More parents are embracing video games — but not the idea that violent games are harmful

Psychology instructor Jayne Gackenbach and her son, Teace Snyder, play video games together — and wrote a book about the benefits of gaming.

If the name Jayne Gackenbach is familiar to you, there’s good reason — she released research in January that playing violent video games can help soldiers overcome nightmares induced by the traumas of war.

Like many such researchers, she’s also a mom. Her interest in video games started, naturally, with her kids. She told the Edmonton Journal she found her son digging into a shopping bag, and kissing the box of his first game console.

“I was like, ‘what is this?’” she remembers. “I knew (gaming) was a passion with both of them (her children), so I started doing the research.”

That led to Gackenbach playing games with her kids — on the computer, and on gaming systems, until Snyder finally told her: ‘You’re too bad, Mom.’ He’d give me 10 lives and he’d still beat me,” Gackenbach says laughing.

Gackenbach and Snyder’s co-written book, Play Reality: How Video Games are Changing Everything, is out now.

Research has shown that kids should play video games with their parents, girls especially. Not only is it good for the kids, but it also helps parents better understand the games their kids are playing, and what their kids experience while playing.

It’s certainly a lot better than the mainstream approach. A recent study by found that most parents don’t check the age rating on video games. Given the recent legislative efforts to keep M-rated games out of minors’ hands, this is saying something.

Many anti-violent-game legislators seem to feel that kids are buying these games illicitly somehow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s likely that many parents are buying these games for their kids — without looking at the labels — but also are not buying into the hype that violent games are harmful:

Interestingly, 61 per cent of parents do not believe that violent video games affect their children’s behaviour in a negative way; with 76 per cent of these parents stating that violent games do not mirror real life and so did not believe that they could affect behaviour.

The survey also discovered that just over half of parents would not be concerned if their child was playing an 18+ game, but 54 per cent would be concerned if they found them watching an 18+ film.

There’s a new book out on the game that sparked much of the video-game controversy over the past decade: Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, by David Kushner. Kushner examines the creation of this series, its popularity, and how it earned its reputation as the most controversial game of all time. One of the things Kushner addresses in his interview with CNET is how Grand Theft Auto IV (and its hidden sex scene) taught game buyers and parents a very important lesson:

It finally got out the message that games are played by adults, that this can be an adult medium, just like we have “The Sopranos,” “Goodfellas,” etc. And I do believe that the GTA decade brought the end of that debate.

Until then, many had assumed that video games were just for kids — and that all video games, at all rating levels, were somehow suitable for kids. Now, it seems, more parents are aware; and they’re still okay with their kids (teens, most likely) playing these games.


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