January 17th, 2006

Edinburgh Cops See Value in Games

Cops and kids enjoying video games together?

It's true.

According to EuroGamer, police in the Moredun section of Edinburgh, Scotland are hosting weekly PlayStation 2 tournaments in a local library. At the events, bobbies compete against 13 and 14-year-olds at Gran Turismo 3, Tiger Woods Golf and Pro Evolution Soccer. Prizes are awarded.

Since the program began, police have noticed a 50% drop in youth-related crime. They plan to hold more competitions citywide

PC Rod Robinson, the organizer of the competition, said: "Basically, they had nothing to do so there was nuisance and rowdiness which led to a lot of calls. We told the children they had to behave or they would be banned from the contest. That really seemed to work. It took them 15 attempts to beat me at Gran Turismo but they thrashed me at the football. They were always telling me they would beat me next week. It showed them we're not just cops in uniforms."

A tip o' GP's cap to readers Mark K. and DownwardSpiral for letting us know about this one.

Another Russian Synagogue Attack... Minus Video Games

Can a young person commit a violent act these days without being under the hypnotic spell of video games?

Last week GamePolitics reported on a slashing rampage committed by a Moscow man at a local synagogue. The suspect, 20-year-old Alexander Koptsev, was said to be a fan of Running With Scissors' ultra-violent Postal series.

While some Jewish leaders blamed Koptsev's attack on growing anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, a report in Pravda was quick to blame video games.

Now comes word of a second synagogue incident, with nary a mention of video game involvement. The Jerusalem Post reports that an 18-year-old man, Vadim Domnitsky, made death threats at a synagogue in Rostov-on-Don. According to police, Domnitsky tried to enter the synagogue last Friday while brandishing a broken bottle and shouting anti-Semitic epithets.

The suspect, who faces up to two years in jail, told police he was inspired by television news reports of the Moscow rampage, which occurred just two days before.

GP: So... it's the T.V. news which is inspiring violence? Will anyone be legislating?

Visionary Seeks to Harness Video Games for Politics & Education

This guy gets it.

A report in today's Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv) profiles Gonzalo Frasca, a Copenhagen game researcher whose focus is on harnessing the power of video games for educational and political messages. Frasca also publishes Ludology, a website devoted to video game theory.

"If Cervantes had written 'Don Quixote' today," Frasca told Ha'aretz, "video games - and not books - would have sparked the imagination of its hero and caused him to realize that he is a knight waging a war for justice. Don Quixote was a reflection of fear of a new medium - popular literature - and over the years his fears were proven false. Today there is a big fear of video games."

Believing that games belong in schools, newspapers and political campaigns, Frasca stresses the learning potential within game tech.

"Unlike literature and movies," he said, "games encourage risk-taking, and learning the results of our actions. They force us to view the world from a different angle, and always be ready to learn something new. These are the skills required to create social change and to be better human beings. Sim City, for example, allows us to see what happens if a city is built with too many factories..."

Even Grand Theft Auto doesn't faze Frasca, who calls it "a wonderful game." He faults parents who allow young children access to adult-oriented games, comparing such behavior to screening a Quentin Tarantino movie for a toddler.
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