The Monitor Dishes on the Halo Effect

Even those living under metaphorical rocks and in caves know that Halo 3 released this week. And I assume the majority of the populace have by now heard that the game grossed $170 million in sales in 24-hours, making it the single biggest money making day in entertainment history. Personally, I really don't see what the allure of Halo is and was sufficiently soured from the original enough that I have yet to spend a minute with the second game let alone harbor any plans on buying the third. But I admit I am relatively alone on an island in that opinion. And in the interest of full disclosure I'll also admit to having a predisposition to hate anything dealing with wars among stars and heroes thought to be super. It'd be fair to say I prefer my fiction and science be kept separate at all times.

Nevertheless, the Halo 3 release has indeed given gamers and non-gamers alike a chance to reap the benefits of national media attention and, as a result, get to read articles about videogames written by real journalists for a change. I've read quite a few this week and while it's nice to read an article that's not written for the sole purpose of being quoted by thirteen year olds riding the school bus, one article stood out from the crowd. And it was from the least likely of sources.

I admit that I was hesitant to click the link leading to the article on the Christian Science Monitor's website. Granted, I didn't feel that queasy, nauseus feeling I get when forwarded a link to anything on the Fox News site, but I still felt awkward. Was I allowed to visit their site? I mean, it has the word Christian right in the title, after all. Won't they get mad? Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. There was no flashing GIF animation visually demanding me to repent, nor was I forced into a digital confessional booth before gaining access to the news I sought.

No, instead I found one of the most fair and dare I say enjoyable mainstream stories about videogames yet. The journalist went to one of the midnight openings and reported on what he saw. But rather than talk to the ubiquitous 23 year-olds lined up for hours, he instead talked to the parents of younger kids who came with their children to see what the fuss was about. Let me say that again, the parents were actually taking an interest in their kids' hobbies. And videogames no less!

Here's a few of the comments parents made to the reporter:

"This is like chess for the 21st century," argued Jeremiah Pick, a father in Berkeley, Calif. "Maybe there is a future for him in this," he said of his son.

One mother said indoor games are safer than roaming the neighborhood.

And a slightly balding father, standing next to his mop-haired son, exclaimed: "Oh, this isn't for him. This is for me!"

For Mary Phillips of Castro Valley, Calif., it's a window into her son's world. She scans the 50 youths lined up late Monday – some for seven hours or more, others scribbling out homework – waiting to be among the first to get the game. "I thought we'd make a family event of it, so that way I could see what it was all about," she says. "I see that it's an older group, [but] it looks like a good group of people."

Another mother sees video games as, in essence, today's neighborhood hangout.

Ms. Young likes the way games such as "Halo" allow for team play over the Internet or together in a room. Her son Kevin says he has made friends he would never have made otherwise. He has traveled as far as the Czech Republic to play in professional "Halo 2" competitions. "You practice with your team on the weekends," he says, likening it to playing sports. "You go to dinner together, you party together, you get so accustomed to each other that you think in a unified way."

It's sad that I get surprised to see such rational commentary on videogames in the press, but after years of reading about unconstitutional legislative proposals, grandstanding politicians, and lawyers (and parents) blaming videogames for every act of teenage disobedience, seeing such reasonable parental commentary is quite refreshing. And, as with all good and fair journalism, differing opinions are also presented. Concerns over digital isolation and unhealthy addictions with games are mentioned and I feel that both are valid concerns. It's a very good article and one I think everyone should check out.

Read it here.

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