Four Hours of Screen Time? No Problem

Excerpt from this article:

This past summer, I came home from work to find my son and his friend M. playing Roblox, a massively multiplayer online game that lets you construct virtual worlds and customize an avatar to explore it.

“How long have they been playing?” I asked his baby sitter.

“Four hours,” she said.

Stunned, I looked at them. “Four?”

At 8 ½, my son had a 15-minute daily limit for iPod games or the Wii and 30 minutes on weekends. By all rights, I should want to kill my baby sitter, who knew that. But I looked at my son, happy, hands flying over the keyboard, talking and laughing with his new friend, and realized, I didn’t care.

It was his first play date in months. There were extenuating circumstances. Over the course of second grade, his behavior deteriorated so badly that he lost every single friend. I looked at his baby sitter and shrugged. “They’re happy,” she confirmed.

The possibility of a new friendship emerging, for me, outweighed all the warnings about screen time.

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Video Games Are Key Elements in Friendships for Many Boys

Gaming Boys Play Games in Person or Online With Friends More Frequently Than Gaming Girls

Excerpt from this article:

In our focus groups, the responses to questions about who teens play with ran the gamut. One high schooler told us, “I play with everyone,” while another explained, “I play with friends and then I meet new people through those friends.”

…Other teens told us they liked playing games because they could be a different person. A high school boy explained how “you use an alter ego” when playing. And still others benefit from the opportunity to take out their frustrations on people they would never interact with again. As a high school boy told us, “If you, like, have a bad game, instead of throwing your controller, you can just take it out on them.”

…One middle school boy in our focus groups explained that he and a gaming friend talked about a mix of things pertaining to the game and their lives: “Like, we were talking about the game and then I’d be like, so, what do you like to do? And we would just share thoughts. Stuff.” Other teens told us that this type of interaction was “very rare.” And that usually it’s, “No hi’s. No bye’s. No hellos.”

Focus group data suggests that trash talking is pervasive in online gaming and that it can create a challenging conversational climate. As one high school boy told us, “If you’ve ever been on any form of group chat for a game, yeah. It’s harsh. … It’s funny, though. Unless you take it seriously. Cause some people take certain things personally.”

 

 

I’m a 12-year-old girl. Why don’t the characters in my apps look like me?

Excerpt from this article:

For a 12-year-old girl, playing games on an iPhone is pretty regular behavior. Almost all of my friends have game apps on their phones, and we’ll spend sleepovers playing side by side. One day I noticed that my friend was playing a game as a boy character and asked why she wasn’t a girl. She said you couldn’t be a girl; a boy character was the only option. After that, I started to pay attention to other apps my friends and I were playing. I saw that a lot of them featured boy characters, and if girl characters did exist, you were actually required to pay for them.

…I looked at the gender breakdown of the characters in the top 50 apps. I found that 18 percent had characters whose gender was not identifiable (i.e., potatoes, cats or monkeys). Of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98 percent offered boy characters. What shocked me was that only 46 percent offered girl characters. Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free. Considering that the players of Temple Run, which has been downloaded more than one billion times, are 60 percent female, this system seems ridiculous.

These biases affect young girls like me. The lack of girl characters implies that girls are not equal to boys and they don’t deserve characters that look like them. I am a girl; I prefer being a girl in these games. I do not want to pay to be a girl.

Four Moments When Video Games Are Good for Kids (and How to Make Them Even Better)

Illustration by Allison Steen

Excerpt from this article:

Video games — particularly when it comes to children and their passion for them — can get a bad rap. There are days when it feels as if there is no greater enemy of homework than Minecraft, and many parents find limiting game time to be one of their larger challenges.

But research suggests that there are moments in a child’s life when a love of video games, and the skills that come with it, can do more than just come in handy. The right video game, deployed at the right moment, can help a child overcome trauma, handle pre-surgery anxiety, bond with a sibling or just feel generally more confident and capable after a setback.

Jane McGonigal, game designer and author of “SuperBetter” and “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” has been studying games as well as designing them for more than a decade. In “SuperBetter,” she argues that adopting a more gameful approach to life can make all of us, adult and child, “stronger, happier, braver and more resilient.”

 

Meet the Lonely Japanese Men in Love With Virtual Girlfriends

A Love Plus player holds a picture of himself and his virtual girlfriend Manaka, taken in Atami during a weekend trip programmed in the game. Many of the users have a very sane idea of the game they are playing and the imaginary quality of the girls they are dating, others can no longer tell fact from fiction.

Photo: Loulou d’Aki

Excerpt from this article:

Some Japanese men are wooing girlfriends who don’t exist. While they can only interact with their partner through a pre-written script, these virtual beauties — Rinko, Manaka or Nene — offer a kind of instant emotional connection at the tap of a stylus. The girls can kiss, “hold” a player’s hand, exchange flirtatious text messages and even snap out in anger if the player leaves a conversation. It’s one of Japan’s biggest gaming phenomenons called Love Plus – available on the Nintendo portable consoles and the iPhone.

“There is no friction in these relationships, obviously,” says Loulou d’Aki, a Swedish photographer who documented a number of Japanese players earlier this year. “The girls behave very sweetly with the guys in what they say, how they respond to them, and with big eyes and heart-shaped faces—who wouldn’t want that?”

D’Aki teamed up with Swiss science writer Roland Fischer and together, they sought to go beyond the existing online conversation. “When you Google ‘Japan’ and ‘love’, you find all these articles about lonely people who never get married,” she says. “I didn’t want to reduce it to that. I wanted to show the human aspect, the individual stories behind those who use these applications.”

Her images reveal the secret lives of thirty-somethings who have accepted living alone instead of looking for love. They share a common yearning for connection and found it on a touch screen. Many see it as just a game and can easily distinguish between the computerized and reality, while others are perpetually stuck in a love loop, desperately waiting for the next update of the game.

Teenagers Leading Happy, Connected Lives Online

Illustration by Abigail Gray Swartz

Excerpt from this article, which looks at this latest report from Pew Research:

Where is the doom and gloom?

A new report on “Teens, Technology and Friendships” from the Pew Foundation puts an unusually positive spotlight on the online lives of teenagers as they build friendships and connections in a digital world. Teenagers aged 13 to17 are finding ways to strengthen their relationships with real-world friends as well as making new friends through social media, video gaming, messaging apps and other virtual connectors.

“This does challenge some of the traditional zeitgeist we have around youth and media,” said Amanda Lenhart, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center and the lead author of the report. “Adults have tended to see time online for teenagers as this frivolous, time-wasting thing that’s just entertainment. But what we found is that it’s crucial for teenagers in forming and maintaining these really important relationships in their lives.”

Crucial, in part, because “hanging out” in the digital realm may be more accessible for many teenagers than hanging out in the real world.

Video game study finds losers more likely to harass women

Men who performed poorly in the games were more likely to bully female players

Excerpt from this article:

Two researchers analysed how men treated women while playing 163 games of Halo 3.

Men who performed poorly in the games responded by being hostile to female players.

The male winners were mostly pleasant to other players, while the losing men made unsavoury comments to female players.

“Low-status males that have the most to lose due to a hierarchical reconfiguration are responding to the threat female competitors pose,” the researchers, from the University of New South Wales and the Miami University in Ohio, write. “High-status males with the least to fear were more positive.”

Male players were thrown off by hearing female voices during the game. The researchers think their results suggest that young males should be taught that losing to women is not “socially debilitating”.

The results also suggest that video games may be reinforcing gender segregation and potentially promoting sexist behaviours, especially troubling since so many “gamers” are teenagers.