Dienstag, November 21, 2006

#4: Are video games evil?

Tonight our TM meeting was a little bit different. Almost all scheduled speakers and roles didn't show up so we had to improvise. It was very funny. We had a lot of guests and some new members, some of the latter are already exerienced TMs in other clubs (Munich hat several clubs).

Table Topics

When I was called to give an impromptu speech about what dreams I had for this year and which of those became true or not, all I remembered was lie-steal-cheat. So I complained about sience not having invented flying cars despite they promised us 50 years ago that mankind will have flying cars in year 2000. (I should have expanded on that but instead) I than presented the dream-not-come-true that we have two young cats now and they drive me crazy. After 1:50 I decided not to open up another dream and left the stage.

To my surprise I was voted best Table Topics speaker of the evening.

Prepared Speech

After that I held my prepared speech. C&L Project #4 (How to say it): "Are video games evil?"

It was (again) not properly prepared in part because I did not find a good topic until the last day. Then when I heard the news I knew what I would talk about. It was important to me to give my opinion. In preparation I shamelessly stole arguments and words from an Economist cover story (thanks to this) and Wikipedia. Although I had about three hours to rehearse I eventually had to use my notes and almost read the entire speech.
Madam Toastmaster of the evening,
fellow toastmasters and honoured guests.


We all heard the news today. Again a young man stormed into a school, tried to kill teachers and students before he committed suicide. It could have come much worse. But still a young life is wasted. I feel sorry for him and his parents.

The young man is said to have played a lot of violent video games. Is that why he turned into a killer? I don't think so.

[Go to the lectern]

"It is an evil influence on the youth of our country. It encourages violence, promiscuity and Satanism."

[Go back]

How said that? What do you think? A politician condemning video gaming? No. Actually, a clergyman denouncing rock-and-roll 50 years ago.


Scepticism of new media is a tradition with deep roots. It is said that Socrates had objections to rely on written texts, rather than the oral tradition. It would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls".

The opposition to gaming springs largely from the fear of anything new that has pitted the old against the entertainments of the young for centuries.

Most gamers are under 40, and most critics are non-games-playing over-40s.


But what about the specific complaints
- that games foster addiction?
- that they encourage violence?

Back in 2003 American teenage boys played video games for about 13 hours a week. In addition they spent about 25 hours watching television. The minority who seriously overdid it showed addictive behaviour in other ways too. In short the problem was with them not with the games they played.

When talking about violence, not much long term research is available. Some short term studies showed that frequent playing of a violent game over a month had no effect on participants' level of aggression.

And, during the period in which gaming has become widespread in America, violent crime has fallen by half.

So are games good, rather than bad?
[Change side]
Good ones probably are.


Games are widely used as educational tools, not just for pilots, soldiers and surgeons, but also in schools and businesses.

Games require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies, learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and error.

Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions.

Playing games is, thus, an ideal form of preparation for the workplace of the 21st century, as some forward-thinking firms are already starting to realise.


Pointing all this out makes little difference, though, because the controversy over gaming, as with rock and roll, is more than anything else the consequence of a generational divide.

Especially in sad times when people are looking for simple answers and politicians are eager to provide them.


But how can the disagreements between old and young over new forms of media ever be resolved?

Well, sometimes attitudes can change relatively quickly, as happened with the Internet. Once condemned as a cesspool [Jauchegrube] of depravity [Verderbtheit], it is now recognised as a valuable new medium.

Politicians now even worry about extending access to the have-nots.

Eventually, objections to new media resolve themselves, as the young grow up and the old die out.

The average age of gamers is already 30. One day video games will ultimately become just another medium, alongside books, music, Internet and films.

And soon the greying gamers will start worry about some new evil threatening to destroy the younger generation's moral fibre.

Madam Toastmaster

I could have developed it a little more in terms of how to protect teenagers from over-consumption of electronic entertainment and violent pictures. The content was pretty good. Because I used notes my speech lost a great deal of liveliness. A real pitty.

Subjective feedback
  • What they liked: Good use of figures and examples, Good arguements, intelligent speech, Passion about the topic, Nice selection of words, Good structure, Dramatic start - happy end, good voice / intonation, Strong start (with the quote), Many rethoric questions
  • Things to improve: Try without notes. It took much of the flow. Thus, more eye contact, more body movement. If you have to read hold the paper in front of you at arms length (looks silly but works). Never say sorry again (it broke the spell). More passion, more courage [Mut, Tapferkeit]. More vocal variety - you have a good voice, please use it.
Things to share
  • Even the most impressive speakers started once shaky.
  • The presentation of the speech is as important as the words you use.

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