Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Console-ing the Junior Spies

Today on my Facebook wall, during a discussion concerning the possible implications of violent video games on young children's psyches and if in fact it can foster proto-psychopathic behaviours, one of my Facebook friends posted this comment:

'I thought the games breed violence stories were nonsense until I recently saw a big change in a six year old relatives language and 'play'. Suddenly running around holding his hands like a gun shouting things like "I'll kill you!", "Die!" and "I'll set you on fire and burn you!". Turns out his retarded father has been letting him play GTA 5 (Grand Theft Auto). At six years old.

When I was that age I saw 'violent' tv shows like A Team but it was always the good guys using violence to stop violent bad guys. Now it's just indiscriminate violence as a game.
As ever though, it's down to the parents.'

After reading this comment I was struck by how the behaviour of the children mentioned here sounded so much like this section from Chapter Two of Orwell's 1984 (my bold emphasis):

'Up with your hands!' yelled a savage voice.

A handsome, tough-looking boy of nine had popped up from behind the table and was menacing him with a toy automatic pistol, while his small sister, about two years younger, made the same gesture with a fragment of wood. Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs which were the uniform of the Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy feeling, so vicious was the boy's demeanour, that it was not altogether a game.

'You're a traitor!' yelled the boy. 'You're a thought-criminal! You're a Eurasian spy! I'll shoot you, I'll vaporize you, I'll send you to the salt mines!'

Suddenly they were both leaping round him, shouting 'Traitor!' and 'Thought-criminal!' the little girl imitating her brother in every movement. It was somehow slightly frightening, like the gambolling of tiger cubs which will soon grow up into man-eaters. There was a sort of calculating ferocity in the boy's eye, a quite evident desire to hit or kick Winston and a consciousness of being very nearly big enough to do so. It was a good job it was not a real pistol he was holding, Winston thought.

Mrs Parsons' eyes flitted nervously from Winston to the children, and back again. In the better light of the living-room he noticed with interest that there actually was dust in the creases of her face.

'They do get so noisy,' she said. 'They're disappointed because they couldn't go to see the hanging, that's what it is. I'm too busy to take them. and Tom won't be back from work in time.'

'Why can't we go and see the hanging?' roared the boy in his huge voice.

'Want to see the hanging! Want to see the hanging!' chanted the little girl, still capering round.

Some Eurasian prisoners, guilty of war crimes, were to be hanged in the Park that evening, Winston remembered. This happened about once a month, and was a popular spectacle. Children always clamoured to be taken to see it. He took his leave of Mrs Parsons and made for the door. But he had not gone six steps down the passage when something hit the back of his neck an agonizingly painful blow. It was as though a red-hot wire had been jabbed into him. He spun round just in time to see Mrs Parsons dragging her son back into the doorway while the boy pocketed a catapult.

'Goldstein!' bellowed the boy as the door closed on him. But what most struck Winston was the look of helpless fright on the woman's greyish face.


  1. I miss "pong". remember that Atari game? man, when I was a kid, that was cutting edge.

  2. I wouldn't say it's violence that's wrong - human beings have brought their children into very healthy societies throughout time with an understanding of the proper use of violence. As mentioned by one of Thomas' fæcesbook friends, who used to watch the A-Team, it is the fact that indiscriminate violence, or political violence are now taught through computer games. Righteous myths of violent heroism against genuinely malevolent forces has been taught to children for aeons.

  3. Plenty of violence around before video games. Are these games cathartic for frustrated neurotic children or, as Thomas says, training to be proto-psychopaths? GTA is 80% satire, very immature and sometimes very funny. The whole game revolves around making money, owning flashy cars, working for gangsters and ..oh yes..killing..lots of killing. There ARE consequences for actions..ie: the police turn up if you break the law (even for speeding). I think these games can be harmless fun for some..but, if you are under 18, then you shouldn't be playing it.
    There will be a familiar sight this Christmas, with parents of small children, queuing up to buy the an 18 certificate game as a prezzie.

  4. Sure does seem like they are using 1984 as an instruction manual, great confluence of correlations.