By Veronica Vega
HAVANA TIMES – Seeing the wave of self-employed businesses in Havana, I am struck by the boom in video games.
With eye-catching posters and flyers distributed throughout the city, they attract kids who rush off to ruin their sight on the flashing screens … and their parents by throwing their money away.
Some seek gainful employment (clandestine), exchanging or selling things to pay for their expensive entertainment.
So I started to wonder about what to do with these indicators of addiction and if Cuba has the expertise and resources to “detoxify” those affected, mimicking those expensive centers you see already in first world countries.
Clinics where, slowly, patients are weaned from their dependence on the virtual world and get their conscious connection with nature, the possibilities of the physical body and the real world, activated.
I’ve never seen a TV spot advertising a hotline for these cases. I gather that it will take years to accept that we have a problem like this, more years to take it seriously and as many again to reconcile science, politics and bureaucracy to get them to offer concrete solutions.
The topic affects me personally. For some time now I’ve been disturbed that these Atari’s, Xbox and PCs, creating a dizzy mix trying to copy reality. I interviewed several people on the subject and got different opinions:
– I think games are simply just games. What makes them good or bad is the use they’re put to by people (Orlando, software programmer)
– It’s the parents who have all the rights and duties regarding the child. (David, computer). They’re the ones who govern the computer time. They should be aware of how much time they’re playing and at what.
– I believe that violence is present in much of what we see every day. (Javier, IT) When I was a child, for example, they did not put very realistic images on TV, not even on the news. People killed, mutilated … In all these games, violence seems almost natural. And I think there are subliminal messages of course. They’re selling ideas, ways of thinking and reacting.
– I think that in generating violence, (Sonia, elementary school teacher) they talk so much about drug and alcohol abuse but don’t mention the use of visual violence. Those games depersonify you. I’d take this to another level, I’d take it to a forum, and I’d try raising it above the level of mere words.
In the crowded halls where the players exchange challenges and insults – screaming them out – the most popular games are racing, shooting and strategy. Terror is not among the most popular.
The players give their side
– I play because I like the adventure, the freedom, being able to do what you want, getting into whatever you want to … I prefer the spy games, terror, extreme sports. I like to feel the danger. I also love games with the Matrix effect (from the movie “Matrix”) which can transform you if you really get into it. But the graphics have to be very real, like 3D graphics. (Mayito, 12)
– I like them because it’s like a war, it seems real. (Carlitos, 9). But at the same time nothing happens to you. My favorites are Call of Duty and GTA Vice City …
– ‘I’ve been playing Atari almost since I was born, I can’t imagine life without video games. It’s fun, it’s great. (Leo, 14)
– I’ve never been real good at real games (baseball, soccer, etc.) but with these games I can excel a bit. (Meykel, 16)
– ‘It’s one of the few options available to young people in Cuba. (Osiel, 24)
– ‘It’s a way to be someone special. Because the rules of the game are not like in the real world. Here [in Cuba] can you struggle a lot and not get anywhere. Things seem to drop from the sky for others who do nothing for it and they’ve got more than you. In games everything is more balanced: you win to the extent that you strive. And if you try really hard you can become really powerful. I like the games that have a good story and the characters are not invulnerable, but as close as possible to humans. My favorites are the RPG fantasy ones (interactive games) because it’s the sort of world I’d like to live in. (Yovany, 16)
Meanwhile, Bill Gates asserts that those who choose a simulated reality “are exercising their freedom”, this seems to mean a 220 volt cable which, (like the star in the verse of Marti), lights in the same way as it kills.
About this paradox Michel, software designer, says:
– How do you keep a boy interested in a game that is devoid of violence? Between 8 and 16 years, instead of being interested in what is supposed to be instructive, kids reject them. Teachers have a huge challenge, even more so with competition from new audiovisual media. How to educate young people with something that doesn’t attract them? So far it seems an unsolvable problem. Attempts have been made to create educational games but they can’t compete with the others. In the game you live an alternative reality. The patterns that are taught in religion, for example, the struggle between good and evil where good always triumphs, are a bit naive. The kids see that life is not so simple, and that to win sometimes you have to become like your enemy. On the other hand, if you’re a designer of games and you have to eat, you’ll make what there’s most demand for. You can call it prostitution of art or whatever you like. Getting worked up against society comes at a price: in the end you’re all alone.
A serious limitation in Cuba is having the proper furniture for computers, which are only sold in hard currency shops at exorbitant prices. Carpenters also charge a lot for making anything because you can only get wood illegally and at great risk.
The result is monitors and keyboards are positioned any old way challenging you to maintain a harmful posture for a long period of time. So already in Cuba, (even though an invisible shark has severed the cable of our chances of accessing the Internet), many people are suffering what has been called the “internet syndrome”:
– Deformation of the spine: in the cervical and lumbosacral region especially, causing the exacerbation of disc hernias.
– Obesity and decreased skeletal muscle capacity due to inactivity.
– Gradual impairment of visual perception
– Disorders of hearing in case of the use of headphones.
– Worsening of hemorrhoids and anal fissures …
Epilepsy patients are warned not to play video games because of the stress they cause. Regarding risks to young children, Mercedes, a psychologist, writes:
“In the early years, it works primarily by imitation, there is no logical or abstract reasoning, and the negative patterns seen in games gets copied. From the age of eleven, with hormonal changes, we see a growth in the level of irritability, aggressiveness. Long hours in front of a machine that produces and fails to generate, the child starts to lose its sense of communication, the ability to create. There are examples of behavioral disorders, especially in interacting with children or youngsters of the same age. Automation, if not rationed, can become involution. In this sense, I fear the future of mankind.”
I look at children and teenagers fascinated by the flickering screens, catchy colors, flying characters, climbing walls, who assert themselves destroying bodies with sabers, machine guns, and lasers. I try to imagine the damage that will be done by tons and tons of impressions absorbed by the eyes and ears. When they cross the delicate substance of human consciousness, what do they change into?
Alongside the view that people with evil tendencies can channel them via this virtual disjuncture without becoming social predators, is the other view that they arouse violent impulses that others go and test in the real world. In the US the number of these sad examples is growing with attacks in schools being committed by children.
However, until we are personally affected, we go on believing that the degradation of values ??is just a side effect of progress.
The worst of all the media hype that surrounds us is that kindness is never an alternative. And in games it is no different: the heroes are just as villainous as their enemies and if they’re competing at anything it’s at the degree of infamy.
But as this wonderful world is so relative, I saw the issue yesterday from another perspective:
“I wish I had the peace of mind of knowing my granddaughter was stuck in front of a computer,” said a friend. “She wants to go to discos, parties and that’s where the dangers really are.”
And then she told me that a neighbor’s niece was recently raped after leaving a nightclub in Cojimar.
“They should close the place! – she added – there are always fights, stabbings, wounded. They even shot at a boy not long ago with a homemade gun. He was saved by a miracle.”
I could not help thinking of Cuba, a country with no internet but with plenty of computer addicts, with no weapons on sale but people with homemade guns …Reaping the evils of backwardness and development.
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