like this that were, in part, responsible for us starting What They Play and trying to get some sane information out there - and to highlight cases where gaming is part of a balanced media diet. I'm sure the piece is considered to have done its provoked responses from similarly outraged parents that can't believe Mr. Moore has completely lost control of his own children (and seems to show little remorse, sadly) and responses from those equally unable to engage with their own offspring.

"I'm not suggesting making the games illegal--we don't need a multibillion-dollar black market in video games," Moore concludes. "But I am pleading that parents take this social problem seriously and intervene, as my wife and I wish we had done much earlier." What a shock. Hey everyone! Pay attention to your kids!