Keeping the Cyber Universe Safe · 7 August 2010

At night I go to sleep secure in the fact that young men and women around the globe are keeping vigilant watch over the universe. While I have the utmost respect and admiration for our service men and women, I am not giving tribute to them this time. I am talking about those youngsters who stay up all night digitally roaming for aliens and rogues keeping the universe or at least cyberspace free.

Our oldest son, Thing 1, happens to be one of those youngsters keeping vigilance. He ventures into cyberspace with nothing but his game console, controller, and headset. He joins with his fellow cyber patrollers and shoots at aliens or other groups of patrollers.

I have heard students in my class talk about playing multiplayer games and shooting it out with rivals using cyber weapons. I have watched my son participate in urban warfare and old west shootouts. (I cannot watch long because I get motion sickness when I am not the one working the controller.) With the lifelike renderings and motion, it is as close to defending the universe as I would really like any of them to get. And with such closeness to reality, I wonder if such violence is too real. Then again, most of the kids shooting it out in cyberspace are rarely the ones shooting it out in real life.

The realism and perspective of first person shooter games like the ones teenagers often play are really the cyberspace equivalent to Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians that we played as kids. We would run around with toy guns or bows and arrows or at the very least sticks that were equivalent to either and shoot at each other yelling, “Bang! You’re dead!” If it was an especially hot and heavy campaign and the shot person did not fall, the arguments would ensue.

     “I got you!”
     “Did not!”
     “Did so!”
     “Did not!”
     “Did so!” Accompanied by a sock to the arm or other body part, retaliation, and a scuffle.

Then, the voice of reason would come from inside the house, “You boys play nice,” or “It’s only fun until somebody loses an eye.” We usually played nicely and nobody ever lost an eye back then. Now however, the bad guys and aliens seem to lose any number of body parts and all the kids seem to think it is great when blood and gore spatter across the screen.

One good thing about electronic game is that with the great arbiter called the computer, there are no arguments about who got who. Everybody gets hit based on the signals going out over cyberspace and the judgments of the computer. It is a good thing too, because hearing just one side of an argument about who got who would be more annoying than hearing both sides. (Got you. Did so. Did so. Did so.)

Some nights, I cannot always fall right to sleep because I hear the chatter from Thing 1’s room. But I cannot just yell to him, “Play nice,” or “It’s only fun until somebody loses an eye,” like my mom used to do. Especially since no bodily harm is impending and everybody else in the house is asleep. I just plod or shuffle to his room and tell him to be quiet so I can sleep. Or I ignore it the best I can knowing that soon enough he will be with lots of others who are burning the midnight oil either studying for exams or keeping the cyber universe safe.

© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi

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