6 February 2014, 21:28

Russia on crossroads: Should shooting video games be banned?

Russia on crossroads: Should shooting video games be banned?

Should "shooters" be banned? This issue is currently debated at the Presidential Council for Human Rights as well as in the State Duma of the Russian Federation. Those who initiated the project believe that the negative effect of shooting games on adolescent psychic was the cause of the recent tragedy involving shooting at a Moscow school. Even some top managers of Russia's gaming industry voice their doubts regarding the quality and content of popular computer games. Are new bans required in order to regulate the gaming market and shield children from the dangerous influence on their psychic?

Will the discussion lead to a legal ban on shooter games is yet to be seen. In any case, Kirill Kabanov, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights and head of the National Anticorruption Committee, who initiated the discussion, claims that there is no talk about a full ban. At the same time, he believes that the incident at the Moscow school when a teenager shot two people to death and took hostage a class of pupils clearly demonstrates the influence of some computer games on child psychic. Thus, the distribution of such content should be regulated, thinks Kirill Kabanov.

"It is clear that in our technology focus time it is impossible to fully ban something. But real restrictions are needed. In a number of countries people have already realized that it is a problem and thus computer education there includes not only computer skills, but primarily understanding the consequences of the influence of certain information. Perhaps, this work needs to involve parents as well – and then if we prove the dangerous influence, we need to go to the international level. The cost of such negative consequences is extremely high".

Currently, the computer games market is filled with cruel "shooters". Thanks to the newest technology modern games show the images, which are closest to reality. Due to the imperfection of the Russian legislation, even a small child can get access to such shooters. That is why legislators propose that computer games be sold only to the citizens of Russia who reached the age of 18 years, in the same way as alcohol and nicotine that are harmful to their health. In addition, it is planned to ban pirate Internet web sites where any game can be downloaded with no problem.

In addition to their cruelty, the "ideological" aspect of the video games raises some questions. In many if not all of them a gamer is offered to fight against "bad Russians". In 2010 in the State Duma proposals were made to include the shooter game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in the list of extremist materials. The deputies were infuriated by the mission called No Russian, in which the players had to organize a terrorist attack in a Moscow airport. As a result, that mission was not included in the local version of that game. Not far behind the shooters are various military "strategies" designed by the proponents of alternative views on history, where the "good guys" (not only from the USA and Great Britain, but even from the Nazi Germany) conquer and divide up the USSR or Russia. Thus, quite understandable are the proposals coming from the deputies to support local designers of patriotic video games and to filter out foreign ones, in which "the absence of historic truth" is detected.

And still only by banning one cannot help resolve the problem, thinks Ivan Zasursky, head of the theory of communications department at the school of journalism at the Moscow State University and a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights.

"It seems to me that no bans can substitute for school psychologists. We need to focus not only on banning something as in reality it is not up to us, but on understanding what goes on with our children, in what state they are and what they think about. In preventing such violence one of the most important issues is the research of what in reality causes it. Unfortunately, so far there is no sufficient research base in Russia".

The strongest information pressure teenagers experience on a daily basis plays an important role in their psychological state. According to Olga Kostina, a member of the Russian Civic Chamber, today children literally live in the Internet thus gathering unnecessary and oftentimes dangerous information in various "alternative subculture" groups. Naturally, that strongly affects their psychic. Another important issue is the cult of success that has lately been so promoted in the society. A child is indoctrinated with the following: you need to be the first, to be wealthy, successful; otherwise you are an outlier and a looser. Apparently, these two factors came together in an unfortunate way in the incident with "one of the top students" of the Moscow school in Otradnoye. A grade that was allegedly lower than he deserved threatened his status of "success". And his psychic that due to his love for shooter games was deprived of the moral taboos, such as do not kill, prompted the easiest way out: no person – no problem. And there was a third factor: there was a gun at hand…

In any case, so far we are not talking about a total ban on computer games. According to Kirill Kabanov, serious consultations on the issue are scheduled. About 700 gamers will be involved, as well as psychiatrists from the Serbsky Institute for Forensic Psychiatry. The problem has become more acute and it needs to be resolved jointly by the users, experts and the game producers. The games have to be made safe for the child and adolescent psychology.

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