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Unhealthy video games

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By Anjanique McKinney / Staff Writer

By Anjanique McKinney / Staff Writer

Pacman, Galaga, Final Flight and Pole Position were once groundbreaking advances in video game technology but now they are considered video game pioneers. Some teens might even consider them relics.
Arcade games were fun back in the day, the goal always being to beat the high score. Now games like Halo, Final Fantasy, Call of Duty and even Sims has youths reaching for higher than the high score.
In fact, many of these games don’t even have a high score and if they do feature one, it is hardly an indication of how skilled a player is.
“The latest games are even more addictive than the older ones,” a video gamer said. “They are much more personal”.
Such seems to be true for the boys of Willoughby road in Moreno Valley, Andre Berry, Joshua Harris, and Keith Harris.
Joshua, a 19-year-old RCC student sits stiffly in a black leather reclining computer chair in his bedroom. His face is blank and his eyes are unblinking as he stares at the TV screen gripping the complicated looking wireless controller of his Xbox 360.
He is in combat.
The human figure in full body armor on the screen leaps gracefully from the top of buildings holding a sniper rifle which he occasionally hoists and uses.
The extremely concentrated look on Joshua’s face actually parallels some of the most convincing expressions given by actors in war movies. Tom Hanks in the middle of the jungle in Forest Gump comes to mind.
It seems at any moment a battle cry will tear from his lungs.
Joshua is playing Halo 3. Across the hall Andre, 24, is a little more relaxed sitting in front of his computer screen, and Keith, 10, sits on the floor silently, motionlessly, watching Joshua play.
“Where’d you go Andre?” Joshua shouts.
“I’m right here” Andre replies cooly.
But neither of them have moved a muscle.
Later they explain that they were playing online with dozens of other players.
“We play against people all over the world,” says Joshua. “France… Africa,” he adds, laughing.
They spend hours and hours playing Halo, not to mention the other games they have stacked in a heap on the table beside the TV.
“It’s serious business,” says Andre. “Once you get started you have to finish and finish well and even then you have to go back and do whatever you didn’t do the first time.” 
Keith plays Godzilla whenever the two older boys detach themselves from one of the consoles to go to school, work, or just spend time doing something else.
“He is getting better at Halo,” says his older brother, Joshua. “I’m even starting to trust him when we play on teams.”
Andre has been playing video games since the Super Nintendo (1990) video game console was released which explains his laid back approach to the game.
He calls himself a veteran gamer.
“I’ve been playing since at least 1997,” Joshua said. “My older brother and I had a Super Nintendo too, and I mastered Donkey Kong at 7. I’m a little disappointed in Keith’s skills but he got a late start. He just recently started playing.”
Keith is a fifth grader at Butterfield Elementary School. He still likes to play outside with other kids in his neighborhood or catch bugs for his lizard, Barjesus.
“Mom doesn’t let me play video games all day,” says Keith. “Some of my friends don’t even come outside. When they come over all we do is play games on the Xbox.”
Keith brought up a valid point when he said that.
“Children finding amusement outdoors these days seems about as rare as gum drops for a nickel,” said his grandmother who says that she can count on one hand how many times she’s seen children playing in the street this week.
But how can youngsters resist the appeal of TV? The outdoors has been losing children ever since the television became such an integral part of our society in the 50s.
Now video games and the Internet make it that much harder for youths to even think about stepping outside.
“Keith has always been the outdoorsy type,” Joshua said. “But if love of the outdoors doesn’t come naturally to kids in this age then they don’t see much of it at all.”
Keith’s parents worry that children are lacking proper social skills because of their lack of interaction with other people their age.
But has today’s technology redefined the standard of these “social skills?”
Web sites like Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube allow their users to communicate with people all over the world.
Video games like halo link people with common interests worldwide.
The real problem seems to be the dangerous effects that not getting enough exercise and vitamin D can have on young children and teens while they sit idly playing their video games.
Joshua defended the healthiness of video games by pointing out that many of them require intense thought and problem solving which enhances the thinking skills of players.
While that may be true, there is still the issue of the physical harm that many teens face for lack of bodily exercise.
Joshua plays basketball regularly, has a gym membership at LA Fitness that he consistently puts to use, and rides his skate board on a regular basis.
Keith’s parents limit how many hours he is allowed to play video games each week, but what about children who lack the guardianship or discipline to set their video games aside and spend time engaging in healthier activities?
“…kids could use a little more sun now days,” said Andre, smiling. “But video games definitely have their perks. It takes an intelligent mind to get through these games. We’ll try to keep the windows open so the outdoors comes to us while we play from now on. Then everybody wins!”
He says it sarcastically in response to the problem, but the outdoors is still in want of children running, jumping, skipping and playing.
An open window just may not be good enough.    

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