February 23rd, 2006

HEALTH CARE FILE: Play Two Games and Call Me in the Morning

Tongue depressor? Check... Blood pressure cuff? Check... PS2? Whaaaa?

Will game consoles be standard equipment in medical offices in the near future? Bryan Raudenbush, associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University, thinks so.

"They could even be used in waiting rooms to distract patients from upcoming surgical procedures," he says in a recent Georgia Strait article.

At the Society for Psychophysiological Research conference in Portugal last September, Raudenbush presented a study that assessed the feasibility of using video games to distract patients from painful ailments, treatments, and procedures. Participants in the study played a game from one of six genres (action, fighting, mental/puzzle, sports, arcade, and boxing) for ten minutes and then took a cold-pressor test for pain. This involves submerging the subject's hand in a bucket of ice-cold water for five minutes or until he or she can no longer tolerate it. Checking oxygen saturation, pulse, and blood pressure in his subjects both before they started playing and after the pain tests, Raudenbush concluded that pain tolerance was greatest among those that were distracted by games; players of sports and fighting games showed the most tolerance.

"Most of the studies you see in the media report the detrimental effects of video games, perhaps because that is tied to a specific agenda; I'm not sure," Raudenbush says. "But video games have been found to increase hand-eye coordination, promote healthy competition, aid in some aspects of therapy, and now...decrease pain responses."
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Japan Tightens Video Game Rating System

Even in Japan, a nation known for pioneering the video game business, government concerns over content issues are in the news.

Several years ago, under pressure from the Japanese government, the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) was formed to voluntarily label console video games for sale in Japan. The system included 4 ratings: "All Ages", "12 ", "15 ", and "18 " (ESRB equivalent E, T, M, and AO). The ratings were expanded in 2004, with descriptors for drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, crime, love, sex, violence, horror, and language. Japan also has another ratings system, The Organization for Computer Software Ethics (EOCS), which has 2 ratings for pornographic content in PC software, "R" (15 ) and "18 ". EOCS voluntarily restricts the sales of labelled software to minors below the age on the label.

In response to several prefectures banning the sale of Grand Theft Auto III to minors, and calls for a new system, GamesIndustry.biz reports that the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA) has revamped the CERO system, and encourages their members to post CERO information in stores. The "new" CERO system will be 5 ratings. "A" (Everyone), "B" (12 ), "C" (15 ), "D" (17 ), and "Z" (18 ). "A-D" would still be voluntarily enforced by CESA, and are only an advisory rating, but "Z" would be regulated by the government. The new version of CERO goes into effect March 1.
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School Shooting in Oregon

There is a report of a shooting at Roseburg High School in Oregon.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that a 16-year-old student shot one person and fled. He was arrested by police after holding his gun to his head.

No information on who was shot or what their condition is. No word on whether the shooter was a gamer.

GP: Lots of readers have questioned why we ran this story with no allegation at this point of a video game connection. Believe me, I wrestled with the same dilemma in deciding to go with it. Bottom line is that we know that critics have tried to create links to video games in past school shootings. It's likely they will do so here. Investigators will certainly work up a profile of the shooter, but that info isn't always released.

Personally, when I hear one of these stories I always cringe - and I would bet most readers do too - because I know what's coming: another round of blaming games. I don't believe that merely covering this story links it to games. In fact, it is expressly mentioned that there are no reported game links to the shooter right in the story.

Finally, we had the story pretty early on - before CNN and many other mainstream outlets. In any event I appreciate all of the viewpoints and will factor them into future decisions.

Aloha Means Hello, Goodbye and... Video Game Legislation

If you're keeping score, add Hawaii to the list of states considering video game legislation.

Right now there are actually two bills working their way through the Hawaiian legislature. State senators are having a look at SB3204, while their counterparts in the house are reviewing HB2261.

Both versions are essentially the same bill, which would requires violent video games to be labeled and would prohibit their sale to minors. Violators are subject to fines of up to $1,000.

SB3204 was passed by the senate's Committee on Human Services on February 9th by a 4-0 vote. It's worth noting that the bill's sponsor, State Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland (left), chairs that committee. The measure has also been referred to the senate's Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

HB2261 passed the house Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee by a 7-0 vote late last month. It has also been sent to the Judiciary Committee. A variety of state representatives are co-sponsoring the house bill. Full text of SB3204 is here. HB2261 is here. The Hawaii bills have also been added to the Legislation Tracker map.

GP: I just want to say for the record to GP correspondents Jabrwock and Andrew Eisen that if anyone simply must sacrifice and go to Hawaii to cover this story first-hand, it will be me... Hey, GP is a team player.