Sunday 01 July 2007

Video Game Addiction: A Phantom Disease?

Last month the American Medical Association (AMA) rejected a controversial proposal to classify video game addition as a mental disorder. As both an avid gamer and a health professional myself, I applaud the decision by the AMA to instead recommend that more rigorous scientific research be done to study this phenomena (or epiphenomena). I make no claim to have any medical knowledge on addiction; still, I find it troublesome to label the overuse of video gaming as an addiction akin to alcohol or drug addiction. This is because the mere overuse or overindulgence of an activity, such as video gaming, cannot by itself define it to be an addiction. Not only such an act wrongly promotes a societal stereotype (of a video game “junkie"), the act of labeling (someone to have a disease when there is none) may even be medically harmful. It may lead to a misdiagnosis of an underlying illness (mental or physical) for which so-called video game addiction is simply an epiphenomena or a mere sign of an undiagnosed disease. Undoubtedly, there are rare cases of individuals (particularly adolescents) reported by the mainstream media in whom playing video games has led to addiction-like behaviors. In these cases, however, it is more (or equally) likely that these individuals are suffering from some other legitimate mental disorders for which playing video games has simply become a platform for the underlying disease to manifest. In other words, until science can validate such claims, diagnosing video addiction today may be akin to diagnosing “female hysteria” centuries ago, a practice that once led to the ludicrous use of pelvic massage to treat a phantom disease.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Health • Under Play • Under Tech • Under Work • Under World
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Saturday 15 April 2006

The Reality of Reality Television

As with sitcoms, reality television has grown over the past decade to define its own genre. The origin of reality television owes not to shows such as Survivor or The Real World but to programs such as Candid Camera and others from the 1950s and earlier. While the definition of reality television is still in flux, most depict situations of so-called unscripted events that feature ordinary people in real life situations. It is attractive television programming for the networks that produce it, for the participants who take part in it, and for the audience who watch it. For the networks, these shows are often cheaper to produce as they command no television stars who demand big salaries. For the participants (some of whom are making a living appearing on these shows), these shows offer the thrills, the materialistic rewards, and their fifteen minutes of fame. For the audience, the motivations behind watching these shows are likely multiple. For some, it is the rush from watching competition between contestants unfolding in real time. For others, it is the buzz from cheering on the winners or the underdogs. Unfortunately, many viewers also watch these shows for the guilty pleasure of seeing participants failed, humiliated, or dejected by their peers. Misery loves company! The latter motivation is a sad reflection of the selfish human nature brought out by these television shows. We must not forget that there is really no reality in reality television. It is as artificially created and prescripted as other television genres. The only difference is that both the participants and the audience choose to be blinded from it, in exchange for a momentary escape from their real daily lives.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Play • Under World
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Monday 28 November 2005

Is Xbox 360 A Heed To True Convergence?

The dominance of Microsoft in personal computing is undeniable. The launch of the Xbox 360 last week marks the next effort following the original Xbox by Microsoft to dominate the personal gaming market. Its competitors are the Sony Playstation 3 and Nintendo Revolution that are not due out until 2006. More than a gaming console, the new Xbox differentiates itself from other systems by also billing its own to be the ultimate convergence device for all digital media—music, video, and pictures. Little attention, however, has been given to the “social” convergence that this device may bring. While the powerful hardware of the Xbox 360 is no doubt a technological marvel, its Xbox Live service may turn out to be the “killer” architecture that will bring on true convergence. The development of a persistent online community with its Live Marketplace creates an unique social construct through which gamers around the world can interact seamlessly with each other without ever meeting face to face. Over time, this social convergence beyond any geographical border will make a greater impact on our young generation than any technological convergence such machine may bring. Regardless of which platform emerges as the winner of this console war, ultimately it will be the social and not technological impact it may make that will determine its legacy.

By Philip Jong • At 07:12 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech • Under World
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Friday 02 September 2005

Should Blogging Have A Purpose?

My blog is just one of the millions and millions of blogs now on the internet. If there is a topic, there is a blog on that topic. These blogs range from insightful commentaries to mundane one-liners. Because there is no policing of what is allowed in a blog, anyone who seeks to speak up can put up a blog for the world to see. The end result is a sea of mingled content, much of it worthless except to those who wrote the blogs. More tragically, these noises drown out the voices that should instead be heard aloud. When I blog, I choose to blog with a purpose—to inform, to educate, or to share. A blog should not be written solely for self-gratification. A writer must blog with a responsibility to the readers, so that its content will not add more noise to an already noisy world.

By Philip Jong • At 09:25 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play
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Wednesday 31 August 2005

Does Video Game Violence Lead To Real Life Violence?

I am an avid gamer. I have played many video games that feature fantasized violence and stimulated killing of in game characters. In recent years, much media attention has been paid on linking video game violence to real life violence, especially in teenagers and young adults who are the primary consumers of video games. Reports of real life teenage and gang shootings have repeatedly cast blame on violent video games because of their potential to desensitize gamers to the murdering of human beings.

Scientific studies that attempt to establish a linkage between video game violence and real life violence have so far been inconclusive, and it is doubtful that a study can ever be done to conclusively confirm or refute this association. Even in cases where the accusers have claimed that the murders have been directly inspired by violent video games, isolated examples such as these cannot be used to establish an epidemiological association between video game violence and real life violence. A recent example is the highly publicized murder of three police officers in Alabama, US by a teenager who later confessed that he was inspired to kill after playing Grand Theft Auto from Rockstar Games. This is because it is not possible to exclude other factors that may be the true underlying causes of violent behaviors in these individuals or other factors that may confound the relationship between the two phenomena of interest.

We should be reminded that long before video games existed, classic works of literature also existed that were filled with stories of violence and murder. If we are to cast blame on video games, then we must also cast blame on these works of literature for promoting violence in our society. The fault thus lies not on whether violence should be portrayed but on whether violence is portrayed responsibly. If violence is accurately portrayed with due moral consequences, then individuals who are exposed may also absorb the moral value that keeps them from acting irresponsibly, regardless of the medium where the violence is portrayed. Blame should not be cast only on individuals who have committed the murderous act in real life; blame may also need to be cast on game publishers that choose to sell video games that portray violence in an irresponsible fashion.

By Philip Jong • At 11:23 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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Monday 29 August 2005

The Pitfall Of Blogging “On The Record”

Professional journalists are faced daily with the responsibility of going “on the record” in their writings. Those who are willing to speak “on the record” are often seen to be more credible than those who are willing to speak only in the shadow of anonymity. With few exceptions, this fact also differentiates good from poor journalism. Similarly, an unwritten rule of blogging is that you are forever bound to the words written in your blog. This is because once the content of your blog appears online, a copy of it will always exist somewhere else in cyberspace. Many search engines today, such as Google, cache the content of all web pages which they index. These caches then become indefinite records of what have been written by you online. Even years after the original blog is deleted, a copy of it may be retrieved online elsewhere. When I blog, I am keenly aware that my blog will also be “on the record” and that I will be ethically accountable to the words in my blog. Such is the price for establishing my voice in this online world.

By Philip Jong • At 03:03 PM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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Sunday 28 August 2005

Is On Demand Broadcast The Future Of Television And Radio?

The era of push content by the mainstream media is coming to an end. This traditional model has been used since the invent of radio and television whereby the user just passively absorb contents delivered by these medium. The invent of the internet has forced the mainstream media to shift the way information is delivered to its audience and to give its user the power on what content to select. The popularity of on demand television and radio signals another shift in the paradigm on how content is delivered through these medium. I am a heavy user of personal video recorder (PVR). The PVR allows me to select only the shows that I like to watch and gives me the freedom to when I watch those shows. Recently, I have become a Podcast user. Podcasting lets me subscribe to radio shows of my choice and listen to them at my leisure. Today, PVR and Podcasting have largely replaced my antiquated way of how I use television and radio. The future of these medium lies with on demand broadcasting where the user will have complete control of content delivery in both time and space. I doubt that Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of television) and John Baird (the inventor of radio) would have envisioned these changes on how information is delivered through their inventions.

By Philip Jong • At 12:33 PM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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