Jul 30, 2013

Virtual Reality's Impact

Do our actions in virtual reality, in playing pretend, have impact on our lives? When we shoot a person in an FPS, what is reinforced in the mind by that action? Despite paranoid assumption, studies are disproving the inclination of kids and teens to lean toward violence by playing violent video games. They may be offering an outlet for natural aggression. Anger, usually perceived as a negative emotion, has a place like any other, and has incredible power for change when directed properly. Wrestling for fun is an aggressive sport. It provides a means of releasing that energy in a somewhat controlled and productive manner. Is it instigating violence? These aggressive sports are a mode of learning. Coaches and parents can use these activities as the medium through which other valuable lessons are learned. Athletes can be the most disciplined, generous, quick to act and help, motivated individuals around with a deep sense of morality, if guided to be so.

What if the virtual reality is specifically an outlet to express aggression toward a particular person, or type of person, or institution, or idea? How does this help the individual? Let me ask in return, how would it hurt the individual to never be able to release and thus explore and cope with those same emotions? Could such games offer confidence in committing violent acts? Certainly. Anything can be used for malevolent purpose if given the opportunity. But how do we prevent that opportunity? Not by eliminating the outlet, aka, the game console or game, but by engaging with those children as monitors. Be interested in what they are taking out of the gaming experience, evaluate how they feel about violence against a real person, role-play scenarios with them under the suggestion that it is real life.

Because conversing with our children is still such a new concept.

[Written after a dream about virtual reality, with a key scene in a classroom of adults posed with the situation of a young girl who cut a peer and is annoyed that her behavior was attributed to her game play. Blaming the outlet isolated the girl further from adults that should be addressing her behavior as her own, a result of her own processes that may need guidance, not the effect of pretending and seeing violence displayed for them in a fun way (the real reason gaming is blamed). Violence is everywhere. They don't need a game to prove its existence. They do need a game to show them how visually horrific it is, and a parent to show them how that translates with real lives.

My inspiration for this dream has been building. Discussed, during a playdate yesterday and with my daycare provider, parent guided activities for letting 2-3 yr olds channel their aggressive energy in ways that will teach them what chaotic behavior leads to (bumping their head, decreased awareness of surroundings], and how we as parents can use the activity to enforce boundaries in how they express their energy (no hitting people, but hitting pillow okay; no throwing cars at animals, but throwing into a bucket or hoop okay).]

Dream, the Night of July 29th and Morning (second sequence) of 30th 2013

In a forest with a sniper rifle (been playing Mass Effect PC FPS series, my first real successfully enjoyed FPS game, I have preferred role-play adventure games since I was young). Spot my partner down the hill behind a tree shooting at enemy targets. His back is facing me, and he doesn't know I am coming. For no apparent reason other than the thrill of getting the jump on an unsuspecting someone, I duck behind a tree and aim for a head shot. A distinct worry fills my thoughts, "This is a game right? I won't actually kill him? He isn't wearing any armor. I don't want to actually hurt him." My shot fires and makes its target. His head jerks back like a fly buzzed too close to his ear. He turns up the hill, aware of someone having the advantage on his position.

Whew! It didn't really kill him.

He doesn't see me yet though. He turned to far thinking someone hit him from behind, but I am off to his side. I aim for another shot. The same serious concern floods my mind. "What if the last one missed and this is real and this shot does kill him?" The real sensations of pointing a loaded weapon at my love's head terrified me. But the game is on, and the thrill of continuing my test of what should have been an easy victory has been enhanced by his growing awareness of my presence and thus the danger that he could spot me. I fire. His head jerks again. This time, he knows where I am. How are my shots not instant kills?! He approaches me with a determination that has me retreat backwards.

Then I become aware. His weapon is invisible. My weapons are invisible. His armor is invisible. It really is pretend, but I am scared into panic as he closes in with slow confidence toward me without bothering for cover. I pull out my invisible pistol for close-range (impressed with myself that I thought to do this), and unleash successive rounds at him with no effect, still backing away. He reaches me and I realize his hands were arranged like he held a missile launcher, one you hold in front of your abdomen. I squealed in anticipatory defeat of what will be an awful destruction when he fires that at close range. I will be torn apart. He stands there smiling and says "You didn't think you could take me, did you?" The sequence ends.

Next scene: In a classroom, we're moving to an outdoor location, a kind of theme park in Cambodia (is that right? I was going to say some foreign country either African or Indian, then that cam out, instead. Sounds right. I'll stick with it.). We had young adults from all over the world in the class, but we were spirit world students. I grabbed a highlighter and pencil from the assortment of utensils from the desk I was borrowing, not certain whose utensils they are or why they have so many, and run after the class. I step right from location to location, from the class onto a stone promenade like a small outdoor theatre, to join the class. The teachers, whom are not much older than us, but are taking their turn leading the class, are already discussing the topic for discussion. She reads an article written by a nine year old girl "'They say the virtual world is wrong for us. All because I cut the leg of that girl."

She was describing the circumstances behind the disagreement that led to her action against this peer, and her frustration that the adults turned her case into an example against virtual reality, all the while she is still in the same head space, alone. No one has bothered to take up mentorship to address the processes and misnotions that led to her action. It was easier to blame the game. The virtual reality she played didn't condition her to think violence is a convenient response to her problems, it provided her a safer way of expressing impulses of violence that already existed which she was trying to keep in check. Violence was a convenient and freeing response to a problem of tolerance and effective social communication she had with her peer.

When children first exhibit violence at a young age, they do so because they do not have the means of correcting a frustration in their social or emotional world. A peer takes their toy, not having any other tool to fix the injustice, they hit. Parental figures who can catch this and understand what is happening, will teach progressive steps to arm them with effective tools other than violent action. Learning basic words to communicate their needs is essential, having the vocabulary to explain to both the peer and authority figure what happened and how to set it right is important. Older children who weren't taught emotional intelligence or how to vocalize their emotions, may react with violent behavior out of frustration for the lack of control they have over the injustice, and over not being understood or able to help someone understand them. The care provider will encourage a variety of approaches the child can try, adding more and more tools over violence, so it really can be a last and final resort to truly threatening circumstances. Teach the child to ask for help and be diligent about providing that help and acting as mediator. The child can be shown how to tell the peer what happened wasn't fair, and doesn't want to play with him/her if they do that. For young children we might encourage them just to walk away from it for a while and find something else to do, because eventually that peer will get bored and leave the toy for the original holder to pick it up again. Taking turns is such an important skill, as well. It involves patience and delayed gratification, and cooperation for mutual benefit.

[Personal note: This is one of the first times I feel a satisfied calm while recording a dream, that I presented it like the higher message in which it was intended to be. The mere act of recording is not enough. I miss the deeper meaning sometimes when I get bogged down with details, though the details are helpful for later recall and analysis. Still, I will strive to listen to when a dream is calling for absorption of a message that I need to have the courage to discuss for a public audience. Usually when I can't its because I am unsure of how the details all come together, I can't see the larger picture. Maybe it will become clear if I tell the message at first with confidence in the way I understand it. Often the message is there, but I don't know how to explain it to an unaccepting audience. Well there it is, the fact that I assume the audience is unaccepting, that I bother to try to write to closed and skeptical minds for the purpose of convincing them of something. Surrender, because you know what you're being given is truth. It will feel right. That's what produces that pleasing calm.]

No comments :

Post a Comment