Currently, I’m playing Vagrant Story. Yes, it’s an ‘old’ game, but I never finished it even though I did enjoy playing it. So after MGS2, I dug this one out of the archives, and started it up again!

The game has a leisurely pace (just open up a menu, or the ‘combat sphere’ and you have all the time you need to make an attack), and I quite like that. What I like considerably less, is the fact that you have to construct your own weapons, given the parts you find (and the parts you gain by disassembling the weapons you find). The workshops where you can do this are few and far between — so if you enter a dungeon, and at the end of the dungeon find a boss that you need a particular type of weapon for, you have to go back all the way (or revert to a save-game an hour’s worth of gaming earlier) in order to create the weapon you need.

Yes, I’m soft-core like that. I’m not ashamed to admit that I consult a walkthrough when I get stuck on a particular monster or room, either. The cool thing about this game, is that there are multiple ways to tackle any monster. And then you start noticing the differences.
IGN’s walkthrough advises me to use an edged weapon on the tail of the Wyvern — but warns me that it will be a hard fight (which I have noticed — the bastard killed me about ten times now!). But another walkthrough urges me to use a blunt weapon and attack any part of the dragon except the tail — and tells me that ‘the fight won’t be as hard’…
I think I know what my next attempt will be like!

Sons of Liberty

I’ve finished replaying Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This was the game that almost made me give up on the Metal Gear franchise: lots and lots of long cutscenes. The first time I played it, I always thought: “Well, I really should be getting ready for bed, but I’ll just save the president and then save!” Next thing you know, it’s 45 minutes later!

Spoilers, to protect the three people who haven't played it yet

I think that Metal Gear Solid 1 (the one for the PSX) is the best game out of the whole franchise. It re-invigorated the series with a fresh new appeal. Boss battles are nicely spaced out, and the hardware is really pushed to the limits. As usual, the story is convoluted and there is some betrayal going on, but it is all broken down to managable proportions. The boss fights are interesting and exciting, and spaced just right.

You hear it a lot: violence on TV, in movies and in video games are slowly but surely subverting the minds of today’s youth.
Gamers are suspect: it is only a matter of time before they bring a gun to school and start killing off everybody indiscriminately. In fact, it won’t be long before bands of gamers, with unsteady gazes and foaming at the mouth, will roam the country — killing and commiting arson. At least, that is what the scare-mongers will have you believe.

Let’s be honest. The amount of violence in the media has increased. Children are more subjected to violence than they were twenty years ago. Surely that has a bad influence on them!? Well, if you look at the cold, hard facts, it becomes apparent that today’s youth in the US is the least violent in recorded history. An excellent article here sums it all up very, very nicely.

How does Europe, and in particular the Netherlands, measure up? Well, looking at a report from the Dutch Statistical Agency, it says on page 12:

In general, the violent crime amongst the youth has risen fast since the mid-eighties in various European countries. Since halfway the nineties, more young suspects of theft and property destruction have been registered in Europe. (Translation mine.)

The Playstation 1, which I think was the first gaming console to really take off in Europe, was introduced in 1994. The rise in violent crime had already occured by then, so it can’t have been caused by violent computer games.
See figure 6.4 on page 5 of the same report for a historical breakdown of the crimes committed by youngsters. There is a rise in violent crime, but the trend had already begun far before the consoles were released. Also of note is that roughly half of the youthful suspects are suspected of theft — violence is the least common crime.
Of further note is figure 6.1 on page 138 of this report, which gives a historical perspective on youth crime. There is a steady rise all the way from 1960 to 1980 — surely that can’t be all the fault of the recent violence on TV!? Heck, when Phil Bloom appeared naked on Dutch national television in 1967 it caused an outrage — television was very, very calvinist at that time.
In 1983, youth crime had peaked, and then slumped in only to rise again around 1995. Can we see the bad influence of game consoles here? Only the launch title Battle Arena Toshinden sounds like it has violence that teenagers could even hope to emulate — but with an ESRB rating of ‘Teen’ (meaning ages 13+), it doesn’t sound like there was much danger of kids confusing the Battle Arena with real life. The slew of supposedly even more violent games that came after it, were released amidst a decrease of youth crime.
Note that the graph only shows all youth crimes, and we know that half of that is theft! So it’s not all violent crime.

It could be possible that the European youth is more susceptible to suggestions of violence in the media than the US youth — but I don’t think anyone believes that. Also, I have a gut feeling that television is more violent in the US than in Europe — but I have no data to back that up.

In short, there is no evidence suggesting that video games cause a rise in violent crime amongst youth. I would wish that people would stop complaining and spend their energy on things that do make sense.

I know that I have no qualifications to give out advice on parenting, but I’m going to do it anyway. Concerned parents, here’s a tip: take charge. Know what your kids are doing. Know what media they are consuming and what they think of that. Talk with them about what they see, and how that makes them feel. Don’t be afraid to set rules as to what they may or may not see or play. In short: be a Parent, and don’t leave the education of your kid to the Playstation or DVD player.
No rating system or metal detector in schools or police crackdowns can ever be a sustitute to parenting.