A Big Byte to Chew

Soon after wrestling with issues like the existence of God, family or vocational struggles, and the basic nature of humanity, questions arise concerning popular culture's redeeming value. And of all the tools of our culture, television has the most effect, especially on children.

To approach children's TV viewing without much reflection is to lay their mental and social development to waste. Allowing for disagreement over specifics, each person in our society must consciously consider the pervasive presence and profound effects of television.

In the age of Nintendo, the same thoughtfulness must increasingly be paid to the new entertainment industry: computer games. As the parent of three boys--ages 5, 8, and 11--I would urge anyone who has occasion to spend time with children to give the same consideration to the choice of computer games that you would give to choosing between Sesame Street or GI Joe cartoons. Like television, they can be turned off, but they can no longer be ignored.

Just as television is dominated by mindless or violent entertainment (and so can waste the time and mind of a growing child), most of today's computer games have a redeeming value comparable to Saturday morning cartoons. Many games involve spending hours racking up points simply to beat the last score, or are hopelessly militaristic.

Software stores are full of hundreds of shoot 'em up games (read "violent"), oodles of flying or driving games (read "addictive"), and dozens upon dozens of dragon-type fantasy games where you need to rescue the maiden or find the treasure (read "violent" and "addictive," as well as "demeaning to women").

Tucked in a back corner will be a few counting, spelling, and coloring games for the very young. But what about my 8- and 11-year-olds??!!

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1993
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