Saturday, November 10, 2007

Video games: "M" for "mentally stable"

It’s connect-the-dots time at The Oregonian again.

Dot A: A sentence from a story on the front of Thursday's Metro page. The story carries this headline: “Inside the mind of a school shooter —Warning signs/ An FBI expert offers police and educators insights into preventing a school tragedy.”

The expert is Terri Royster, a supervising special agent with the FBI Behavioral Science Unit based n Quantico, Va. Royster says that parents should be the first ones to notice unusual and potentially dangerous behavior in their children.

Here is Dot A: “She encourages nosiness, especially if the child spends excessive time playing violent video games or reading violent books.”

Note her concern is with time spent with violent video games and books and not with the violence per se.

(Question: Is the Bible a “violent book”? Ever notice strange behavior from people who read the bible “excessively”?)

On to Dot B, in the next day’s Oregonian.

This one is a review by one Doug Elfman of the “gruesome” video game, “Manhunt 2." Elfman reports that the game is so violent that it was banned in Britain.

Then he writes, “Britain banned a fun game,”

In an editorial note at the end of this glowing review, we learn that Elfman is an “award-winning columnist” who writes regularly for the Chicago Sun-Times, apparently, as you will see, in a moral vacuum.

In any case, Elfman goes on to describe the “fun” you or your teenager (who must be “mature,” but who’s checking?) can have role-playing “Danny.”

“’Manhunt 2’ starts with Danny’s sneaking behind an evil henchman and slipping a suffocating plastic bag over his head. Danny’s vision blurs red. ‘I killed him,’ Danny says. ‘I feel sick.’ Then he pukes.”

Fun, huh?

Here’s another sample: “The ever-escalating panoply of weaponry at your fingertips begins with a syringe and plastic bag; it advances to knives, meat hooks, baseball bats, crowbars, bricks, a pistol and a gun whose bullets set men on fire. Sometimes, you chop off heads with a fireman’s ax, then carry the head around on your belt loop.”

What a kick. The fun just never stops.

As noted this game is rated “M” which means you have to be “mature” to watch it. So who decides what mature is? Go here for the Entertainment Software Rating Board's (ESRB) mushy definition. (With Agent Royster’s caution in mind, better that “M” stand for “mentally stable,” but I digress.)

If “Manhunt 2” is intended for “mature” players, we seem to be teetering on the edge of an oxymoron.

Biased but needed definition: A “mature” person is anyone with the emotional maturity to reject role playing the obscene violence found in “fun” video games like “Manhunt 2.”

In other words, if you play this game and find it “fun,” you are immature and can’t play it. Which, come to think of it, is probably why Britain banned it.

I don’t know what the editors at the Oregonian think of all this except they choose to print it. They lay the Royster story and the Elfman (love the name, by the way) opinion out on journalistic platters and leave it to us to pick and choose.

The chance is remote that we will read both and connect the two.

Here’s a sodden idea: Put Special Agent Royster in the same room with “fun”-loving critic Elfman, and see where the conversation goes.

Here’s my greatest fear:

Royster: “Well, Doug, as I say, I don’t have any problem with the violence in the game. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. But parents and friends should be careful that the players, ‘mature’ though they be, don’t play excessively and start behaving strangely. Watch out for severed heads on belt loops, ha, ha. Also associates might be advised to keep syringes, plastic bags, rifles, pistols, baseball bats, bricks and meat hooks locked up, just to be on the safe side. You never know where a little ‘maturity’ might lead.”

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Anonymous JayCee said...

Oh Jesus! The Red Electric didn't pass through Hillsdale. It passed through Lake Oswego, Tualatin Sherwood, etc. and terminated in Corvallis. Don't do this me. Get it right. (You're talking about the Oregon Electric, not the Red Electric. It matters, because the Red Electric ran on the most historically significant rail bed in Oregon history, according to the Oregon State Preservation Office.) --Clyde List

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...


I refer you to "The Red Electrics" by Tom Dill & Walter R. Grande. The book prints maps and schedules for all the Red Electrics. Hillsdale, then called "Bertha," is clearly shown on both.

There was more than one Southern Pacific line running Red Electrics. One of them did indeed pass through Lake Oswego, Tualatin Sherwood etc. But another major line, the westside route, ran through Hillsdale, then called "Bertha." It went on to Beaverton, Hillsboro and Forest Grove before turning south to join the line you are referring to at St. Joseph.

By the way, "The Red Electric" referred to the distinctive color of the trains and not to the lines themselves.

I have similar informationfrom a special issue of the Interurbans magazine, dated November 1949. The issue makes reference to Bertha, which later became Hillsdale. Bertha Boulevard was built on the old Red Electric westside route and runs right through Hillsdale. The Bertha name is on several streets here.

3:57 PM  

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